In a most unusual period of atmospheric inertia Ireland, up to yesterday, has been sweltering beneath cloudless skies in temperatures up to 300C. Last night when bringing the house plants out from the oven conditions indoors for a soak and breath of the evening onshore wind dragged in from the sea by the baking landmass I decided to douse all of the plants in the small patch of garden between us and the seashore with a spray of cooling water. Not the roots where logic dictates the water will be absorbed from but the leaves and bark, the part of the plant life force that is visible and perhaps responsive. I like plants but am not a horticulturist, botanist or even a 'tree-hugger'. Truth be told I have a real problem with the naming of most plants and trees but have no difficulty in recognising, in sensing their intrinsic value. Last night I pretended to myself that the shiver of glistening leaves in the cooling mist was one of pleasure and I felt good for that.
This morning while making a cup of coffee before heading to work I watched in sadness as our beloved 14 year-old Springer Spaniel dog Bailey had a major convulsive episode, which lasted for about five minutes. Bailey (after the photographer), the companion of my evening walks for these past years, had been deteriorating rapidly in health over the past six months with severe hip problems that prevented him walking, cataracts and deafness as well as chronic renal failure. He was in no pain but following the fit he was no longer even able to stand. He was no longer sensing us and I was no longer sensing him, the real him. Bailey's life ended peacefully about two hours later and this evening when walking across the sands and over the brow of the hill beyond, as we had done together so many times, in my thoughts I said goodbye.
Returning from the walk I had at one point to take off my shirt and wrapping it tightly in a ball hold it above my head as I swam the narrow channel that splits the tidal inlet where we live. While drying out on the nearside bank in the warm wind I thought back to a radio interview I had heard that morning with Professor Ivor Browne, an eminent psychiatrist and psychotherapist. After discussing his holistic approach to psychosis, and bi-polar disorders and his great reluctance to ever interfere with the inner (schizophrenic!) lives of geniuses he signed off the interview with the radio host by saying, ‘Thank you for seeing me.’
Now in the context of a medical consultation this remark would be normal but in the context of a media interview, particularly on sightless radio, the sign-off was very telling and struck me greatly. It is not just about vision but all our senses. What Browne really had implied was Thank you for sensing me, and by doing so you have validated my existence and value. His earlier gentle but direct denigration of ‘materialist’ mind-independent psychiatry echoed the philosophical idealism of Bishop George Berkeley (1685-1753) the Irish philosopher who held that to be, to exist, is to be perceived or to perceive – esse est percipi (aut percipere). Perception either objectively or subjectively by any or all of our senses means we exist.
Metaphysical moments are like any other except for the acuteness of sensation. The leaves exist, our dog existed, the perceived memories remain.
Thank you for seeing me! Thank you for sensing me!