Following the last post about ships…whether this image is common to more delirious episodes I have yet to find out. But there is a connection between the sailor, lost at sea, floating – without sense of time or place – and the kind of ‘limbo’ ITU sometimes represents.
Paul Robertson, again, talks about passing through the ‘valley of the shadow of death’ in a coma – like Charon’s boat to Hades. Underground spaces, and water, recur frequently (see conversations with Nicky and Matt).
ITU is a place where people can be periodically caught within the limits of their body – unable to communicate or consume food and drink, vision and hearing severely compromised, and normal human contact radically distanced. They are unable to interpret their circumstances as others around them do – and thanks to raised light levels and the constant activity of care, have no sense of the day’s beginning or end. They are lost in an incomprehensible space, exiled from home and the known.
The following excerpt is from a Limbo by Kamau Braithwaite; the focus is slave ship transportation (and the dance that represents being pushed into the hold).
Limbo like me
Long dark deck and the water surrounding me
Long dark deck and the silence is over me
The ship is a place where cultures are undermined, and where identities evaporate – or are transformed. We talk about being ‘anchored’ as an expression of security.
The man knows not
Who on land fares most prosperously
How I, sad and wretched, on the ice-cold sea
Have spent a winter as an exile,
Cut off from kinsmen,
Hung round with icicles. 
(from The Seafarer)
Sometimes the ship drifts – the ghostly ship’s bell – in disconnection and spiritual crisis. Sometimes it moves through the Seafarer’s rite of passage, like the catholic limbo, a space for spiritual purification, for renouncing material riches. Applied to back to illness, though, this comparison becomes crass and dangerous – an imposition of meaning to benefit the observer, not the observed. This is the constant danger of seeking metaphor in other people’s dreams.
There is of course an actual ship called Limbo.
I might put a list of these ships on here somewhere, and (ironically) plot their locations. www.marinetraffic.com/ais/shipdetails.aspx?MMSI=244710237