Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thoughts about "can't"

Man, I had such a "bordering on spiritual" post, but then I had to take a several-hour break, and now what wants expressing is... how little control I have over my legs.

I get into rows with the physical therapy people over my use of the word "can't." They tell me that I shouldn't use that term, "if I believe that I can, I can, and if I believe that I can't, I can't."

I do not dispute that. However, as I told one of my therapists, it has nothing to do with "belief," it has to do with observation. Belief does not include "facts." One does not need to "believe" in things that one can confirm with impartially obtainable observations. I do not need to "believe" in the sun being in the sky at those times of day that I can look up and observe it. And so can you, if you don't "believe" me.

I can't control my legs enough for me to describe my interactions with them as "control." It has nothing to do with belief. I try to control them in very specific ways; I can't. End of story.

I explained it this way to the therapist a couple of days ago. There is a treatment table with an electric motor that one can raise by pushing an "up" or "down" pedal. The motor is electrically powered, it just plugs into the wall.

So I told the therapist, unplug the table. You may tell me that there's the button, press it, and the table raises. But the motor is unplugged. So, given that the motor's unplugged, I can't raise the table.

I can't.

That's as true as true gets. The motor is unplugged, and if I want to raise the table, I can't.

I can't.

Has nothing to do with "belief." If it were plugged in, I could raise it, and being able to raise it would have nothing to do with "belief." I can believe all I want that pushing the up or down button will make the table turn colors and birds to pop out of the walls, Disneyland-Enchanted-Tiki-Room style.

Doesn't matter how much or what I believe, it doesn't make any difference.

Yank the plug out. I can't raise the table. And neither can anyone else, no matter what they believe. Because the plug is not connected properly. That's why I can't raise the table. Bad connection.

Just like what's going on with my legs. Bad connection. "Belief" doesn't make the connection better, when there IS. NO. WORKING. CONNECTION.

Now yeah, I know, I know, they want their patients to not give up, to be willing to "try the untried," that maybe if doing things in new and as yet untried ways, unforeseen positive results will surprise you in wonderful ways. Yeah, I know all that.

And I try to tell them... look, I know all about the difference between "can't NOW" and "can't PERIOD." Musicians such as myself live in the world of "I can't... at the moment! But if I keep practicing, I definitely can!" I have very personal experience with all sorts of "I can't... at the moment." I know exactly how that feels. How to work with it, and to work around it. And of course it's annoying, but that annoyance is temporary. Because we know from the start that it is always going to be temporary, and success IS within your grasp. Not now, but success is definitely possible. And when you do get into the world of "I just plain can't," there's another option... there's something else that you can do, and do wonderfully, and "not being able to do X" is just a way of showing you that you should be doing Y instead.

But my non-control of my legs... this is different. Very different.

I feel like I need to preface anything I tell them with "Look, here and now, at this moment, and only this moment, with no thought of any kind for anything that may or may not happen at some point in the future, right here, right now... I can't. I just can't, OK? Here and now, as we are speaking, and with no implications or predictions or as you call them 'beliefs' about what may or may not happen the moment I stop speaking... I just can't, OK?"

As I told the therapist, and I don't think she liked or knew what to do about my logic, you unplug the table and I can't raise it by pressing the "up" button. That's as true as true gets. It's unplugged, I can't raise it. I can't. I can't. You make the connection good, and now we're in the world of "you need to know HOW to raise it," because if the connections are good and you know how to use them, you can raise it. But when it's unplugged, you can't. Believe all you like. It's unplugged. You can't. Period.

And believe me, I'd love to be wrong about this. Find me a different way to make the connection, and I will. Tell me what to do, and I'll do it. I'll at least try it.

In Matthew 17:20, Christ says that if you have the faith the size of a mustard seed, you can move mountains. I will not dispute that either. But if I had the faith the size of a mustard seed, I'd cure myself, and everyone who has MS and cancer and AIDS and pretty much everything, and instantly transform everyone on the planet into a fully-enlightened Buddha.

Well, I can't do that, either. Nice idea, though. And perhaps worth trying.

But that's pretty much where the "believe more, and you'll be able to" system begins and ends. As far as I can tell, anyway.

So look, if I say I can't, then show me something else to try, and I will. Don't tell me to just "believe" at it.

Apparently, even by their lights, I "can't" do that either.

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