Snap, crackle, and pop: “Adjustment”

Not too long ago, I wrote a post that featured the concept of Justice — inspired by my being tapped for jury duty here in LA — and in that post, I spoke about not just the Justice Card in the classic Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot deck (and all of its myriad progeny), but the Adjustment Card in the Crowley-Harris Thoth deck, which is the Thoth’s equivalent to Justice.  Today, a different kind of “adjustment” is on my mind…  I speak now of that which the chiropractor would term “adjustment,” but which most of us civilians refer to simply as “cracking”…

Chiropractors don't seem to care much for the term "cracking" to describe their efforts, but come on -- who are they trying to kid...?
Chiropractors don’t seem to care much for the term “cracking” to describe their efforts, but come on — who are they trying to kid…?

Do you crack your knuckles?  Ever?  Or maybe a different joint or two?  You must know what I mean, even if you’re not much of a cracker yourself: a joint starts to express this weird feeling of pressure, some muscle-power is applied against it by the joint’s owner, and then…crack!  There’s this fantastic release of that pressure, and it’s usually accompanied by a sound straight out of a comic book or the old Batman TV series that all but hangs a bright graphic in the air over the joint in question, which graphic would clearly say…”crack!”  And I can testify here that trying but failing to achieve that crack will result in significantly greater discomfort in that complaining joint…and ignoring the feeling of pressure altogether and not trying for the crack at all might be even worse, as the sensation grows and grows, like this malignant thing eating away at your awareness…like an itch not being scratched, but possibly even more unpleasant.

Crack that joint!  Not doing so...?  That way lies madness...
Crack that joint! Not doing so…? That way lies madness…

I admit freely here that I don’t know the anatomical/medical causes and effects underlying this knuckle-cracking and joint-cracking whereof I speak.  I’ve heard plenty of stuff, such as “It’s caused by a build-up of fluid!” and “If you keep cracking your knuckles, they’ll eventually swell up permanently like little goiters on your hands!”, most of which I mentally file in the same category as tales of giant crocodiles living in our sewer systems.  What interests me more, I guess, is that principle of stress build-up and then release…

See, I’m a huge one for cracking of this sort.  I’ll crack my knuckles, yes, but it doesn’t stop there.  On a thoroughly daily basis, I’ll also crack — in no particular order — my elbows, my jaw (both sides are fair game), my toes, my left ankle (the right one never seems to need it…), my shoulders (I have to press my fists together in front of me and then raise both arms toward the ceiling while maintaining that pressure, but then I’m usually rewarded with cracks from both ball-and-sockets…), the joint where my right leg is attached to my, uh, groin area (don’t even ask…and I don’t know why not the left one as well…), and pretty much every vertebra I have in my back (most especially my sacrum area, where spine meets pelvis), and possibly even a few vertebrae that I don’t have.  And then there’s my neck…

When I was 19, and on Spring Break from a semester of college, I was in a car accident, and I ended up breaking my collarbone.

This is not me or an X-ray of my injury, but for all intents and purposes here, this is roughly what I suffered back in my foolish youth...
This is not me or an X-ray of my injury, but for all intents and purposes here, this is roughly what I suffered back in my foolish youth…

Before you ask, no, I was not driving (that’s overwhelmingly the first question to greet this news — not what happened, how did it happen, was anyone else hurt…almost always: “Were you driving?”).  But anyway, the guy who was driving managed to flip the car entirely, and we crashed down upon the roof.  My best theory about what happened at that point is that when we were in the air and turning upside down, I must have placed both of my hands on the underside of the car’s roof so as to brace for impact, and when that impact did come, it was strong enough to simply fracture my clavicle via shockwave.  Miraculously, somehow no one else was hurt, and I managed to drag myself out of the shattered window next to me using the arm attached to the collarbone that was not broken.  It was not a fun experience, but we all survived.  The point I’m driving at here, though, that relates to the rest of this post, is that in the wake of that accident, after my collarbone healed, I found that I suddenly needed to crack my neck, pretty much for the first time in my life.  The need would come on — always in the left side of my neck, toward the back of it — and by simply tilting my head forward and to the right, I’d be blessed with these outstanding cracks and releases of pressure, and my neck would seem to hurtle free, and forward about an inch and a half from where it had been.  This became a regular part of my days, multiple times a day, and mostly I didn’t think much about it…

Then a few years later, I started to need to crack it in the other direction as well.  This side didn’t crack as easily, though: I found I could very, very rarely get it to crack just by twisting my neck unaided — instead, a good crack here required that I contort myself into this odd position if standing, in which I’d be obliged to raise my right leg, grasp the back of my right thigh with my left hand, brace my right elbow on top of my right knee, place my right hand against the back of my head just behind my right ear, and then jolt the entire configuration sharply upward (if seated, I could do it by approximating the pose of Rodin’s The Thinker…).  If all went well, my head would be forced almost sideways to the left, and I’d elicit one of those awesome cracks and releases of tension.  The problem was that my success rate with this side of my neck was lower than with the left side, and I’d sometimes go for the crack, but fail.  Then the uncracked area would protest, and the feeling of pressure would nag at me, but as any veteran cracker will tell you, you have to give a joint time to sort of “reset” itself after a crack attempt (whether successful or not) before you’ll have any hope of getting a good crack out of it again…so I’d be stuck for minutes to hours waiting for cracking clearance before I could try again, knowing all the while that a failed attempt also raised the degree of difficulty for the subsequent effort.

The Thinker -- maybe he's not thinking, so much as he's just gearing up to crack his neck...?
The Thinker — maybe he’s not thinking, so much as he’s just gearing up to crack his neck…?

So why are we even talking about all this here…?  Well, it occurred to me this morning — while wrangling a few major cracks out of the contentious right side of my neck in that weird standing position — that maybe we can go through similar processes in other areas of our lives…or maybe we need to do so, but don’t recognize this?  What I mean is that this kind of joint-cracking I’m describing is a physical thing: it’s a physical act we perform on our physical bodies to derive a physical result.  But maybe we can also do similar pressure-releasing things to our emotional selves, our mental selves, and/or our spiritual selves…?  Maybe some of the occasional bursts of generalized unhappiness or disenchantment that we occasionally feel but can’t tie to specific causes are simply one of those less tangible selves agitating for a good, sound cracking!  Now, how we might go about this is something I plan to contemplate, as I don’t have those answers — I’m kind of thinking aloud here, as the thought only struck me a short while ago.  But I do think the idea might hold some merit.

And then there’s the related idea that maybe the world around us goes through the same thing.  Are tremors in the ground merely Mother Earth engaging in some pressure-releasing “cracking” on a more tectonic scale?  Are intense weather phenomena, such as violent storms, the sky’s versions of this process?  And might we somehow help our local vicinities to siphon off pressure in small ways so as to negate the need for more violent and more major “crackings” or adjustments…?  All questions I want to work on.  So, while I again have to admit to not having those answers just yet, I thought it might be worth the effort of laying out the questions here, as the concept of metaphysical “crackings” did kind of strike a chord in me.  Please feel free to chime in with any thoughts on the matter if you have any, and meanwhile, I’ll continue on with cracking enough joints for a whole platoon here, as is my way…

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