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.
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.