The anthropologist Margaret Mead was once asked to identify the earliest material sign of human civilization. Obvious candidates would be tool production, agricultural methods, art. Her answer was this: a 15,000-year-old femur that had broken and healed. The healing process for a broken femur takes approximately six weeks, and in that time, the wounded person could not work, hunt or flee from predators. He or she would need to be cared for, carried during that time of helplessness. This kind of support, Dr. Mead pointed out, does not occur in the rest of the animal kingdom, nor was it a feature of pre-human hominids. Our way of coping with weakness, as much as our ingenious technologies and arts, is what sets us apart as a species.
In the aftermath of a stroke, many patients report feelings of anxiety, and are prescribed mood-altering medications. This doubtless provides some partial, temporary relief to many patients and may help with engagement in rehabilitation. But it leaves a key misunderstanding in place, perhaps even papered over. The better healing would be to teach stroke patients, to teach ourselves, that interdependence is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s our birthright, and the source of some of our deepest strength.
Writer - Critic - Poet - Editor