This month, we are privileged to post some thoughts from Dr. McAnally’s ‘s friend and collaborator on various projects (including the Beyond Pain website), Ya’akov Ben-Adir.

September 2020_img
Courtesy of WikiImages

“…keeps on turnin’ – I don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow…” announces one of my favorite bands. I don’t know enough about physics (let alone astrophysics) to even be dangerous really, but my understanding is that our increasingly crowded little planet is just about halfway out to its furthest tilt away from the sun as I write this (assuming you live in the Northern Hemisphere like I do, and certainly like you Alaskans do!) This orbit defines our year, obviously, and while I know its course and rate haven’t changed appreciably in the half-century that I’ve ridden it, it sure seems like it’s accelerating. I’m starting to understand what I’ve heard all those ‘old people’ say about time going faster and faster the older you get.

Anyhow, this year I’ve thinking about our lifespans in terms of orbits or cycles. For me anyway, it puts a much better perspective on my countdown rather than a linear map. Part of me still thinks I’m 20 (until the hip or neck or back wakes me in the middle of the night) and that line or stretch of road ahead still seems to stretch on indefinitely like some Arizona highway fading into the distance. But when I think about the fact that I have only so many more trips around the sun as they say, it arrests me.

I have x number of orbitsto go. And in the blink of an eye it will be x – 1, and then x – 10, and suddenly no more left. 3500 years ago or so, the great spiritual leader of my people at the time, Moshe (Moses) wrote these words:

TEACH US, O G-D TO NUMBER OUR DAYS,
SO THAT WE CAN PRESENT A HEART OF WISDOM TO YOU.
Tehillah (Psalm) 90:12

We Jews observe a holiday every September (or sometimes October, like this year) called Rosh Hashanah – it’s commonly described as the Jewish “New Year.” We’ll get back to that concept in a minute, but this year I have been thinking a lot more about another belief we have about Rosh Hashanah, which is that someday, on that day, all human beings will stand before the Maker of all things. All we’ve done on all our orbits will be presented for His judgment.

If you and I have x number of “practice” Rosh Hashanahs left before the Big One, The Day of Judgment, and we don’t really know how many more of those there will be (especially when you consider what a good job we seem to be doing of destroying our Spaceship Earth!), shouldn’t we be turning our full attention to preparing for when the ride stops?

New Year in autumn seemed weird to me as a kid until the Rabbi explained to me that food didn’t used to come in shiny plastic from a building on the corner; we had to dig up the earth and plant seeds which would develop and mature over the course of the winter, emerge visibly in spring, and offer their fruit and grain to us in late summer and autumn for our sustenance. Then we’d start again in autumn, sowing and planting.

So what does all of this have to do with pain management? You’ll probably have to ask Dr. Mac rather than me; I’m just the writer and would-be philosopher. But I guess what I’m trying to say is that there’s a bigger picture than where I’m at and what I’m experiencing today or this month or even this orbit - things both good and bad, things both pleasant and painful. Stepping back a few moments to look at that bigger picture of our lives and not getting ‘tunnel-visioned’ into a pain or disappointment-centered view is a critical life skill the older we get. More importantly even than that though is the recognition that we will inevitably take our last ride around the sun, and until that final harvest, let’s plant and cultivate as much good seed as we can this cycle.