Sunday, March 26, 2017

Awareness of Your Constant "Becoming" (Mestiza Rhetoric)

California Poppies
The spring equinox this past Monday (March 20th) was a reminder of rebirth, growth, warmth, of leaving behind the cold or snow cover.  Winter months have been called dead months-- when all is encased in ice even though life is continually teeming underneath (think "subnivean zone").  In the desert, as well, winter can mistakenly be thought of as dormant, when various stages of life are present.  Therefore these seasonal markers emphasize summer into fall/winter, winter into spring/summer as continual and sharing multiple subjectivities.

I kept thinking of "continual growth" while in Los Angeles this past week.  Every morning, I would exercise by walking around the Glendale neighborhood where I was staying.  The cactus that the neighbors cultivate are splendid and give me much pleasure as I walk past.  Cactus also makes me think about regeneration, continual movement, or multiple shifts.

Look at the cactus plant below.  Notice how multiple leaves are imprinted into the larger ones.  Eventually, these leaves will generate into multiples.

Here's a close-up I photographed (below) so you can see how the leaf is generating and multiplying itself.

It makes me think of the following quote from Gloria Anzaldua's Borderlands: La Frontera:

"Think of me as a Shiva, a many armed and legged body with one foot on brown soil, one on white, one in straight society, one in the gay world, the man's world, the woman's, one limb in the literary world, another in the working class, the socialist, and the occult worlds.  A sort of spider woman hanging by one thin strand of web."

The cactus photographs above and below belie multiple subjectivities: a nascent leaf and fully mature leaf in one yet also in multiples.  Each will eventually separate to become a different shape and size. The nutrients it gathers are from multiple "worlds" around it.

On my morning walks, I noticed other cactus plants regenerating very differently (see below).  Notice the cactus paddle to the right.  It has some kind of injury or knot as if it were cut.

In reading Lora Arduser's book, Living Chronic: Agency and Expertise in the Rhetoric of Diabetes and taking photographs of the cactus,  I see connections to how Arduser posits the "agency" of individuals who are managing Diabetes. For Arduser, (and she uses Anzaldua's quote above as a link), individuals with Diabetes are in constant movement with their body, enacting several subjectivities.  Examples: a hyper awareness of one's own pancreas via technologies (glucose meters, testing, education); reactions to what one eats; gathering information through research and/or medical experts; listening/learning from others who are also managing the disease. The management of Diabetes is in and of itself a continual "becoming."

Notice the injury to the right of this cactus paddle
Arduser writes: "The mestiza rhetoric performed by Anzaldua in the quotation [above] is discourse that comes from a specific, complex cultural  background, but it also more generally recognizes a kind of internal multiplicity and multiple subjectivities.  As such, it creates tension with existing concepts of patient agency--a view that reinforces the concept of subjects as single and static entities--and subjectivity as a rhetorical form that 'exists only in its continual and aesthetic creation, in its indefinite becoming.'  This becoming and re-becoming in the form of multiple subjectivities is an important way that people with diabetes enact agency." (116)

The cactus, then, serves as a metaphor of achieving "body knowledge."  The cactus knows what to do, is programmed to gather, transmit, enact, and grow in a variety of environments.  It learns to survive despite smog, pollution, various kinds of injury.  It regenerates.

Every day, I walked around the neighborhood for a little over an hour -- the usual time it takes to jostle the pancreas and get it working in order to emit enough B Cells to gather up the glucose in my bloodstream.  Without the exercise, the pancreas remains slow or dormant, causing glucose to dangerously reside in the bloodstream.  Exercise, then, produces flow.  My job then: to manage the body for optimal "becoming."

Interestingly, eating cactus paddles (boiling the paddle, then cutting the paddle in strips, roasting the strips with garlic) lowers glucose levels, has anti-inflammatory properties, and is an excellent antioxidant.  Knowing this connects me with an awareness outside and within the body.

Another example of regeneration.  Look closely at the leaf.
A closer look (see bottom part of leaf)


DoctoraV said...

Thank you for your article. I am interested in this idea of reclaiming the de-colonized body and I feel your article speaks to this. Maybe the cactus offers ideas on claiming our bodies outside this paradigm of the objectified, medicalized, and commodified body that haunts our bodies today...?
-Dr. Victoria de los Santos Mycue

DoctoraV said...

If you are interested in discussing this idea of the de-colonized body, please write to me.
We need new and ancient paradigms to hold our body differently, with more healing, more purpose and more roundedness. this is especially true for those with Diabetes and with chronic illness. Blessed be the cactus.