|September's full moon, 2012|
Tuesday 20 November 2012
Books and conduction
I am still with Oliver Sacks
In-between times I have been reading –
Eats Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss; SPELL IT OUT, The Singular Story of English Spelling by David Crystal, and The Finno-Ugrian Vampire by Noémi Szécsi.
Me and vampires
I ordered the last book as it is Hungarian, both the author and the setting, and, of course, the vampires!
Tibor Fischer’s reveiew in the Guardian Weekly, 02.11.2012, says that it is a better read if the reader has inside knowledge of the Magyar language, culture and country, especially Budapest.
I discovered when I went to purchase it that this book was only available in ten of the book chain’s many stores, including Brussels. Nevertheless a copy was sent very rapidly to my local branch and I devoured it (an apt description considering the subject) in a matter of hours!
Vampires are not my usual cup of tea, but as I had a few days off it made a change from the stuff that I usually read. It was because of the Hungarianess of it that I was so keen to read it.
Having read Bram Stoker’s Dracula last winter, more for the wonderful language than the story line, I had some background information on the life of vampires that added to my enjoyment of the Hungarian book.
It was all in all a good holiday read and was a welcome bit-in-between amongst the non-fiction that I usually devour on planes, trains and trams.
Now, I am back to Oliver Sacks’s Hallucinations –
It is because I have hit the spot in this book that deals with migraines, classic migraines that arrive with an introductory visual hallucination, or aura, before the pain begins, that I started to write about what I am reading.
I have suffered myself from migraines since I was nineteen years old and I had already seen my mother suffering from them throughout my childhood and teens. Oliver Sacks and his mother, both migraineurs shared their migraine experiences, just as I did with my mother.
They were both neurologists, my mother and I laypeople – like the people whom Sacks describes in his books.
While I am reading in this chapter about the range of visual and musical hallucinations, hallucinations of smells that the classic-migraine sufferers experience, I consider my own pre-migraine experiences.
I have no such luck to see interesting hallucinations; nothing has appeared to inspire my artist leanings as they have done with several well-known figures, including probably Lewis Carroll. Klaus Podoll and Derek Robinson have described some of them in their book – Migraine Art.
All I feel just before the onset of a migraine is nausea, that is almost immediately followed by a throbbing, excruciating pain that J.C. Peters described in his 1853 A Treatise on Headaches as a pain of a hammering, throbbing or pushing nature… pressing, dull, boring with a sense of bursting…as if the brain was pressed outwards.
Oliver Sacks writes – ‘…what a colossal and complicated achievement normal vision is, as the brain constructs a visual world in which color and movement and size and form and stability are all seamlessly meshed and integrated. I came to regard my own migraine experiences as a sort of spontaneous (and fortunately reversible) experiment of nature, a window into the nervous system – and I think this was one reason I decided to become a neurologist.’
As I read this chapter called— ‘Pattern: Visual Migraines’, I began to think that I was missing out on something. I thought that, if I am going to go through all that pain that accompanies a migraine, albeit to come out the other end one or two days later, pleasantly refreshed and more alive than before, then it would be good to have some hallucinatory images and visions to enjoy at the onset. They could even act as a warning for me to get some tablets taken!
I do not have that sort of migraines and I hope that I have to wait a long time before I next experience the type that I do experience, but I will be prepared to pay better attention when it comes and I have already placed a notebook and pencil in the medicine cupboard beside the migraine tablets. If I can reach the tablets then I will also be able to grab the notebook. Then I can record in detail what happens, what I experience, with or without visions and auras to satisfy my artistic eye, the next time that I feel like my head will burst.
What, readers may ask, do hallucinations and migraines have to do with conductive upbringings, lifestyles or education?
Whenever I read Oliver Sacks’s books I recognise that his words and his work have a lot to do with conductive pedagogy.
His observational skills and his description, his placing together of sequences of behaviour to form a picture, all remind me of what I do in my own conductive work.
His descriptions of how many factors influence symptoms and his insistence on not believing the first things that we see, remind me to rest on some of my own laurels but also to learn more from his words.
Within the virtual spirals of human lives, with neurological illness or wellness, with the influences of drugs, loving care, sleep disorders, eating disorders or visual disorders and much, much more, we must use our observational skills, not only of sight but also those of touch, smell, hearing and also ‘instinct’, to guide us to see the whole of an individual and to use these observations while making decisions on how to help clients progress and develop and continue spiralling upwards.
Back to the book
Perhaps while reading further and writing some snippets about things that strike me most in the next chapters I will end up with a unified whole.
I will discover more, I am sure, as I carry on with the next chapter, called – ‘The “Sacred” Disease’. It is about epilepsy, a subject that I think most conductors and many parents will have come across in their work and lives. Many of us will have observed the onset of convulsions or the affects that the anti-epileptic drugs have on personality.
I shall see what Oliver Sacks has written about all of this and more.