It snowed yesterday. The spell of warm settled weather we have enjoyed since early December finally ended and Dunedin reverted to form. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. I love the cold weather. In celebration of the weather I spent the afternoon having a biopsy taken of my prostate and recovering from the same.
I'm not usually much aware of the prostate, although it is a part of me which has a pivotal role in some bodily functions of which I am very much aware when they happen. My GP told me, after a routine annual blood test, that what I should be aware of is that it may not be behaving itself, so there's been a string of other tests and examinations culminating in yesterday. They wanted to take some core samples. The prostate is an organ that's about as hidden away as it's possible for an organ to be, so the process of taking the samples is tricky. I'll spare you the details, but when it was being done, a song came to mind which will be familiar to boys who went to school the same time I did, but which I haven't thought of in years. It begins:
"I stuck my finger in a woodpecker's hole,
the woodpecker said, 'well bless my soul....' "
...and so on for as many number of ribald verses as you can think of verbs that begin with "re-".
At the end of the process I was sent home in a nappy with instructions about what to do when the anaesthetic wore off, and what to do if I developed septicemia and needed intravenous antibiotics. In the event it was fine. The whole process was about as uncomfortable as a heavy duty trip to the dentist and this morning it is as though nothing has happened. This is in large part due to the knowledge and skill of Mr. K.P. Samalia who did the deed with great courtesy and gentleness. But there's another factor.
Many people prayed for me yesterday. Clemency and my daughters. Friends. People from my parish. My mother. My son and others, with no particular religious affiliation told me they were thinking of me. Somehow it seemed to work. I had a sense of being held, and all the potential problems failed to materialise. This in itself is a mystery. I remember years ago being part of a faith community where one of our members contracted cancer. We all prayed. We had vigils for her in the church and laying on of hands. She got more ill and she died. Why? I don't know.
Possessing faith and praying are no defence against the problems common to human kind; after all, it is the facing of these problems which is probably why we're here in the first place. But, if Varela and Levinas are right, then our consciousness is, to some extent, what makes our environment. Yesterday, several people all thought of me at the same time. They were still before God; that is before all that they had experienced of the numinous and all that they believed to be best and holiest in the Universe. In that place of truth and openness they wished me well. They imagined and asked for a universe in which my surgeon was skilled, and in which I was protected from the problems associated with the procedure. Some of them are people greatly experienced and skilled in the ways of prayer; over years they have developed methods and reasoned out theories and perfected techniques of concentration. All this concentrated consciousness had an effect. Today I am well.
The results of the biopsy will arrive on Wednesday, and it is anybody's guess what it will reveal. At best it will prove to be a very inconveniently timed false alarm; at worst, a quite treatable cancer .There's no need to book the flowers and hearse just yet, but it has all brought me face to face with my own mortality. I am only on this planet for as long as I have need of this particular classroom, and who knows what the divine wisdom means my length of stay to be or what I am intended still to learn. What I do know, though, is that whatever the results, to be held lovingly by a community of people is empowering and enriching; it is a life giving and healing thing to pray and to be prayed for.