I used to be a bit snotty about Marc Andreessen, but over the years my respect for him has grown and his blog is now on my must read list. As an example of my misplaced snottiness read this from “Understanding Hypermedia 2.000”, 1997, page 31:
“Marc Andreesen (sic) may not be as much of a visionary as the other hypermedia innovators, but his importance in the development of hypermedia should not be underestimated. The success of Mosaic in attracting both users and providers of information to the Web would have been sufficient to guarantee him an important role in its history. In the long term, his role in founding Netscape may be even more significant. Its rapid appearance as a multi-billion corporation marks a point when hypermedia moved from being an interesting curiosity to a medium whose implications were being taken very seriously by decision makers at the highest level in government, industry and business.”
So apologies to Marc – in the unlikely event of a new, revised publication of “Understanding Hypermedia”, your entry will be very different. Anyone who can write the following lies very high in my admiration:
“One of my favorite TATWTESBTISBAs — Truths About The World That Everyone Should Be Taught In School But Aren’t — is that the real world is a wildly unpredictable place, and that most interesting or important things that happen aren’t predictable, because there are simply too many moving parts and unknown factors at play.”
It is as I feared. While, if I look back, I can see a considerable improvement in my condition, the sense of wellness I thought I detected as the New Year turned has proved to be something of an illusion. My face has got much better, I can almost see a hint of smile where there was once just a droop, but I am still subject to sudden burst of intense weariness and a general weakness leaving me with a strange sense of vulnerability. On top of that there are a variety of mysterious pains in various parts of my body, which come and go with great unpredictability. Above all, it is the going onness that is the hardest thing to deal with. It feels as if it will never end.
The sense of endlessness coincides with my awareness that my time in Chile is coming to an end. Tomorrow we leave our apartment and move to Mimi’s mother’s house in Vina Del Mar. A few days later we will be on our way back to London. The thought of being in London feeling as I do now is not inspiring. At least here I have the sights and sounds of summer to lift my spirits when things begin to feel to grey.
London, in contrast, will be grey and dark and the tasks that await my return are largely dreary too. However, and here is the touch of brightness I must cling to, while the dreary tasks must be done, lying beyond them are opportunities to shift into a new context. A drift away from the dreary into something more demanding and satisfactory. Yet another lurch in what I could laughingly call my career.
So how will I look back at my experience of Bell’s Palsy and all the peculiar symptoms that accompanied it? I suspect that viewed from the perspective of the next New Year it will look like a punctuation mark in my life marking one phase of my life to the next. A kind of limbo allowing my brain to reset and preparing me to move on. It may, unlikely as it seems at this moment, even to turn out to be something that I see as having been a positive experience, a kind of winter before a spring.
A British Prime Minister, Harold MacMillan, was once asked what was the most important thing in politics, “Events, dear boy, events”, he replied. Over the years I have come to believe that the same is true of life in general. We can make all the plans we like, but it is how we respond to events that becomes key.
My event of the moment is called Bell’s Palsy. Before we flew to Chile I had anticipated a mix of holiday in the sun, some time spent getting a feel of whether I would actually like to live and work here and some time to think through some more ideas about purposive drift. Instead, the day before we were due to fly I found the right hand side of my face paralysed – just like a visit to the dentist, only I hadn’t been to the dentist.
Perhaps foolishly, I decided to fly anyway.
And so I find myself having a very different time in Chile from that I had anticipated. The focus of my concerns has shifted to coming to terms with having Bell’s Palsy and how best to deal with it.
Bell’s Palsy is a curious condition. It is diagnosed by exclusion – in other words nobody knows its cause – though the key suspect is a viral infection. Its most obvious symptom is paralysis of one side of the face, because an important nerve is damaged or impaired. Essentially there is no treatment other than rest.
Most of the medical information focuses on the paralysis of the face and the need to take care of the eye on the affected side because it doesn’t close properly and because of that can become infected. What seems to be less mentioned is how appallingly ill you can feel – well at least this is how it has affected me.
So my best days have been spent sleeping and dozing, with occasional trips to the balcony of our apartment to look out at the waves rolling in from the Pacific and breaking on the rocks of our bay and watching the little dramas and stories of life on the sea front.
Since New Year’s Eve I have felt dramatically better, the sense of continually fatigue seems, for the moment, to have lifted and I have more movement in the right hand side of my face. But, while I am enjoying this sense of improvement, I am not counting on it continuing without set back – my experience so far is that while a general trend of getting better can seen, its progress is very up and down, two steps forward, one step back.
So are there any lessons to be learnt from this experience. Probably not, other than the one I began with, the need to account of and deal with – “Events, dear boy, events.”
I like the sound of 2008. It looks like being an interesting year. For me, it is likely to be a time of a number endings and, I hope, some new beginnings. This, I expect, may be echoed more widely. So for all of you who some times wander here, my best wishes and may the coming year offer you new opportunities to move from places where you don’t want be and towards the places where you do.