the backfiring of denial

The following is a guest post by regular reader and sometimes contributor, the Amazing Bacon. For more about Bacon, please visit the Guest Posts & Contributors tab at the top of the page.

Having been raised in CS, denial of material self is touted as one of the greatest virtues: denial of pain, injury, hunger, any material sensation, simply denying it is often enough for a healing, but affirming God’s truth is also in there somewhere, too.

I’d be more eloquent, but I have been trying to block it out for years.

As a researcher in the desert southwest, my challenges have been many. The odd balance of relying on God and Common Sense (CS, get it?!) may work for some, but I prefer the Boy Scout motto of being prepared (even if I hate their politics). But having been out of CS for a few
years, I found myself in a very odd situation.

While hiking down a steep slope that was covered in loose rocks, I lost my footing. Not wanting to damage any of the gear I was packing, I leaned towards the slope and knelt down to prevent falling the remaining 6′ into the drainage. There’s no such thing as a cushy option in field work, so it was either embrace cacti or embrace rocks. Or both, plus some gravity to help.


Less than a kilometer from the incident. Photo credit: Bacon

My attempt to not pitch headfirst into the drainage was a success. I slid maybe four feet and only my left side made contact: shin, hip, elbow. Elbow, a little dusty. Hip, unscathed. Shin? On fire.

Obviously I was not going to “declare the Truth” because that’s ridiculous, and I was pretty sure I had just cleaved about six to eight inches of shin flesh, based on the pain shooting up my leg.
Nothing was broken, but I didn’t want to look at the flesh wound that was clearly beneath my pant leg. I am queasy like that. (I do blame CS for my phobic aversion to papercuts and any other form of injury that is visible – because obviously, if you LOOK at something you are
acknowledging not only its existence, but also giving it power by doing so.)

After a quick assessment that no other damage had been done, and not seeing blood through the pants, I headed to my last two sites for the morning. Steep vertical slopes on the way up with easy meandering slopes on the way back to the road. About 1.5 kilometers of mixed grassland with stabby plants everywhere. Most steps were ok, but pushing through grass or shrubby plants caused agony: I could envision the skinned portion of my left shin rubbing against my pants, causing the searing burn. But I did not want to look and pass out.


The unreal prickly pear thorn. Photo credit: Bacon

I made it back to the meeting point with my coworker and our vehicle. I handed her the keys and told her she might have to drive, I just needed to check out a flesh wound (first aid kit still in my field pack). So I rolled up my leg and discovered a two-inch prickly pear thorn sticking out of my shin. And then I pulled it out. And then the burn faded to a mild sting and was over within a few moments.

Meanwhile, I had suffered for over an hour and trudged 1.5k in intermittently searing pain, because I did not want to be overwhelmed by the appearance of material harm. A holdover from CS, I suppose. But in hindsight, how perfect an example of the obvious and sometimes
easily treatable issues that cripple so many in CS.