Yesterday, we were moving about some bits and pieces to put things in storage. One of the bits was an awkward shaped piece of plywood. I was helping carry it. I had not finished dressing and did not yet have on my socks and shoes. But I was summoned to help move this piece of wood. So, I stepped into the breach.
It was fine until we got to the hallway, when my grip slipped and the wood came down and scraped about in inch square of skin off the bottom of my shin, just above the ankle. I made my pain and upset unmistakeable and sobbing went up to find the arnica thingies, and tea tree to put on the scrape and a plaster to cover the place so I wouldn’t rub it when it did put on my socks and shoes.
As I was weeping from the pain the only thing beside it that I thought about was Hypatia of Alexandria. She was an amazing woman, a Greek mathematician, astronomer, inventor, and philosopher, who lived in Egypt in late fourth and early fifth century of the Common Era. Caught up in a power struggle between factions in Egypt at the time, she was set upon by a mob of Christians and killed.
I know this story from the TV version of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, where he was walking around a virtual Library of Alexandria, and spoke of Hypatia. I can still hear his voice telling the story. He said that Bishop Cyril set the mob on Hypatia who ambushed her on the way to the Library, which was also destroyed, and flayed her alive. His closing comment, after lamenting all that was lost to the world then and now by her death and the Library’s destruction, spoken in a bitterly ironic tone was: ‘And they made Cyril a saint.’
I thought of this story because of how much having just one inch of my skin torn off hurt and then tried to extrapolate how much more gruesome and agonising it would have been for poor Hypatia, with all of her skin being torn from her body.
It gave me pause to think about many things as well. The way certain animals are skinned, not always dead or stunned, for their fir or hide. How humans torture each other. I wept not only for me but for all of that pain and misery and terror humans inflict on not only our own kind but our other than human kin as well.
It was a sobering twenty minutes or so spent in the tending my hurt shin and subsequent pondering on those things, before I can back down the stairs to finish doing what I had begun before being called way. I continued to consider all those things for the rest of the day.
One never knows what one incident or accident can trigger. The thought and reflection repercussions an event can set in motion.
My ankle is bruised and the skinned bit is healing, but my awareness is in an expanded place that I cannot return from, nor would I want to do so.