“Are you claustrophobic,” I was asked as I checked in for my MRI last week. I said I didn’t think so, but who knows what your mind will do to you when you’re stuffed in a tube for an hour.
I had an MRI before on my knee. It lasted only 20 minutes, and my head and shoulders were outside of the enclosed MRI, so no chance of fear creeping in because of being in a confined space.
The tech hooked up an IV, covered me with a warm blanket, laid a square device on me to transmit the images, put some earplugs in my ears, the table moved, and I was in the machine. When I was in position, my face was about 2-3 inches from the top of the tube. I could move my head to one side or the other and see part of the room behind me which initially was some comfort.
The tech turned on the machine, and the very loud noises began. There were some beeps, what sounded like some gears meshing, and the loudest sound could be described as one of those warning horns they use in the movies when the nuclear reactor is about to overheat and meltdown, signaling everyone to get out.
So, I’m thinking: how am I going to lay still, forget that I’m in a very confined space and keep my mind occupied for a whole hour? That’s when my mind went back to the question I was asked at the beginning, “are you claustrophobic?” I began to think that maybe I am claustrophobic and I’m beginning to experience some mild panic as a precursor to losing it. You are given a button to signal the tech if for some reason you have some problem or if you just can’t stand it anymore, but I reasoned using it only after about 5 minutes wouldn’t be a very manly thing to do.
As I struggled with what can I do to take my mind off these constant loud noises and the thought that it will go on for another hour, and more importantly, make me believe I’m claustrophobic, a light bulb went off, and I thought: why not run through some Masonic ritual.
Great idea, I thought. Since the Fellowcraft lecture was the freshest in my mind, I closed my eyes and began silently recalling the lecture. But, shortly into it, I found that the constant loud noises of the machine were overpowering my ability to recall the words. I restarted about three times trying to concentrate without any luck. That is until I did this. I closed my eyes and began visualizing sitting at my desk with my ritual book open to the lecture and began slowly recalling the ritual as if reading it. When I couldn’t remember a word or phrase I visualized looking at the ritual book to prompt me.
It worked. I was so intently focused on the words in the ritual, I forgot about the noise, the enclosed space I was in and the time. I went through the FC lecture twice and then did the EA charge since I had just done it in the lodge a few weeks ago. With the charge, I recited a paragraph and then thought about the value of the meaning to me and how well I was carrying out my duties to God, my neighbor and myself.
Before the test began, the tech told me in the last 5 minutes dye would be introduced through the IV and I would experience some sensation when that occurred. I was somewhere half way through thinking about the EA charge when I head the tech’s voice through a speaker on the machine that he was starting the dye which meant there were only 5 minutes to go. Wow, I was almost done.
Now if I ever need an MRI again, I will know how to deal with it. I will treat it as a chamber of reflection. I will use the time to recall the tools and lessons of Masonry, reflect upon them and resolve to adjust some things that might require it.
So, if you ever are going to have an MRI, try my method to turn the experience into a period of Masonic reflection. Think of the letters MRI standing for Masonic Ritual Instruction.
The world around us is as noisy as the MRI machine. If we let it, it will prevent us from focusing on what is right and how the practice of Masonry can drown out the noise and confusion.