Life is never binary. Never has been. Some think it's all about being yes or no, one or zero, black or white.
This has really never been truer, for example, in medicine. The recent journalistic explosion over a couple going to court in order to being allowed to undergo an abortion , past the prescribed limiting age of the foetus, and the possibility of the foetus being detected with a congenital heart problem . The reports of the ultrasonography, being interpreted in various way. Experts giving their variable opinion. Varying levels of danger to the mother being perceived by trained investigative eyes. Diametrically opposite conclusions being drawn by medical types, people calculating the costs of existence of the foetus with various life saving treatments once it enters this world, and the Dean of a major public hospital attributing his changed committee opnion, to a typographical error....(again black and white).
Takes me back to my childhood, in the fifties, where our neighbours were a family of 5. The oldest , a girl who was my brother's best friend. Her brother was a child afflicted by something that accumulated fluid in the brain. To this day, I do not recall seeing that child ever standing up, or even sitting up. We would all be playing in his room when indoors, and his smile was always part of our group. We communicated with him, regardless of his responses, in a very natural way; no one said anything about any therapies to anyone. His mother tended to him like she tended to all her children, but with a lot of extra physical interaction that was mandatory, given his muscular inabilities. His every new improvement, transient or permanent was celebrated , less as a milestone, but more as a blessing from someone for a beloved child. No one told his parents about "expected life spans " and stuff like that, but at one point it was thought that it might be a good idea if this child had another sibling.
I wonder what must have gone through the parents' minds at that point. I wonder if other older family members had anything to say. I dont know if any grandmother types did any special deals with God for a male offspring. I know the children of the family were delighted and so were we, when it was a healthy boy. That new child was the biggest thrill for his brother and sister, and became the centre of our playgroup in his childhood
What has stayed with me always, is the smiling countenance of the mother, the playful way in which the father would greet the older boy when he returned home from work daily, how the siblings would throw their bags aside, after returning from school, to go to him, and the sheer delight on the face of the differently abled child, so specially wanted, by everyone around him.
It says a lot about society then, when I recall that this child was never spoken about in difficult terms by our parents. I am sure, his parents consulted the best medical people. There were medications and treatments. Some worked, some did not. They were not superhuman, and I am sure that once in a while the mother would give way to tears in the company of my mother who was her best friend. That was what friends were there for. No one discussed and wrote anything about support groups and such things.
And so the other children of the family, grew up, learning about life , and how to tackle reverses and slowdowns; how to empathize, how to judge people over a lifetime of observing attitudes in adverse situations; and how to accept great defeats along with outrageous victories.
There was no law; but there was faith. There was an implicit understanding of the sick child's right to have a loving family for whatever time he would be on this earth. There was sense of acceptance of what is known in sanskrit as "prarabdha", or understanding your present state of life as a result of your karma in past life. Life was lived in a continuum, and not in reports that spoke in ultimatums,limits, hazy digital pictures, and probabilities of survival .
One may or may not believe in reincarnation and past karma. But today, all that the wonderful parents of the boy underwent in making life cheerful and tolerable for the little sick boy, is something that psychologists, psychiatrists and mind-body medicine proponents have been advocating , as if it is a new thing.
Something to be said, in living life as part of a whole, rather than living as if each part of the whole needed to be super perfect.
That little boy is no more. His parents, too are no more. But I am sure his siblings are today, very balanced individuals, bringing soothing stability into the lives of their own families.
I wonder if we need to take a call on how deep technology should interfere in life. Despite IVF, and other acronymized methods of conception, it is a fact that no one has been able to replicate the uterus in its ability to nurture, develop, protect and introduce to the world, a child , in complete dynamic hormonal and other balance with the mother's body. The human body has been known to have amazing resources for healing itself, and it is a fact that when this is not possible , in-utero, foetal development comes to a standstill by itself, is so detected and acted upon by doctors.
How many scans will you subject the mother to ? How many hazy digital pictures will you examine, constantly coming to conflicting conclusions about the foetus, who may be simply trying its best to work out its problems in cooperation with its mother's body systems, anyway , in the time it has, left, in the womb? Are there not doctors who feel that the foetus's problems may NOT worsen further, in the remaining period in the womb, and this may be a treatable problem when the child is older ? Who gives anyone the absolute right to decide to kill the foetus, based on statistics, pixels, ability to display 1/0 situations, , and the questionable eyesight of a big officer of one of Mumbai's big public hospitals?
(Some prefer to see this as an issue of a woman's right over her own body. This makes sense when the issue is of impending hurt or physical health-disadvantage (with no possible other solution), to the mother. Yes, then she has a right to say," I wont go through this, save me." . It doesnt make sense when this is possibly the first child , and medical opinion is divided on the possibility of normal outcome, and not so divided on the possible danger to the mother's life if abortion is attempted. Plenty of birth control methods are available, in the first place to the couples who do not want a biological child. )
Life in certainly not binary. Between the tough and traumatic , 0 and 1, there are many continuum stages of 0.1, 0.2, 0.25, 0.3 ...... 0.8,0.9.... 0.99.... some happy, some not so happy.
Between the peaks and troughs, a lifetime of continuous learning .
If we only did.
As non-digital as can be .