Swami Sarvagananda & Party
Parvardigar- Pete Townsend
Ah- nee mah: Spirit of the Southwest
Swami Sarvagananda & Party
Parvardigar- Pete Townsend
Ah- nee mah: Spirit of the Southwest
Moon not exactly full
Last nights show was great, though a week late. I’ll get the MP3 up as soon as possible for the archives. Only 3 callers who hung on (several hang-ups when lines were busy). Enough on that topic.
My Friend, Senor Ref. C. on Ward 34D
Yesterday I saw a man at the “hospital” where I work. Of course, the term hospital is not a true description of what happens to people there. So much suffering, so much torment. but enough of that- this is the story:
(For those of you who are unfamiliar with my work, I am a loose cannon patient support person at a “Forensic Mental Health Facility”- read: a place where people are kept who have been judged by the courts of Oregon to be “Guilty but Insane”.)
So, this guy, I’ll call him “Mr. Castle” for the purpose of confidentiality; I met him the first couple weeks I was there at a time I was doing Hospital Improvement Surveys as a tool for getting to know the place and it’s people. He live in a gero ward, 34D, with other older and physically limited folks. I really enjoyed talking with him. He is smart and very thoughtful, insightful (despite his current diagnosis of dementia and organic brain disease). He is a deeply spiritual man.
He transferred from the Oregon State Prison a few years back when they could no longer care for him adequately. He is serving a life sentence, convicted of a “terrible mis-deed” (his words), or, conversely, “Murder” according to his chart. (I once asked him about his treatment in prison compared to the Hospital- he said that Prison was where God had opened his eyes to the world of the spirit and the true purpose of his life. Here he was just surviving and trying to keep devotion to “God and The Mystery” while watching what he realized was a progressive condition that will eventually take away his mind.) In his former life he was a father of 9 children, a US war veteran and a social worker. He has studied psychology and is extremely smart. His memory sometimes fails him. He has had strokes that have affected his mobility. He has PTSD and traumatic brain injury from his military service.
I used to go see him every week the first few months I was working there- I enjoyed our talks. His religious devotion along with a penetrating insight is a joy. Lately I haven’t seen him in at least 2 months. I’ve been busy as I’ve had to work toward a balance in my efforts to be useful to the over 600 patients who live in that island of Mental Hell Treatment.
I decided to go see Mr. Castle yesterday in the morning after I finished some paperwork. I didn’t think he would remember me. I did not call ahead. I walked to 34D, across “campus” about a quarter mile or more from my office.
I walked into the downstairs lobby. Mr. Castle was with a small group of staff and patients waiting for the elevator to go back to the ward from “crafts class”. He saw me with a puzzled look. I said, “You might not remember me. Can you recall my name?”
He said, “Of course, Mr. Rick. You have arrived just in time. I will only need a small amount of your attention. We can be through in about 20 minutes.” I had a very strong feeling he was seeing me for what he considered an appointment and that he was glad I was not late. “This will work well because I have lunch in about a half an hour from now,” he added.
We went up the elevator, through the locked doors that get us eventually into 34D. He said, “It will only take me a few minutes to get my papers together.” He walked down the hall (with his walker) and gestured for me to follow him.
In his room, he rummaged through papers he had been keeping, seemingly for his anticipated discussion with me. The papers included print-outs from a group he had attended and some writings of his own (in Spanish, but he translated).
First he read to me the key points in his recent writings. Part had to do with a topic we had discussed before- the “purpose of Man in God’s plan and the Ultimate Penetration of the Holy Mystery”. As he translated his own writing he came to several places where he could not find an English equivalent. The most simplistic summary would be: Man is composed of 3 principles- Spirit, Soul (to this he included mind, emotion, habits, attachments) and Body (simply the physical form and it’s basic needs for survival- not the physical desires, which he insists are attributes of Mind). “So, these 3 things make a man. They are all required for Man to fulfill his purpose and promise in the world. One can not outweigh the others or there will be problems, illness and “mis-deeds”.
Then he pulled out a handout from a group he had attended on the ward. He said, “I am a college graduate with much training in psychology. So, you see, I am capable of focusing my mind in the study of this information. I have applied my concentration to understanding what is here.” He had marked up the pages in various parts- mostly underlines and asterisk.
“Psychology is a great and powerful science”, he said, “but it is flawed and does not have a complete understanding of who we are and why we are.” He went on to critique the handouts, respectfully but completely. I won’t go into detail.
In summary, Mr. Castle explained that too much emphasis on the mind and it’s needs and habits is detrimental to a Man in the fulfillment of God’s purpose. The Spirit and the Body must receive appropriate nourishment. Without proper sustenance of each element of our being we cannot penetrate the mystery. He told me a story from his life, the gist of which was that his mind had led him into “terrible misdeeds”. His eyes became red and he began to cry. “I have been locked up for 30 years and suffered great remorse because I did not know the proper balance of my whole being”.
Then he stopped crying. His eyes cleared. He said that everything that had happened was part of his education. He said, “Man always wants to blame God or blame anyone else for their own mistakes. Adam blamed Eve and God, Eve blamed the serpent and God. Ever since then all Man wants to do is place the blame on someone else.”
Then he said it was time for me to go. His lunch would be arriving soon.
The usual lunar cycle of Mad Liberation by Moonlight radio is suspended this month. Instead of tomortrow night, the show will be broadcast/ webcast on the night of March 20th at 1 a.m. There will be a regular announcement next week. Note, however, that the recording of last month’s show (and others) is on this site on it’s own tab above.
Poems are by JN- a patient in the 50 building on Ward F. Printed with his permission but anonymous because he didn’t want to mess with all the written approval red tape- which has to be approved by the hospital and somethings just don’t find there way through the process.
JN is a big man- over 6’6″ I think. He wears suspenders and has very broad shoulders. My first impression on meeting him was “Paul Bunyan”. He never hurts anyone- no record of him assaulting staff or patients that I could find.
(JN has published a book of poetry. He has no copy but knows some libraries where it is available. He wrote it in the 1990’s.)
Still, staff are afraid of him. Especially small, female staff. He has a temper and when he’s angry he raises his voice. Usually, it’s over some small issue of arbitrary rule compliance.
Example: the soda machine in the hall outside the ward was out of product in the morning at 10 a.m. when it is on the ward schedule that they can go in the hallway with staff to get a soda from the machine. The machine was filled by noon. At 2 :00 p.m. JN asked to be able to go out to the hallway (6 feet from the ward door) with staff to buy a soda. He was told “No. The time for buying soda is 10 a.m.” JN said, “But the soda machine was empty. We didn’t get our soda at 10 a.m. Why can’t we get something now?” Staff: “That’s the rule. You know the rule. No soda. Wait until tomorrow.” JN raises his voice, red n the face, pointing his finger at the staff person, one more minor indignity piled on top of so many others, “I am so sick of your rules! I’m sick of being treated like a child!” Staff: “That was a verbal threat. I’m putting it in your chart that you threatened me.”
Being charted as making a verbal threat means that he will have no privileges- sometimes it can mean “ward restriction”- meaning that even some of the small spaces available to sit with others or by yourself, are off limits. Sometimes it means they won’t let you go with other patients to the “yard” for fresh air. There are levels of privilege given within the confines of what is already an extremely restricted space. Level zero is the worst.
JN has not been above level zero in the year or so he has been locked up this time around. He does not expect to ever be above level zero. He has at least 8 more years in the hospital as assigned by the PSRB (the Psychiatric Security Review Board- an agency of the state courts).
Sometime I’ll post JN’s description of how he ended up in the hospital- it will blow you away. It started with a psychotic break, being told what to do by voices. No one was harmed.
BTW- not all of JN’s poetry is as heartbreaking as this- some is inspiring. You know how great it is when you are dreaming and find out you can fly? Sometimes reading his poems I feel like crying and flying at the same time.
I will be posting more of JN’s work over time. Maybe we’ll get permission to show his name- he’d like that. The guy that does the hospital newsletter (which never has patient-produced content since I’ve worked there) says he will print one of JN’s poems in next month’s edition. I’ll be waiting.
written 2/21/09 6:25 p.m.
We watched a butterfly be born into the world
Held hands at a scary film
Thought silly jokes were funny
Smiled with our eyes
I love you was spoken a lot
Mingled with other couples
Broke up once or twice
People talked about our relationship
She wrote when I was gone in jail
This is where we failed
My time was longer than her love
Have a picture of her I can’t tear up
It looks like she is shaking her finger at me in the picture
Wish I wouldn’t have made my mistake
Stakes were too high for me
Alone again with 40 men
written 2/21/09, 5:30 p.m.
The sentences flowed with suicide contempt
Depression is in the suggestion note
He was a perfectionist in writing what was said
It started with “To Whom it may concern”
It was the sadness in-between that will catch your heart
It wasn’t his dear concern that frightened me
It was the truth of his light that shined through
He was the only one feeling
Feeling like life wasn’t much living worth
More of his emotional turmoil churning the past
At last he was drained and insane
Mentally whipped- to no return to serenity
This is was his suggestion
Void was full of that dark stuff
Nothing to carry him to the next moment
At this second he was dead
All blessings to you, JN, with your deep compassion for the pain of others, your courage in the face of utter dark, with your warrior spirit-heart that lets loose the birds of language you call poems.
I love that you have new poetry for me every time I see you in your prison even though you hadn’t written in years before we met.
My thanks, my prayers for your trust and faith.
Inspired by a patient (or 2 or 10 or 600) at OSH- poorly performed, sadly pathetic production values, my voice doesn’t work, the words are after- here it is:
My name is Robert
I live in Oregon State Hospital in building 35
I can’t say much about my live before this place
I’ve been locked up 40 years, don’t know if I’ll get out alive
You may think worse of me to know I hear spirits in the night
As they walk the narrow halls I hear them cry
Nameless Men and Women who lived out their days in here
Maybe I will join them by and by
Me, I get up early every single day
Look out on the ward and wish that I was far away
But if my life has been wasted you don’t need to see
The only one who knows I’m here is me
When I was young my life here was a nightmare
I was raped by other patients and tied down by MHTs
[Mental Health Technicians- the bottom rung of ward staff]
Then left in the seclusion room while staff would sit outside
Catching up on their reading, just as distant as you please
It’s not so bad here for me now it’s just an awful boring place
We go to groups, the same day after day
And if staff don’t give a damn they mostly leave us all alone
Sometimes we get good ones, they won’t stay
I don’t just sit around all day
I’d go crazy if I did, I’ve seen it happen to a few
I used to work on grounds but now we’re locked down pretty tight
It seems as though there never is enough for me to do
My IDT gave me my Treatment Plan last week
[Interdisciplinary Treatment Team- the primary instruments of Ward Rule]
All my goals right there for me to read
It always just amazes me they know me so damn well
Without ever asking what I need
I’ll put this on the music page later- after I do a better recording of it.