The design for the conference in October includes working together to a shared goal. We are asking two general questions that allow facilitators of the workshops and studios to develop their own themes or topics. The two questions are: (1) What do survivors need to know about ___________________? and (2) What does this work mean to you and others? Both questions eventually are linked because the will to meaning is a central issue for survivors and their care givers. If they can find a meaning for life that sustains them, they all will sustain their desire for life. A poem in the current Survive and Thrive anthology, “If You Do This Work,” engages both questions and the issue of what happens when we do work that is exploratory, marginal, and necessary — work that is always a part of our will to meaning. As such, it is a point of shared interest, I think, in our search for meaning and our work of preserving and restoring the miracle of life.
Liana Livingstone recently took the poem and interpreted it through pictures and a certain delight in font selection. Her performance of the poem reminds me of our peak experiences at the Conference and Festival. I think of how we layer healing, technology, and art so that we join in a chorus of thinking, acting, and performing the restorative arts. Liana’s interpretation is an example of that, especially when we layer it with the music on the CD (“If You Do This Work”) and add personal interpretations and readings. The visual experience, which I am going to include below, is a part of a cluster of ideas and experiences and acts that help define our work together.
Move through the presentation by clicking forward (right) or back (left)
For example, in his talk and his essay for the Survive and Thrive anthology, ”Of Sparks and Scourges And Second Chances,” Dr. Keith Lurie helps us understand what it means to “do this work” for him and for the rest of us:
What we have learned is that the discovery process is only the beginning of a very long journey. Restoring the miracle of life after cardiac arrest requires collaboration, buy-in, willingness to change, victims who die but might then help to motivate change, champions, resources, alignment of shared motives and goals, collaboration of health care providers across the broad spectrum from emergency medical technician to the CEO of the hospital, and a shared vision of educators from the CPR instructor to the president or Chancellor of the University. (8)
Dr. Lurie writes about the lives saved with the total system for survival and what those lives mean to him. He traces the growth of the idea (a person who had used a toilet plunger to save a life) to the robust and holistic vision of Take Heart and the technolgy that supports its mission. He also helps us understand the perplexing fact that even when people know how to save lives they often do not practice the knowledge, comparing in his talk to us (another layer of his performance and another layer for the poem) the knowledge that limes did protect against scurvy and the long years it took to apply that knowledge to the current state of practice in CPR, where we know how to save lives but do not practice the holistic approach or ignore what works. It is an artful and appropriate comparison – we get it because we see it historically and personally.
Perhaps it takes so long to actually implement life saving technology (be it limes or an EMS pod) because people have knowledge but do not know it. What this means is that medical humanities and narrative medicine must offer illiustrations, arguments, testimony, and a prisim of experiences about survival so that when someone has the knowledge they know why they have it. I realize this is a difficult and seemingly complicated idea, but it is actually not complicated at all when we consider how we KNOW something. Our goal of restoring the miracle of life requires us to layer information, experience, and aesthetic engagement so that people who are offered life saving and life giving knowledge may know it deeply enough to act on it.
One of the main reasons for the Conference and Festival is to encourage such layering and blending of stories from science and art, from medicine and humanities so that we get a better SENSE and a better REALIZATION of the whole experience of surviving and thriving. In this view of the conference and festival, we interpret “If You Do This Work” in regard to our own passions, persistence, practice, and preparation for it. The poem, for some therefore, becomes a touchstone for the power and, yes, the cost of the work in order to save lives and to make lives better.
As we are designing the conference and festival for this coming October, this is still a guiding principle – to allow us to celebrate the work we do together and the joy and sorrow of it in order to fulfill Dr. Lurie’s goal of “restoring the miracle of life.”