Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Thoughts in a Dentist’s Chair

I almost never watch TV in the morning, but I had an 8 a.m. dental appointment today. Patients are treated to television entertainment while the sharp thing scrapes and the drill whirrs, and above you, seen through half-closed eyes, a bright light shines and an eye looks down into your open mouth through a larger-than-life lens.

Morning shows demonstrate modernity at its silliest—all cheer and jokes and serious attention to such things as hair and skin and looks. Today, what with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in the news, I heard the Queen’s popularity described as “unbelievable.” Why even a bladder infection in such high circles becomes global news. So the chatty chair of this program informed me, and then, unleashed as it were, she told all about the Queen’s bladder infection while images of the Queen succeeded one another. I saw this, of course, before the scrape-and-drill began.

In my context this morning, I couldn’t quite avoid thoughts of bodies, as bodies. Alerted to the subject I watched the TV images closely and noted that all of these showed bodies clothed, except for hands and faces. In dignified contexts, such as the monarchial, dignity matters—but then it matters generally. We carefully cover up our animality and let the face—indeed if possibly the eyes alone—communicate what we are.

Meanwhile a large X-ray image of my right canine was on another screen to my side. Canine indeed. There is not only a monkey but bits of a dog in me too. When drilled on, even small things grow enormously in size, and this small object morphed into a tall stone column supporting a sort of temple; the issue was structural. Decay had attacked this column, just beneath its crown (whether Doric, Ionic, or Corinthian only Dr. Quinn knows). I closed my eyes and imagined a scaffolding on top of which men were hammering away at the decay—to be filled with modern miracle material that hardens almost instantly when stimulated by a wire that dings when it is done.

Our dimension ought to be known as the Order of Humility. Here we are, encased in these material but living structures. Even the hard stone in us has roots. Exalted, honored figures like Elizabeth Regina have bladders capable of infection. And the news are instantly wafted across the globe by wired, wireless communications bouncing off satellites.

Thinking such thoughts, amazingly, it was suddenly all over. I stood tall, made sure my sweater was properly buttoned, and gradually recovering my dignity I went out to pay the bill.

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