Friday, March 31, 2006

Butterflies and Diving Bells- One Year Later




















I wrote this a year ago for my friend Pursuit:

"No pun intended, but I think it is time to give Terry Schiavo a rest. If you can't get your mind off this general topic, however, take this Easter weekend and read The Butterfly and the Diving Bell, by Jean-Dominique Bauby. This is a short little book I try to read about every three years or so.

It is the autobiographical story of a man who, in the prime of his life, collapsed and became fully paralysed with the single exception that he was able to blink his left eyelid. His condition was called "Locked in Syndrome." After a time, he was able to develop a communication system with that eyelid that allowed him to write this beautiful book. Ironically, he died just as the book was published, at the age of 43.

Nothwithstanding his condition, Bauby is alternatively witty, charming, sad, and, most important, appreciative of the small things in life, like the smell of hot dogs grilling in the summer breeze. Ironically, by coming down with "Locked in Syndrome," Bauby sheds some of the locked in syndrome he had become susceptible to in his former life.

We all have our butterflys and we all have our diving bells.

For some, the diving bell around our head is politics, and the butterfly fluttering back and forth is faith. For others, the reverse is true. If you are finding yourself with a sense of locked in syndrome, this book is just what the doctor ordered."

I still think there is more to learn from Bauby's situation than Schiavo's.