jack layton, the giving body, the anatomy of empathy, the fire, the light

On Monday, Federal MP Libby Davies stood in the slanting rain of St. John’s and voiced a primal fact: “Jack Layton gave his life for his country”. My heart is with her. But I’d like to add another focus to “his life”. His body was given, and is now returned, to his country, our land.

I write today as a poet and therapist of the body, about Jack Layton, on the day of his state funeral, which will wind through the arteries of my own city, dressed in blood-red maples. I awoke at 4am with lingering sobs that have now evolved into several scattered thoughts about embodiment, the dynamism of sacrifice and illness, dying as recycling, our ecology of giving and loving and burning. And I’ve added a few observations on the meaning of his bodily signs, culled from what I’ve learned of natural medicine and its maps of the flesh. I’m not writing with the presumption of having known him, but as someone who saw something from a distance that now makes sense, through this body. Continue reading “jack layton, the giving body, the anatomy of empathy, the fire, the light”

an ayurvedic view of cancer

In the face of the most difficult etiology, cancer, Ayurveda offers four overlapping modes of reflection and support: the descriptive, the preventative, the purificatory, and the supportive/palliative. Overlaps occur because the descriptive in itself has preventative power, while palliation, in turn, will always involve the purification of root causes, even when the momentum of the disease is overwhelming. “Palliation” does not necessarily refer to a final-illness context in Ayurveda: it also generally means “improvement of imbalancing factors”, or, as presented below, it can be thought of as intelligent dietary support during the radical interventions of chemotherapy and radiation. In true final-illness circumstances, all of these modes transcend their physiological focus, to become tools for a celebrative and reconciliatory inquiry into life. The doctor doesn’t give up, but she does change the medicine – from the specific to the expansive.

This brief presentation will provide a basic introduction to these four modes. Continue reading “an ayurvedic view of cancer”