01 August 2012
me and my uvula.
A funny thing happened to my uvula in Portland, Oregon, last weekend.
Many things—funny and otherwise—often happen in Portland, Oregon, but rarely to uvulae—and particularly to mine, which had never been in the Pacific Northwest before, although it had traveled extensively throughout Europe without prior incident.
When I was in Portland, Oregon, along with my uvula, I woke up one morning—thankfully—and I could tell that something had happened. The happening of that something revealed itself to me as the increments of sleepfulness pulled themselves abruptly away. (Like a boiled onion. Or a frizzled haze.)
There are many things I'm good at or even better at, and breathing and swallowing have always been two of them. I have never thought to myself, 'I must (now) remember how to breathe, and then work hard to do it and do it well.' ('I must now force the bellows. I must now feed the air in and throughout, to ignite my blood. I must now trip the ignition. I must now do whatever things require doing—these chores of physiology.')
Merriam-Webster defines the uvula as 'the pendent fleshy lobe in the middle of the posterior border of the soft palate.' Which is another way of saying it's that thing—that dangly thing.
(Not that dangly thing. The other one.)
When I was in Portland, Oregon, I woke up one morning and something had happened. I tried to breathe and swallow, which I had usually done without much trying, and found it a harder thing to do than before. My throat was cramped—a tenement of crowded, idle flesh—and I became aware of myself. The self that I was—the true self: the mechanism, the factory—appeared in the distance, from out of the (frizzled) haze.
The self that I thought I was—the thinking self—was only an appendage, a boastful appurtenance.
I think, therefore I am. But my am-ness isn't firstly in the thinking—it's in the combustion of the engines, the crude grinding of gears. I'm only added on to the heart and lungs and intestines. I'm a foreman, a middle manager. When the plant goes belly up, I'll hold onto the pink slip like a twisted rag. I'll wait for the doors to lock, and the wide banks of overhead lights to quit buzzing and extinguish. A squashed gnat.
A swatted fly.
You—the thinking self, the self that reads and knows this or that—work for the machine that you are. When you are in Portland, Oregon, and you wake up one morning and something has happened, and that something reveals itself to you as the layers of sleep cast themselves off (like a boiled onion), you will try to save yourself. Or not. But you will remember what you truly are, before all that.
A funny thing happened to my uvula in Portland, Oregon, last weekend. It swelled like a larva until the panic set in. And the panic sets in because I belong to the machine. You must never forget where the belonging resides and then keep watch over it.
(Or don't. Some of us are good foremen and some of us are less so.)