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Processing the Ineffable Through Art

David Feingold's picture

If you have read my first blog posting, seen my initial contributions to Serendip and visited my personal website (, it is apparent that my interests lie in art, mental health, disabilities, impairments, the self/Self, and giving visual expression to the ineffable.  Each posting will touch upon at least one of these things and more likely an intersection of one or more.  My current posting takes into account my recent caregiving to my older sister, who has stage IV pancreatic cancer.  Her condition is of course, terminal and my time with her over the past month has yielded many thoughts and emotions. Perhaps my greatest impairment in this case, is the inability to find words accurately and expressive enough to communicate my caregiving experience.  We compensate though, for that which impairs us, with other strengths at our ready.  It is what makes us human, survivors and 'thrivors.'  In this case, I'd like to demonstrate how art has been used to help me process, that which is beyond words.  I would like to share this as food for thought.  How does one make sense of that which is too vast, too complicated, too beyond everyday experience to put into simple terms?  Perhaps your gift is to do just that.  To be able to defy the ineffable by stitching together the elegance of simple words.  I would love to be able to share on this blog such textual examples from anyone who wishes to contribute as well as visual ones.  In the meantime, here are my 5 images.  Of note is that I began with "sister 1" and modified that image to create the other 4 (starting with sister 1, on the left and to the right of that, 2, 3, 4, and 5).  I didn't know when I was creating these images what, if any connection they would ultimately have.  It wasn't until after the 5th, that I realized I was processing my reaction to my sister's terminal condition in phases of her demise. Sister 1 was from a photo I took of her around the time when she first realized her condition was terminal.  Sister 2 and sister 3 are my visual interpretations of increasing pain from the cancer, before more intensive measures were taken by a pain mangagement specialist, when she was given a morphine pump, with which to control the amount of medication she needed to keep the pain at bay.  Sister 4 reflects a more balanced and 'harmonious' state, provided by the easement of pain, while still depicting a continually changing, physical state.  Finally, sister 5 is obviously ghost-like and amorphous and an end to pain. Getting feelings out of ourselves and on to paper, or through dance, poetry, film, talking to trusted others, etc., helps us to understand, tolerate, respect, accept, and even embrace difficult situations in life, that we may otherwise may have written off as improbable or impossible.  I encourage you to discover your own paths through the ineffable in life and to share them with others, if and when the spirit moves you.  We have so much we can share and so much we can learn from each other.