in the 90s i was working on a dissertation on information systems and systemic change, knee-deep in the habermas-luhmann debate over communicative action vs social systems, and the possibility of applying new ideas in systems theory to how communication networks interact with system change.
while at the day job one day, i got nauseated, dizzy, and couldn’t stand. the world spun wildly about along the longitudinal axis between my head and feet. debilitated for days that first time, i was diagnosed with labyrinthitis, lymphatic hydrops, menieres, a borgesian taxonomy of possible syndromes, possibly induced by antibiotics or a virus.
this episode repeated itself, at decreasing frequency, over the next several years. i consulted audiologists, neurologists, acupuncturists and balance disorder clinics. i gave up hiking along the edge of precipices, biking, and roller coasters, since i never knew what might precipitate another attack. early november high pressure systems pushed me over the edge.
i took diaretucs to drain fluid from my inner ears, and meclizine and benadryl to dampen my central nervous system response. i learned that the night sweats i began to experience frequently were the result of my adrenal system going into overdrive wheni turned in bed — my inner ears were telling my brain that i was falling, and my body kicked in with adrenaline and cortisol. Not scary panic attacks. Just waking up drenched with sweat.
i learned to turn my body not my head. To do the exercises to get the otoliths back in place. to recognize when a movement was pushing me to the edge of disequilibrium, and compensate. i developed an almost unconscious, second order monitoring of my physical state of equilibrium, and constantly compensated when i felt drawn to the strange attractors that would carry me over the edge.
i learned that listening to or playing music in stereo could be destabilizing. i became depressed, and took antidepressants for years. my thinking clouded but my equilibrium gradually returned. my trust in my physical self was somewhat eroded, but over the years i became more aware of what my limits were, and the limits themselves increased.
in my theorizing, i had been a pollyanna about change, cynical enough to think that knocking an injust system out of whack at least has a chance or producing a new equilibrium that would be better. homeostasis was a malignant reproduction of the status quo. and i still think that the massive injustices of the current neoliberal order deserve massive system change.
now as a nation and a global community, we have been knocked off balance. the equilibrium of the political system, such as it was, has been given a push. and it will not necessarily right itself since the other systems around it were already lurching about somewhat crazily.
so, once the initial vomiting and nausea subsides, give some thought to what comes next. because there will be other shocks as systems oscillate and forces push them towards a non-existent homeostasis or a new order of equilibrium. people will rush in offering prescriptions and techniques, thinking to push to their imagined order.
move your body rather than your head, that is, do not increase your own disequilibrium. meditate. do not numb yourself except to keep yourself stable when necessary. if you have the opportunity to push, do some tai chi and feel the push back. do not hesitate to push injustice over the cliff.
but let it go when you drop it, and do not let its release make you dizzy. return to your center and dance.