Vanity thought #1746. Tin soldiers

I’m still puzzled by appearance of cancer in my life, it doesn’t make any sense yet. At first I thought that it was a clean way to take me out and, hopefully, back home, but it doesn’t look like Lord’s plan at the moment. Barred some unexpected lab results I’m recovering rather well instead of dying, so what does it all mean? I have no clue.

Maybe it’s just karma acting up, but it affects lots ff other people for no apparent reason as well. They don’t seem to have deserved it. Or maybe it’s a prelude some new beginning in my life but so far there are no sighs of it, I’m just back to my usual everyday drudgery. Why did we spend so much money on my treatment? It wold have been far cheaper for me to just die. If they second round of chemo doesn’t stop this cancer then we won’t have resources to fight further as it would then become a clearly a losing battle and it would consume all our savings very fast with very little gain even in the best case scenario .

Ultimately, however, it’s not my puzzle to solve. The lack of cl clarity in Lord’s purpose is common for conditioned beings, there’s nothing to be surprised about here. It’s much better to forget these futile efforts and concentrate on what can we do for the Lord instead.

One night in hospital I was pondering this exact question from many different angles and it always comes back to one very simple truth – we are nothing but little, expendable soldiers in Lord Caitanya’s army, everything else is just fluff. We aren’t even particularly brave or reliable and we shirk our battle duties all the time, but we still don’t have any other identities. He took us in and it’s all that ultimately matters.

It’s like in that Steadfast Tin Soldier children story – those soldiers were cast from molten spoon to become and army but they never actually thought any battles. They just reminded people that there are real armies out there and real soldiers and real battles bu this was just a toy set without any particular use. The hero there spent the whole story chasing some girl instead – reminds you of anything? He then got thrown into the fire for no particular reason and melted again. No in the shape of a gun or a shield or a flag but in the shape of a heart – because of his love interest in paper ballerina who got burned with him. What kind of solider was that? Is this what he was supposed to fight for? And yet he WAS a soldier, however useless, and that was his only worth. Actually, he was only a model of a soldier and that was the only value he had.

We are the same, we are not really helping and, by the look of things, many of us spend their energy on fighting among ourselves instead of helping Lord Caitanya, but we have no other identities but his little, worthless, forgetful servants. Nothing will ever rob us of that whatever happens – life, death, cancer, fame, glory etc. etc.

Bhaktivinoda Thakur had plenty of health problems and no access to modern medicine. Sometimes his idea of treatment was to move to another city where the climate was different. Sometimes he used ghee masks to treat his migraines – not much of a treatment either. All the while he was preaching and writing so these were obstacles on the path to otherwise a clear goal but in my case the goal remains elusive. What am I taking on these difficulties for? All I can remember is Lord Brahma’s verse from tenth canto where he said that those who tolerate their karma without complaints deserve liberation, which becomes their rightful claim. Inspiring but still rather limited.

Sanatana Gosvami’s case was probably better and maybe that’s why it’s in Caitanya Caritamrita.He picked up a nasty skin infection while traveling to Puri and when he arrived there he avoided main streets so that he couldn’t accidentally contaminate servants of Lord Jagannath. He was so aggrieved by his situation that he decided to commit suicide on the day of Ratha Yatra by jumping under the ratha’s wheels.

Lord Caitanya’s reaction was truly remarkable there, we should never ever forget his reasoning, even is said in jest. He reminded Sanatana Gosvami that he had surrendered his body and soul to Him already so it wasn’t Sanatana Gosvami’s body to kill anymore. Whether healthy or diseased, the Lord had His own plans on it and Hewasn’t obliged to share them with Sanatana Gosvami (even though He eventually did). These plans didn’t materialize right away either, the Lord was playing a long game there. I reckon it took years for these plans even to begin to manifest.

As for the disease – one embrace from the Lord cured it on the spot, nothing to really worry about.

As I was contemplating all these things in the middle of the night, in a half dream state, I imagined Lord Caitanya placing his feet on my head and shortly after that I visualized a small, mischievous looking black entity exiting my body and then, shortly afterwards, some black liquid being sucked out of my veins. I do not put much trust in such mental concoctions but until the evidence shows otherwise the reality seems to conform with this particular one so I’m not ready to simply dismiss it.

From seeing other people fight with their cancer I know that the second bout is the scariest, just when they thought they were in the clear. Whatever bravery they had when they first started their treatments was gone and that was left is primal, animalistic fear of death. I might get hit with that one, too. It would blow against my hopeful state but at least I am mentally prepared. Who knows Lord’s plans? Certainly not me.

One very important thing to learn, though, is overcoming this fear of death. Our service to the Lord is much more important than that. Like real soldiers we shouldn’t be concerned with dying, only with fulfilling our role in a battle. If we are in a real fight, in a real war, like the ones fought in the last century, then death should fade away by itself. If we forget our role in Lord Caitanya’s army then, of course, we’ll become fearful. I hope the Lord shows enough mercy to elevate me above this mundane consciousness when my time comes.

Vanity thought #1745. To be or not to be back

I just returned from a course of chemotherapy where I was on an IV drip for 24/7. I’m supposed to recuperate for a couple of weeks and then take the second, ideally the final course. I don’t know my current lab results yet but by all indicators the first cycle of chemo was successful.

At first I was hoping I could continue with the blog while in the hospital but I seriously underestimated the effect chemo would have on my abilities. First of all, it wiped my consciousness clean – my mental state and whatever plans I had. I couldn’t remember what my last post was about exactly, what I wanted to elaborate about and so on. Most of my free time I spent on chanting my rounds and there was little energy left to pursue anything else.

And then side effects kicked in. Strictly speaking, there are mild, but they interfered with my life anyway. First I got open sores inside my mouth that made it hard to chew and swallow food, and impossible to chant, too – if I kept my mouth open for longer than a minute it became very painful. By now the sores have healed and it’s no longer a problem but there are other side effects, too.

One is that chemo filled insides of my eyes with dead blood. When I looked at ophthalmologist’s pictures it looked like had clouds of blood floating in there, and they “rained” in a very particular place on the retina – right behind the eye lens where it supposed to focus all incoming images, whether assisted with glasses or not. It made this area into a blind spot. So, basically, whatever I look at I just don’t see. Other areas of the retina that catch what we call “peripheral vision” are okay so I see the environment as usual and I’m not blind in any sense, but I just don’t see whatever it is that I’m looking at directly.

Let’s say there’s a digital clock by the side of my bed – I see it when I look around but if I look at it directly to check the time it disappears. I reappears again if I look to the left or to the right and sometimes, if it’s close enough, I can even make up the time.

Most importantly, it makes reading nearly impossible. I still haven’t mastered the newspaper, even with a magnifying glass, but I can blow up font in the computer large enough to actually read something. The screen has to be inches from my face and I need that magnifying glass, but at least I can make up the meaning of the text, probably because a lot of what we read we catch with peripheral vision anyway. Words that do not make sense in the context are still hopeless, however, ‘cos looking directly at them doesn’t help at all.

This condition is treatable but it’s supposed to clear by itself with time, and there’s no point in treating it until I fully recover from the second round of chemo anyway because it will just come back.

That’s why I’m not sure if I should continue with this blog at this time. I want to but it might be just too much trouble. Right now I’m under constant surveillance by family members who don’t approve of me hanging around the computer because of the stress it puts on my eyes so I have to deal with that, too. Oh, and forget about proofreading this post, it has to be done with peering into the screen with a magnifying glass, then going back to the text to find the place I need edits in – it’s a pain.

Another issue that popped up just in the last few hours is numbness from my wrists to the tips of my fourth and fifth fingers, especially on my left hand. The hand still operates okay but sometimes I can’t tell if I’m holding a shift down or not, for example. I’m puzzled by the origin of this one and need to ask my doctor at the next meeting.

Otherwise I’m perfectly okay, given the circumstances, and I look just as before, with a short stubble on my head and face that I don’t need to shave anymore because all the growing hair fell out already. In some ways I feel even better than before the chemo but, generally, I don’t have the same level of energy yet. So, mentally, I’m ready to take up or resume any service but physical capabilities are not there yet.

In my head I have prepared one more post on the subject “but what does it all mean?” and I might type it up later today but I don’t know what will happen with this blog after that. Maybe it needs a break, or maybe it needs extra work put into it to help me with recovery, as sort of a physical exercise. Let’s see how it goes.