I watched with a curious fascination as the wicked scalpel was drawn across the skin, blood following in its wake. Somehow both detached and yet deeply, intimately engaged. It was an oddly disturbing feeling. It was, after all, my own flesh that was being deliberately and slowly sliced with great precision.
It had been my own fault. And a mental note was made, along with a swiftly administered metaphorical kick to be more careful with oyster knives in future. Just a small slip, but that is all it takes to cut a tendon. So there I was, under local anaesthetic, watching two surgeons repair it, and feeling oddly like a puppet as they retrieved the severed ends of the tendon and twitched my fingers without my voluntary participation. And I could not understand at all why they hadn’t just put me to sleep.
This happened a long time ago now, but I remember that it was quite fascinating to watch, in spite of my normal aversion to seeing sharp and shiny things pierce skin. The actual piercing of flesh has always been a dodgy area for me; I’m fine with anything else, not in the least bit squeamish, which is just as well given two sons who managed to get damaged in the most creative ways as they grew up. I wouldn’t say they were accident prone as much as adventure prone. The combination of, say, a hill, a bare back and a skateboard, for instance, or a mountain bike pointed down a steep slope… And don’t get me started on screwdrivers!
Any claims that it might be hereditary are neither here nor there. However, I digress.
I have spent the past couple of weeks having various areas of my anatomy threatened with more surgery. I am not happy with the prospect and shall resist until all other options have been exhausted. I may have to give in at some point, though not yet, I hope. I have no desire to go under the knife yet again.
Blades cut both ways… They expose and remove the unwanted, damaged or dangerous. They can reshape, and rework where there is need. And we are not just talking about surgery here. A sculptor’s knife creates, subtracting from the unformed mass to reveal and define form and beauty. A sword can take life or cut the bonds of a prisoner and a blade separates mother and child at birth.
With life too, sometimes there are moments when we feel the sword poised above us, or the sharp bite of the blade. There is no escape from the pain when these events occur. Only time heals, as with any wound. Yet there may be grace within the blade that is not at first obvious.
Qabalists speak of Geburah, and that sphere has been named the cosmic surgeon, its function to cut away all that is effete, outmoded and no longer serves evolution. For us, mere mortals, that blade may cut deep, clearing from our lives that which holds us back. It may allow us to measure ourselves against who we are and who we can become, testing our courage and endurance to the limits. Yet these moments can carry possibilities of freedom we may not see while grief has us in its grasp.
Sometimes, from surprising sources, great beauty is brought into being. I think it was Picasso who said that there is no act of creation that was not, first of all, an act of destruction. Sometimes our greatest opportunities for growth and change are born from the darkest events of our lives and the hand that wields the blade, though it does so with sure strength, may be surprisingly tender and moves only with love.