Earlier today I had a communication with someone who lost his eye recently due to a doctor’s error, during or after cataract surgery. He told me that he was extremely anguished for the last nearly ten months, had been weeping now and then, and suffered an immense sense of loss, dejection, loss of hope and will to live. This was added to the loss of faith he experienced in humans as well and a whole lot of anger against the doctor who had performed the surgery. He oscillated between wanting to hit him (being a Punjabi he said he would love to settle scores with the man, ‘expose’ him to others and other revenge if could)
I told him that he was free to seek revenge but be sure to choose his battles carefully because, I believe, that often we do not know who the enemy is. In his case, he has completely lost vision in one eye for something as simple as a cataract surgery gone haywire. I felt sad to hear this, for this is such an ordinary thing, but in every surgical intervention there is a scope for human error which can cost someone dearly, in this case an eye. In a recent case that I know of, a friend’s uncle lost his life (after remaining in coma for nearly ten months), after a surgery as common place as a knee replacement surgery,in one of the biggest hospitals in the vicinity of Delhi.
If I get him correctly, his eye has lost its vision and is as though closing, but not fully shut…it keeps on having stray tear drops fall from it. If he walks out with his eyes uncovered he said, women look at him twice, just to be sure he is not winking at them. He is NOT, and therefore doubly anguished, for he has to meet their looks of disapproval and possibly distaste.
I want to draw the attention of this gentleman, for I shall be inviting him to read this post later on, that in the times and the culture we live in there is a huge pressure on everyone to look a certain way and we all carry within ourselves images of an IDEAL ME- someone who has a certain desirable size, complexion, hair, height, skin tone and whatnot. These images are regularly suggested to us in the mass media that floods our homes and sensibilities at all times and tells us how to become more popular, beautiful, center of attraction and the apple of everyone’s eye.
Nobody shares with us how to live in a body that suffers, with families that abuse, or with partners who are violent, alcoholic, parents who are coercive, classmates who are bullies, children who abandon, siblings who do not look back in adversity after a life of parasitic dependence. So how is anyone to find an inner balance when the world is constantly tossing us around. On top of it we are so attached to our own body that even a minor flaw looks like a huge catastrophe, what to mention something that is a new one- it feels like the human itself is completely doomed.
This gentleman feels like that at present and I can completely empathize with him, for nobody deserves to lose an eye in a small incident like this. But the bigger issue is that NOW that he has, how to cope with the trauma and live with it further? How to accept loss of a part of one’s own self, that one is so used to having around, that we never even think about it?
If I could, I would love to say it is all karma and we sooner or later have to deal with what is our due. But I think the karma theory is something that I have discarded, for who can decide who deserves what and whether what we are going through at present is something that we sowed in our past some time. I think we have to remember a few things here and they come from my attitude of rationality, whatever it is.
First is the human error and that every human error is just that– there is no act of deliberation. May be the doctor ought to have waived off the fee after a huge mistake like this, which not only cost someone a loss of an eye, but also a great mental suffering, for which there is no compensation, even if the rest of the costs are covered.
Secondly, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. Of course it is human and natural to hit out at the person who has caused the harm, and I would feel the way this gentleman feels, but I also believe that one cannot and ought not to go beyond that, in a way to cause further harm to oneself or another. There is no end to anger for it is a fire that only glows brighter if we tend to it with more anger- one has to break the circle of anger and get out.
Thirdly, I want to re-emphasize the culture and the times we live in are a huge challenge especially because we have so much attachment to our body, instead of thinking it to be a vehicle through which we have to pass through this world, and somewhere or the other breakdowns will happen, overhauling would be required, we will lose hearing ability, chewing ability, ability to walk upright, loss of skin tone, teeth, an organ of the body or a part of it. I am not trying to trivialize someone’s suffering here, but trying to extend the scope of this inquiry to encompass a larger dimension of us- not just remain confined to our body.
All spiritual traditions remind us that we are not just a body, but that the body is an encasement for the soul. So why not believe it when all that we think of about ourselves is what we cannot really own. Can we even own our own stories. Can we admit we made a mistake, even on hindsight? We are extremely fixed in our views, more so about ourselves.
Fourthly, on the way ahead and what I would recommend- every suffering is an invitation to look at some part of life which we have been ignorant about. What are the innumerable ways in which we humans can suffer? Please put yourself in the shoes of someone like this, and see what you have to say to them. I would always say that yes we all have a choice to hit back- but who will it be? So choose your battles, your Kurukshetra carefully. There is a way to go and hit back at the doctor and damage him, his reputation or some other personal side of him. The other is the possibility to see whether this experience, which is actually of a transpersonal dimension, is not an opportunity to awaken the spiritual being within, who can see the suffering of a whole world around and who can now understand so much better the stigma associated with so many conditions.
We all suffer in our lives, for suffering is the one thing that runs common through us, though its outer variation may differ. But suffering can also be transformative in an evolutionary way, if we can find or create the right support systems around. What are the lessons here, that is the learning? Attachment to the past (of the body in particular) and rejection of the current body can only be counter-productive and self damaging. I hope we can all get the better of that, even with this dialogue to shed a little light on the subject.