Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Center Does Not Hold

The Second Coming
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight; somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

--
Irish poet W. B. Yeats (1865-1939)

Lines of this poem are quoted by Chinua Achebe in the preface to Things Fall Apart.

The same line, "The Center Does Not Hold," also inspired the title of Dr. Elyn Saks' book by the same name: The Center Does Not Hold: My Journey Through Madness. Here are some reviews:

From Publishers Weekly
In this engrossing memoir, Saks, a professor of law and psychiatry at the University of Southern California, demonstrates a novelist's skill of creating character, dialogue and suspense. From her extraordinary perspective as both expert and sufferer (diagnosis: Chronic paranoid schizophrenia with acute exacerbation; prognosis: Grave), Saks carries the reader from the early little quirks to the full blown falling apart, flying apart, exploding psychosis. Schizophrenia rolls in like a slow fog, as Saks shows, becoming imperceptibly thicker as time goes on.- Along the way to stability (treatment, not cure), Saks is treated with a pharmacopeia of drugs and by a chorus of therapists. In her jargon-free style, she describes the workings of the drugs (getting med-free, a constant motif) and the ideas of the therapists and physicians (psychologist, psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, cardiologist, endocrinologist). Her personal experience of a world in which she is both frightened and frightening is graphically drawn and leads directly to her advocacy of mental patients' civil rights as they confront compulsory medication, civil commitment, the abuse of restraints and the absurdities of the mental care system. She is a strong proponent of talk therapy (While medication had kept me alive, it had been psychoanalysis that helped me find a life worth living). This is heavy reading, but Saks's account will certainly stand out in its field.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist
At eight years old, Saks began suffering hallucinations and obsessive fears of being attacked. An adolescent experimentation with drugs provoked her parents to enroll her in a drug treatment program. But Saks' incredible self-control masked the fact that she was suffering from a debilitating mental illness. By the time she entered graduate school at Oxford University, her symptoms were so severe—including full-blown psychotic episodes and suicidal fantasies—that she was hospitalized. Through Oxford, law school at Yale, and a move to Los Angeles to work in the law school of the University of California, Saks struggled mightily to balance her ambitions with her illness, which was eventually diagnosed as schizophrenia. Never wanting to concede to her mental illness, Saks founds calm and comfort in a rigorous work routine. An analyst characterized her as having three lives: as Elyn, as Professor Saks, and as the Lady of the Charts mental patient. As Saks battled to get off medication and leave behind the Lady of the Charts, she fought for the rights of mental patients, and came to terms with her own limitations. Bush, Vanessa
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved




Saks disease is not mine. But holding the center is my job. Sometimes, to use a metaphor Saks mentioned while discussing her book on NPR this morning, I feel like a sand castle.

I am one of those sand castles built in a sand castle building competition. I am the winning sand castle. First place. Best of show. But every sand castle falls to nature: the center does not hold.

Wind blows the outer grains away, smoothing the once chiseled design until the sculpture becomes unrecognizable. The ocean rises, crashes and steals the sand sculpture. Someone jumps for fun and the center cannot hold.

No one knows a sand castle competition ever happened. No one remembers building the castle. No one knows what it looked like.

The outsides, the center, none of it holds.

There is no glue for life.

I watch pieces fly away.

2 comments:

KI said...

Olaina, this is beautiful. I miss you! And can't wait to be back with you & the rest of my UL community on Easter :-)

oakmonster said...

Friends = Duct Tape. We help holding you together.

:)