Or, I should say, “partly trapped in a body,” or “overlighting a body,” or “a portion of which inhabits a body.” All ways of talking about the larger mystery of being alive on this planet.
Usually we can ignore this mystery. But not when someone is comatose, semi-comatose. Then what is going on? Most people think, well, nothing. That person lying there is unaware, much like being asleep. This is certainly the cultural view. And how we feel and relate to them makes a huge difference to those who are trapped in that “state.”
Having been myself, at different times, in the presence of two women, dear friends of mine, who, for different reasons, had lapsed into a semi-comatose state that lasted for years (both women eventually died), I am not at all surprised that this young man says he was aware of everything. Both these women were aware of everything as well. I knew that, and they knew I knew, judging from the tears that would overflow their eyes whenever I walked in the room.
To me, it’s obvious when someone’s soul is trapped in their body, though, apparently, it isn’t obvious to others. How do you tell? By what is or is not coming through the eyes. There is a reason for the Shakespearean phrase, “the eyes are the window to the soul,” and a reason why this phrase is in common use — though its deep meaning is largely ignored. And no wonder. How many of us pay attention to our soul’s communion with others through the eyes?
In reading the above post, I was struck by how even this young man did not mention his eyes when speaking about his attempts to communicate.
In his memoir, Ghost Boy, he writes, “My mind was trapped inside a useless body, my arms and legs weren’t mine to control and my voice was mute. I couldn’t make a sign or sounds to let anyone know I’d become aware again. I was invisible—the ghost boy.”
His condition, according to an AOL story, is called “Locked In Syndrome: “It’s rare, and causes complete paralysis of the muscles, except for the eyes.”
The same thing happens when we grow old. We become invisible to anyone who does not care to connect with us through the eyes. That’s most people. And that’s when it becomes obvious to us that most people usually each other as “objects” rather than as “subjects.”
In the philosopher Martin Buber‘s terminology, we have “I-It” relationships rather than “I-Thou” relationships.
It’s no wonder that we have absolutely no idea what the ecotheologian Thomas Berry meant by his remark:
“The universe is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects.”
Everything alive has a soul. And, everything is alive — all communing and resounding as cells within the infinitely spacious presence of the body we call “the universe.”