Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Insights while under the influence of nitrous oxide

A couple of weeks ago, I had some dental work done.

Before I go any further, you should know I am a big wimp about pain, and I get nervous and tense about any medical procedure. (But when they're over, they become fodder for endless jokes. Most of which I will spare you.)

photo: Caleb Kimbrough, lostandtaken.com

Knowing that, I opted for the nitrous oxide in addition to the novocaine.

If you've ever had nitrous, you know it doesn't put you to sleep — it just decreases your awareness.

As I was beginning to feel the medicine's effects, I was contemplating the idea of awareness — how we seek it in some settings, and avoid it in others.

For example:

Sleep — near-total lack of conscious awareness.
Pain — sharp awareness of a specific area.

In social settings, being self-conscious is a bad thing.
In a counseling setting, being self-aware is a good thing.

Certain drugs heighten awareness; others depress it. What is it that makes people seek one effect over the other?

In yoga and Pilates, you're encouraged to become aware of your breathing — something we normally take for granted. When the dentist's assistant placed the nitrous mask over my face, I became very aware of my breathing, even as awareness of other things gradually decreased.

Awareness. Consciousness. Focus.

Empathy is another kind of awareness — one where we are aware of another's suffering. That awareness is what prompts us to reach outside ourselves to help someone else. It's the basis of all the helping professions; it's even the basis of the work the dentist was doing for me that day.

And I think that awareness, that empathy, that compassion for humanity, is the basis for the incarnation and the atonement, and it's the model for our relationships as a result, if I'm understanding this passage right.

Or maybe that's just the nitrous talking.


1 comment:

  1. This is worth thinking about. Especially in terms of sin -- how He who knew no sin became sin for us.

    Amazing to think that Christ has never had the awareness we have when we consciously disobey God, but He is completely aware of all the pain and wrath it brings.



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