Mix tapes

Starts, I suppose with a ‘mix tape’ as they might have called it in the eighties. Or now a days a CD that I burnt. In Hi-Fidelity (sorry if you’re getting fed up with all the Hi-Fidelity references) it’s what you like that matters not what you are like. Movies, books, music – these thing matter.

So I relate to people via music and culture, or rather pop-culture, I don’t really care that much about real culture if I’m honest. I could fill hours with a stranger talking about their top 5s of what they like and don’t like. It’s my only real conversation starter. All this applies to blokes of course cause I get scared talking to girls. I’ll start talking to them about books and movies and stuff and usually they don’t care but occasionally they do and then I get sacred that I might actual be flirting with them and then I run away. Anyhow, that’s off topic kind of.
So there’s a guy in the unit, G, one of the nurses who listens to Bloc Party and plays guitar so I suppose there was an easy link there. So I do what I do for all new acquaintances if I want to acknowledge respect and interest in their views on pop culture – I burn them a CD.

Burning a CD is to quote err… a certain film I occasionally quote… using someone else’s poetry to express how you feel about someone. It’s complex and there are, of course, a lot of rules. So I put in some old favourites and introduce him to the Duke (special) and even throw in the one Joy Division song I have and the Jose Gonzales version of it. To top it off I throw in a couple of songs I recorded myself. Sandwhiched between some Ben Folds and some Wilco. So most of our conversations have resolved round music and pop culture and how neither of us really like The Smiths.

G knows I’m a Christian, I talk about it a lot with pop-culture, it’s kind of what the pop-culture thing is all about really. So today, a lady’s arterial line (a drip placed in the artery in the wrist to measure blood pressure) packs in and I have to change it. Well in actual fact she doesn’t really need one but I need the practice. I briefly debated about the ethics of that but then the whole point of ICU is to have lots of numbers measured that we can’t really do anything about.

And so while I’m screwing up putting in the arterial line he asks me about what church I go to and how I found it and stuff. And an hour later I’m still standing there chatting. On each side of the bed with a crazy patient between us. We’ll debate the role of Christianity in politics while she tries to grab and punch at the hallucinations in front of her eyes. It’s a surreal moment. Well she was either grabbing at the hallucinations or she was trying to shut us up. One of the two.

The occasional nurse wanders into the room and quickly leaves. There is no surer way to kill a conversation in this place than bringing up religion or politics. Nurses, and well most people to be honest, will generally avoid politics and religion. They would much rather talk about gardening or curtains or Brad and Angie or some boring twaddle that I really don’t have any time for. Disagreement and conflict are everyone’s fear. To cause offence seems to be the absolute no no. A tolerant society is hugely intolerant of Christianity, about anything that claims truth. There has got to be a certain irony in the intolerance of a tolerant society and their hugely dogmatic stance against dogmatism.

The big difference is truth. I believe in truth, above all I believe in truth. If it wasn’t true I wouldn’t be in this. And from truth there’s beauty and joy and without them I’d be nowhere. Truth isn’t fashionable, truth doesn’t make you friends, truth doesn’t get you places, I know this. I struggle with this. I want to be liked too much to argue truth as much as I should.

So the conversation ends cause one of the nursed wants to me to prescribe something for someone cause their bowels haven’t opened in three weeks or something. I have no idea why we describe our bowels as opening. It’s not as if they have opening hours or anything. I suppose it’s better than saying your bowels have moved. It’s like ‘what, where did they move to?’

I walk off with a bit of a buzz, not about getting the bowels to move, just about getting to chat about important things, about declaring truth and hope and why it matters so deeply to me and how it makes me tick. So in the end I don’t feel too bad about putting in the arterial line in the crazy lady that didn’t really need it.

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November 2006
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