Saturday, October 25, 2008

How come he gets to be Dalai Lama?

You have to imagine that as a whine, emphasis on he. It is a version of what I so often asked my mother as she pampered my little brother: How come he gets to? (and I don't!) Then, the universal cry of children, who are so quick to feel injustice: That's not fair! I'd like to pet a koala bear too.

Make no mistake -- I admire the Dalai Lama, even love him for the many stories I've read about his actions and his presence. I don't feel that way about every one in power. I tend to be suspicious, but I take it case-by-case. And I am often aware of the methods used to gain or grant high position, which generally work to exclude women.

The Dalai Lama gets there through a method I don't seem to have mastered, or I would have done a lot better in this life---reincarnation. He is a tulku, a teacher who is believed to be the previous Dalai Lama, and the one before that, all the way back. In his autobiography, the DL implies that he could quickly "memorize" long texts by remembering them from previous lives.

He is chosen by a committee of men (men). Elders who have visions, and follow them to find and test the child. I believe the present Dalai Lama was three years old when he was tested for his recognition of items that belonged to him in his last life. I told someone once about how the child recognized his prayer beads, saying "Mine!" She reminded me that kids of a certain age are given to "Mine!"

The poor kid who passes is taken from home and family while still very young, and recognized as the once and future king, though he won't actually start governing until he is 16. He is raised and homeschooled, pretty much separate from other children, by wise men (men) who are considered to be very advanced spiritually.

I have none of the usual modern difficulty with pronouns here. The DL is "he" and "him." And I don't get to be Dalai Lama, no matter what, not in a woman's body. Sometimes I find it hard to get to be a person.

This must be on my mind today because of my adventures in the higher precincts of western medicine yesterday. You don't get much more complex and lucrative than the transplant business. The doctors at the teaching hospitals that tend to run these things are not only busy, important doctors, they are busy, important professors as well. You can tell who the doctors are, their long white lab coats, their ties. The nurses I saw yesterday were all women. Most wore cute patterned scrubs or football-fan gear, and they all smiled a lot.

Past experience suggested this new doctor would classify me as
(a) just a woman, and
(b) an old woman.
There is hardly a less esteemed commodity. A young woman can at least present as visually pleasing, or trying hard. I just go for looking intelligent. I didn't give image a thought when I put on my light raincoat. It's a cheerful pink, with a bright flowered lining. It was the coat I had for this kind of weather.

Western medicine has saved my life and almost killed me in about equal numbers. I don't like the mistakes that have been made on me. I don't like to be seen as a collection of mechanical parts with chemicals flowing through. It is a world I wish I didn't have to enter, but I have a surprisingly strong desire to stay alive.

I was not surprised to notice that the doctor passed right over my comment about regular acupuncture helping me; and my list of the things I do to build my immune response. Not even a nod. Listening to the doctor goes by the revealing name of "compliance," and they just hate it when you don't. But by and large, they don't listen to us.

It's not that this guy was a bad human being. And I reminded myself that all I care for these days is that he know what he's doing. He did make an effort to establish rapport near the end of the interview by patting my knee. I tried to imagine him doing that to a tall white man. And it turned out he had noted my credentials on the health history, which asked for years of education. Leaving me at the nurse's desk to make appointments for one more cat scan (the kind where they don't use a cat), and one more specialist, he introduced me to her as "Dr. Desy. That is right, isn't it?" he asked.

"Yes," I said, with a sweet, grandmotherly smile. "I like to say I'm a real doctor."

And I fervently wished I were slipping into a classic Burberry trenchcoat. Maybe that would get me some respect, I thought. Dream on.

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