Friday, February 29, 2008

Reflections on my cold

The ancient physician and medical writer Hippocrates wrote that diseases had a "course," a course which sometimes had to be allowed to run itself out. Certain medical interventions had to be staged at the "right time" in order to be effective. (The word in Greek for "right time" is kairos, a very interesting word. The idea of a "right time" is a very different idea from linear time (chronos) when you think about it. The word shows up famously in the New Testament in the phrase en kairo -- usually translated, "in the fullness of time.")

In any case, I wholeheartedly reject the logic of Hippocrates. I refuse to let this cold run its course through my body. I refuse to derogate my body to the status of a pipe where passing microbes may sound the stops they please. The frailty of the body is annealed only through the industry of the mind and the accumulation of scientific knowledge. Sickness should not be endured, but combated through the thousand strategems and counter-measures at our disposal. I just bought a box of orange juice, for instance.

No matter how gruesome the facade of disease, no matter how hopelessly complex the human body and its disorders may seem, behind them always we find the same mechanism, the same familiar predictable principles of mechanism -- be they biological, mechanical, or psychological. As such, the task is the easiest in the world -- master the mechanism, defeat the disease. The contest between man and nature cannot even be called a contest because our victory is assured. It is only a matter of time.

If today finds us unable to set the body right, the new sun will rise on the victory of mankind.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A List of Radically Inappropriate Gifts

These are all radically inappropriate. I think the first one is my favorite.

1. A dozen puppies.

2. A box of morning after pills.

3. Worm-farm starter-kit.

4. Howler-monkey mix-tape.

5. Apples from Chernobyl.

6. A slap on the back.

7. Swastika sneakers.

8. Half a cheeseburger.

9. A garbage bag full of leaves.

10. A sockful of pig iron

11. Do-it-yourself milk pasteurizer.

12. Crude heroin.

13. This isn't an item on the list, but it's an amusing anecdote anyway. When my brother Rob and I were little kids, we had no resources with which to purchase real gifts during holidays, so instead we would parcel out random kid-possessions as gifts. For Christmas I gave Rob a creased paperback, and he gave me a golf ball.

Saturday, February 2, 2008


Joseph Conrad, from Heart of Darkness:
It is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one's existence- that which makes its truth, its meaning- it's subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible, we live, as we dream- alone.

Thomas Wolfe, from Look Homeward, Angel:
... a stone, a leaf, a door; of a stone, a leaf, a door. And all the forgotten faces.
Naked and alone we came into exile. In her dark womb we did not know our mother's face; from the prison of her flesh we come into the unspeakable and incommunicable prison of this earth.
Which of us has known his brother? Which of us has looked into his father's heart? Which of us has not remained forever prison-pent? Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone?
O waste of loss, in the hot mazes, lost, among bright stars on this most weary unbright cinder, lost! Remembering speechlessly we seek the great forgotten language, the lost lane-end into heaven, a stone, a leaf, an unfound door. Where? When?
O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again.