Monday, December 29, 2014

body/language, myths, books & this strange balance of thought and meat

some reading notes and links...

Illness as Metaphor
After coming across Susan Sontag's quote: ““Illness is the night-side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place.” ....I now looked for her book and started to read it. Didn't know that Sontag was going through a time of breast cancer, too. It makes it different to read the book. At her time, one of the additional therapies was... psychotherapy:
"At the time that Sontag was writing, the current alternative cancer treatment fad was psychotherapy for the patient's supposed "cancer personality". According to these proponents, patients brought cancer upon themselves by having a resigned, repressed, inhibited personality. By undergoing the often blame-filled psychotherapy offered by some groups, the patient would overcome cancer..." (more: wiki link)
It sounds untrue, but you still run into the oddest pages and theories when you do a websearch for cancer and the topics it relates to. Which brings you back to the theme of the back: to be aware  of the web of emotions and metaphors connected to certain illnesses (like TB, cancer and Aids).
UPdate, later: About Sontag’s book, I checked again when it was written: that was 1978. So a lot of things changed since then. But the TB-romanticisim, that’s something I knew from works like Thomas Mann’s classic story of the “Magic Mountain” (“Zauberberg”), about a TB-sanatorium. And the “blame the victim”-take returned 20 years later even stronger with another illness: Aids. Sontag wrote a second illness essay then, here’s a line aobut it: “Almost a decade later, (in 2001) with the outbreak of a new, stigmatized disease replete with mystifications and punitive metaphors, Sontag wrote a sequel to Illness as Metaphor, extending the argument of the earlier book to the AIDS pandemic.” It’s also a theme that is part of the Cancer/Emperor book, and how it was important to rename Aids – first it was called “Grid”- “Gay-related immune disease”, which added to the stigma related to it, and made it difficult for everyone (including scientists) to work on it and get funding for studies.

Another book I am reading right now: the Granta collection about Medicine. Like all Granta collections, it's special, different and put together with great care. Here's a short summary: "In this wide-ranging collection of essays, fiction, memoir, poetry and photography, Granta explores the mind of the physician, the plight of the patient and the maladies and fears that bring us together. Here are the worldviews and the stories of both the surgeon, the shaman, and the patient."
A review with more details is online at Medicine - Granta New Writing

And here's one of the quotes I marked, in a story about seeing yourself in an x-ray, which reminded me of my own feelings while being bodyscanned with slightly radioactive contrast substance:
"But now I could be sure that inside I glowed with wonders. I was some strange balance of thought and meat. I had a sense of being more transparent, permeable, increasingly at risk and yet increasingly alive." (- Ordinary Light, A.L.Kennedy, excerpt)

The Brain and Space
Yesterday I visited the Coursera webpage, and saw that there currently is a course on "the brain’s detective work to create this sense of space and argues that the brain’s spatial focus permeates our cognitive abilities, affecting the way we think and remember." It started in October, but it's still possible to register and visit the course videos: Coursera: The Brain and Space

The brain and space, it also connects to the quote on a strange balance of thought and meat. Images like the one above also make me think of the computer scientists who were confident that there soon will be computers who can "think". And that we can think, but still don't really know much about the processes of thought and identity on a cellular level.

In contrast to all those huge themes, there is: snow. And more snow coming. Which means, it is time to clear the snow again before more arrives tomorrow. Aloha Sisyphus...

and a link: more reading notes

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