I’ve found it strangely difficult to write about my recent SSI hearing, which I was sure would yield a rich crop of blog fodder. Its psychic impact was disarming. In truth, I still have both arms, but some of my other faculties haven’t seemed properly connected and functioning since that day.

If they come back on line, more merry musings may flow forth. Meanwhile, nearly two weeks later, I offer only the following extract:

Mathematics underpins the universe; it is, thus, somewhere behind all the most beautiful things I know. Math is truly the universal language. Falling into the fractals and sacred geometry of nature opens my heart quicker and deeper than almost anything else. My point? While I might have flunked my first attempt at algebra, I’ve got nothing against math.

But man does not live by math alone. Even Brian Greene knows this.
In the interview at that link, math and physics professor and author Greene also talks a lot about the illusory reality we all live in. It’s a consensus reality all of us more or less agree to, based on the five most common senses and our common conditioning. This doesn’t take into account the alternate reality each of us claims for ourselves—let’s call it subjectivity— nor the ones shared and espoused by subsets of our population: mystics, libertarians, pot-heads, deaf persons, etc.

Many of us watch the spectacle of our national political drama and see an alternate reality playing out before us, like a diorama in a museum gone amok and infecting the greater world. Others of us encounter such bewildering 3D Kafka-fests just going home at Thanksgiving, or applying for health insurance.

As I have ridden the steeple-chase of my 3-year SSI process, I have been navigating another such alternate reality.
It is one that reduces people and circumstances to numbers and equations, and the occasional rudimentary geometry. As in, “must ..make.. this… lemniscate… fit.. in… square …hole…”

There were, of course, the periodically-issued forms asking myself, my health practitioners and my friends how much I could sit, stand, kneel, crouch; how far I could walk; how many pounds I could lift and carry and for how many minutes or hours. The answers required were in the form of numbers, not words.

There were perfunctory exams in which doctors barely looked in my eye, focusing most attention on the computer screen where they documented the numbers they derived from brief contacts with my body: with three fingers on the wrist; ten seconds with a stethoscope pressed to chest, back, belly; three taps of a rubber hammer to reflex points; a quick beam of light into eyes, ears, throat; numeric readings of weight scale, thermometer, and pulse oximeter. 

Finally there was the judge asking me in the hearing how many dollars I made in 2002 and how many hours I had worked to do so; and how to estimate the number of dollars a recent housesit had saved me in rent.

Then the same judge conversed by speakerphone, in a language of percentages and statistics, with a disembodied voice borrowed from the Simpsons. I could not now reconstitute enough of the exchange to quote verbatim, but it was structured in a series hypothetical conditional equations, like the following:

“If hypothetical claimant M could spend X number of hours standing, sitting, walking, P-ing Y number of times, what job could she hold?”

“She could work in a fast food restaurant; number of jobs nationally: 3,498,732.”

“Thank you. Now, if claimant M can spend only F number hours doing G, H and K, what jobs can she perform?”

“ She could be a copy machine operator, at 31.6 hours/week: number of jobs nationally: 89,726. That is in accordance with the DPI.”

And so on, until the judge has added in enough theoretical handicaps that subject M elicits the reply from the voice: “No, said claimant could not work… But that is not from DPI; that is from my own experience.”

The last statement made her sound eerily human. But mostly, I felt like I was spectating a conversation from Star Trek:

“Computer, calculate the vectors to arrive in orbit of planet 9Quark2 in the Orion Sector during its Apogee with Binary cluster D62.8.”

“3.7 light years at warp speed, by way of Worm Hole U8L, or 4.8 decades by way of the New Jersey Tunnel.”

“Is this factoring in the coinciding proximity and girth of Chris Christie?”


By way of the New Mexico bureaucratic Manana-vectors, the hearing results can be expected within 30-90 days. Stay tuned.


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