Language is a line. It is a way for us to reach each other. It is a thread to the patchwork that becomes our lives and the world in which we live. The same can be said for technology in the digital age. Language, in a sense, is a kind of technology. Like telephone poles and cable wires transmit signals from one point to the next, communication allows us to speak to one another from what often feels like our isolated vantage points. One of the primary messages that we communicate is being in pain.
Lyric poetry is often described as a prison song overheard. It is a lamentation of pain in the form of a poem. The lyric poet sings to feel less lonely in the world. The poem is a line casted into the sea or air or a dream. Much of our communication travels along lines, threads and systems--and, in part, has been created to respond to pain. Whether it is about imminent danger, where to find food so that groups do not starve or where to find work that fulfills a deep need inside ourselves, communication helps us pool in more resources and feel less alone in our daily struggles.
Pain is a record of living. Living is expenditure, the inhalation and exhalation of breath. At crucial moments of our lives finding all that is necessary to language pain can be tough. In my life I found that when something traumatic or painful happens, it can take days, weeks, and, sometimes, even months to put all the words together. When something hurts us, it is like a shattering effect. Gathering the right words and tone, piece by piece, takes time and, eventually, becomes a process we call healing.
Healing and creating coping mechanism for the bumps and bruises that come along with living, is what we do. However, the opioid crisis over the last two years, has shown us that coping can go too far. What’s important to note, as Clinton Lawson does in her article America’s 150-Year Opioid Epidemic (2018), the abuse of pain meds and the existence of opioid crises are not new. They are markers for something more systemic occuring in society that is asking for healing--new methods of healing.
Lawson writes, “Most started out like Ella Henderson, who suffered from emotional trauma and chronic pain, for which she was prescribed copious amounts of morphine. She became addicted, was abandoned by the medical community and judged by her neighbors, and ultimately overdosed alone in her room. Her case mirrors the thousands of fentanyl and heroin overdoses that led President Trump in October to declare opioid abuse a public health emergency.”
With so many suffering, I have often wondered, recognizing my own chronic health condition and experimentation with various healing modalities, what eco-friendly and sustainably remedies are there for the wider public to respond to the pain they face, both individually and systemically?
Poetry has long been an art form that people have gone to for healing, to soothe the soul, so to speak. What role can art play in responding to, on one level, the pain that people are feeling? Before providing solutions, it is prudent to understand what is happening from the onset as well as providing needed assistance along the way.
Is there still a social malaise that pervades the civilization after all of the promises that were fulfilled by the increased access to information and communication? Is there some new kind of discontentment that is felt underneath the surface that resurfaced 150 years after opioid crises that Lawson talked about? While medicine is one approach, there needs to be a fuller and more dynamic approach to what ailes us--rather than overmedicating us into calamity.