This piece of music is one of my all time favorites, so it belongs here amidst all of these words and music about rebirth. But, you might ask, what does being “Comfortably Numb” have to do with rebirth? And I would have to respond, “Everything.”
Granted, the song is about using drugs to obtain that numbing reality, but drugs are only one avenue to obtain that affect. As human beings, we are only one of the multitudes of creatures that inhabit this planet. But, like all those other creatures, our bodies are made to be receptacles of incoming information that allow us to move through our days and to survive into the next one. Our very skin is made up of sensors that telegraph information to us about our surrounding environment so that we can remain safe within that environment. It tells us when the weather changes and alerts us to what and how to respond in any given moment.
Have you ever felt a prickle of fear flash down your spine, or down your arms in the form of goose bumps? That prickle of skin is meant to warn you that you might be in danger. Whether or not you heed it is entirely up to you. It is always your choice. And some among us are always more sensitive than others. Their radar is simply more finely tuned. If you like to read, try Gavin De Becker’s The Gift of Fear.
As I said above, this piece of music is a particular favorite of mine. On my thirtieth birthday, I bought myself a guitar and took lessons. I did learn to chord and strum, but the guitar solos in this piece are so far and away from what I could produce, they couldn’t even begin to be put in the same category. It just means that I probably appreciate them more than some others.
But the words here are even more important. And I am definitely a word person. These are the words of someone seeking to numb themselves to their own environment in order to somehow survive that very experience. And yes, that little pin prick will accomplish that but how much more harm will it do? It is far more apt to end that life altogether than to enrich it.
We all have learned ways to numb our-self from different aspects of the life inside and outside of our beings. Food, alcohol, buying and spending, and the list goes on and on.
But that numbness can cost us a great deal in relationships and other areas of our lives. It might be distracting for a time, but it can cost a whole lot more than we think. If we become too numb, we may lose our ability to emphasize with others, even those closest to us. We might even lose our ability to connect at all, on any meaningful level.
More important, we may lose the ability to connect with our own person. That individual that it is most important for each of us to know and accept. Most often in childhood we are taught how to make our-self acceptable to others so that we can belong and be a part of whatever society exists around us. But then we grow up and realize that we are an individual with thoughts and feelings that don’t always align with those others around us. Does that make us unacceptable? To others, or to ourselves?
We all have memories unique to our own experiences. Those memories are important in helping us to choose what type of individual we would prefer to be. They can and do help us to make choices that satisfy our individual preferences. Some of us must win at whatever the cost or situation, while others are surprised if they ever win at all. And unless we actually do the work of exploring those memories and their effect on the whole picture, we may never learn how to be other than simple raw material that has not been given either shape or dimension.
I, personally, would prefer to be a unique, even a colorful individual, rather than a blob without any identifiable definition. That is not to say that everyone around me will accept the individual I am. Some never will. And for a few, my chosen individuality will threaten them. That is their problem, not mine. However, because I spent a great deal of time and effort studying human behavior, the better to understand my own, many individuals don’t realize that they often telegraph their silent inner intentions in sometimes very obvious ways.
The first time I encountered such behavior was half a lifetime ago, when I was in college. Another student decided I was her only competition to the position she felt she alone deserved. So she decided to set me up to take a tremendous fall from grace. It backfired on her and she was ultimately called before the faculty of the department where both of us were seeking majors. She was told, in no uncertain terms, that if she didn’t stop her behavior, she would never graduate and would have difficulty finding another university to accept her. This all took place without my knowledge and I didn’t know about it for several months after it had happened.
But, I learned a great deal from that experience. 1. That I could actually be a threat to anyone just by being me. 2. That success wasn’t always a wonderful and glowing experience. 3. That if I stuck to my own sense of what was best for me, the Universe would and does lend a hand in seeing to it that the appropriate outcome would happen, because the Universe operates on a sense of balance. And 4. That it is best not to get too comfortably numb at any time.
In the song, the singer says that when he was young, he had a dream. But now the child is grown and the dream is gone, because he has become “comfortably numb”. Taking the necessary steps to fulfill a dream is damned hard work. And in far more familiar terms, “If you snooze, you loose.” But that is never an excuse for harmful behavior towards others. When we do it wrong, we need to admit that wrong and even apologize for our own bad behavior. If we don’t, we harm ourselves as well as the other.
I am currently watching reruns of NCIS. The lead character is named Leroy Jethro Gibbs, and he has a list of rules that he uses to teach his other investigators. One of those rules has always bothered me. It goes something like this: “Never say you are sorry, it’s a sign of weakness.” I don’t agree. I much prefer to believe that a sincere apology is a sign of growth and strength. It also engenders healing for both parties involved. And it might actually lead to healing the breach that has occurred. But, even if it doesn’t, I believe it allows the two individuals to walk away stronger for the experience, no longer numbed, but more fully aware. And that is always a good thing.
The pandemic and social distancing has altered our lives in so many ways. However, it is not an excuse for bad behavior. Rather, it should be a time for quiet contemplation and a further growth process. Taking this time for a closer look at how we have become the individuals we are is perhaps the very best use of our current experience. Allowing ourselves to explore what and how we have become the who that we are is never a waste of time or energy. As a writer, I would sincerely encourage anyone who is reading this to take a break each day and write down what is bothering you most and what you might do to alleviate that reality in a positive manner, giving yourself a chance for even a small sense of rebirth. Give yourself the information you need to survive and even thrive in the midst of an unknown reality.
My other suggestion is to explore any creative activity. Several years ago, I engaged in line weave drawing. I filled several small sketchbooks with just such images. They were done in pen and ink and one does not need any particular artistic talent to do them.
I then tried putting them through a kaleidoscope app and had a lot of fun making them into full sized templates I could color.
Each step in that process kept my mind alert and active. Free to roam through memories and further ideas. Far away from numbness of any kind. I was playing, having fun, but also being very productive. I have a large number of these templates and am more than willing to share them if anyone is interested. Just contact me here in the comments section, or on Facebook messenger.
When one gets involved in any creative activity, even the simple activity of coloring, that individual is strengthening the mind, keeping it alert and active, but also allowing the body to relax and find comfort. The very opposite of “Comfortably Numb.”
It certainly can’t harm you and it is far better than becoming so “Comfortably Numb” that you stop breathing altogether.
Elizabeth Crawford 8/19/2020