Lessons From The MRI Scanner

(With apologies if this is slightly rambling. Still recovering from last week’s car accident.)

The leaflet informed me that the MRI scanner was a tunnel that made clicking noises. (Obviously it’s more than that, it uses strong magnets to produce an image of your internals.) But lying in the tunnel with the headphones on (they started out playing nice Christmas tunes, but then I couldn’t hear the instructions so they stopped that), I couldn’t help thinking it was less clicking than a conversation of buzzes and thuds.

Buzz. Buzz buzz. Thud doof doof thud. “Breathe in and hold it.” Crackle buzz thud blitz. Count too ten, and wonder whether I will be allowed to breathe before I pass out. Stare at the little grey stripe somebody so thoughtfully painted on the ceiling of this temple to medical technology. All these breathing exercises and funny noises, of course I was going to be thinking how I could extract something useful from it.

I was in the MRI scanner because the doctors think there might be an anomaly with my heart (see, I told you I was different), and they are trying to figure out whether this may predict trouble. So a scan of my heart would be useful. But the nice images that they will be studying will just help them understand my physical heart – they won’t get to the metaphorical heart of me. They won’t know the things that make that heart they study speed up with excitement, or dread, or joy. They won’t know how the breathe has been stolen away from me in moments of wonder, and grief, and love. They won’t know how a single word, a single smile can carry me for an entire day. They will know my heart, but they won’t know me. They’ll only know what they can see.

And so it is with people. We watch them, and we think we know them. We something, and we think we understand. Especially at Christmas. We think we have bought the perfect present, and we don’t realise that the person opposite us is so desperately sad that they only have a fake smile to offer the world. We think that we know why the person does what they do, or has what they have, but we don’t. We assume things, because we have the proof. We think we know, because we said things, and they answered and we inferred stuff.

But we don’t know. We don’t know the heartbreak, or the fear, or the memories that another may be hiding from. We don’t know the reason for the smile or the frown.

So be generous with your kindness this Christmas. Be generous in your dealings with your family. They may be trying to keep your perfect Christmas happy for you, and they might be crying inside.

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