Asteroids on sinister trajectories, suicide bombers in china shops. Epidemic this and high-cholesterol that. The failure of the Western metaphysic. Soaring cheese prices. Black holes of uncertain provenance and appetite lurking in the centers of our galaxies, shrinking public spaces in which to smoke, vanishing marine fisheries, incompatibility between relativity and quantum theory, Sarah Palin, language extinctions, cross-species viral infections, cougars in suburban gardens, friggin’ Chihuahuas everywhere not to mention toy poodles, global warming, entropy… Where will it all end? Whoa.
And now we’ve got outbreaks of random structural violence. “Random structural violence” was an expression sometimes bandied about in academic discussions of international relations back in the early 1970s. But we can extend this notion to experience in general, to the very structure of being. For example, it’s almost certainly involved in the hangover Jack Shackaway says he’s suffering even though he’s pretty sure he didn’t drink anything. And random structural violence has struck Bill the Mathematician. Bill doesn’t know when this happened, though the medics say it was some years ago, so we might speculate this is a case of proactive karma, since he’s the one who passed the Mac virus on to me just a couple of months ago (see “Make yourself feel better & save $200,000 to boot”).
He went for an MRI to investigate some unrelated issue, and next thing the doctors were asking him: “How did you break your back?”
“You’ve got a broken back.”
“We are serious. It’s healed. But you broke your back.”
“Have you got a medical license or something you could show me?”
They showed him the MRI scans, and sure enough—there it was: two vertebrae had been fractured at some point in his life.
The thing is, his back didn’t hurt. And he had no recollection of an accident or some spell of back pain that would suggest a broken back.
And this is no isolated incident. Bill Page—this is not Bill the Mathematician, but rather a Bangkok writer of no mean talent (see “Nirvana, freedom, etc.”)—was reclining one Sunday morning in the La-Z-Boy he bought to celebrate his retirement, if not actually contain it altogether. Surprising himself at the vigor of his daring plan, he managed to escape its clutches, thinking he’d make himself another coffee. Only then did he discover the problem. He called to ask my advice.
“What do you know about broken ankles?”
“Do they swell up a lot and go black?”
“Is this your own ankle we’re talking about, here?”
“Yes. And it’s starting to hurt like hell.”
“Then it’s fair to assume that your ankle is broken. How did that happen?”
“I don’t know. I think it was okay when I went to bed last night. And when I had my shower this morning, and when I had a coffee a while ago. It was only as I disembarked the La-Z-Boy, thinking I’d get another coffee, that I noticed something was wrong.”
“You don’t remember breaking it?”
“I had a few Mekhong-sodas last night; you know how it is. But I’m sure I’d remember breaking an ankle. And why didn’t I notice it earlier this morning?”
Good question. Because it was well and truly broken—they eventually put a pin in it. Another instance of RSV? Probably. One minute you’re standing there wondering what to have for breakfast, and the next—badda-boom—you’ve got a broken ankle. Or a broken back. All sorts of things nobody wants.
There’s not a lot more I can say about this phenomenon now, other than we must all beware. Early signs suggest RSV is becoming pandemic (RSVP).
Image from Beverley Hills Chihuahua, which I haven’t seen, okay?
I invite visitors to report other instances of RSV.