I realized recently why I’ve been so interested in studying Civil War amputees. To explain, I will use an analogy:
Suppose you were living in a community were everyone had pre-pubescent bodies. Then your body went through puberty, and as a result your body became somewhat more complex than everyone else’s that you knew of. While you had an understanding that puberty wasn’t anything to be ashamed of, and you had a sense that there were other people in the world who had passed through puberty, you were really alone in your experiences and in trying to figure out how to manage your different body. Then, one day in the deep recesses of the library, you come across a book that has descriptions and images of people who have passed through puberty. The changes in their bodies were explained in case study format, and the images were clinical and informative. All of a sudden you realized that your feelings and appearance were not so unusual. You knew that others had experienced the same things. You no longer felt so alone.
Hmmmm…so that’s how I feel when I study the historical medical records of amputees. Their bodies look like mine. Their challenges–even given the better technology nowadays–are remarkably similar to mine.
Is it odd to feel such kinship to men who lived 150 years ago? Whose socioeconomic circumstances are so different from mine? Perhaps. But we’ve all waged enormous battles with our bodies, we have experienced the necessity and horror of loss, as well as the unspeakable pain that accompanies amputation. We’ve each had to address the reality that life goes on, despite the social prejudices that surround our physical difference and despite the fact that we have to ‘accomodate’ ourselves and our surroundings to maintain mobility.
Wonderfully put. I love it that you write about your body. I think some people are just not as connected with their bodies in such a conscious way–at least not all the time. I find body connections interesting. Thanks for sharing!