Thursday, July 29, 2010

Three more essays

McMahon's "House and Sartre: 'Hell is Other People'."

The overall point of this essay isn't hugely useful, to be perfectly honest.  Essentially, McMahon argues that House, like Sartre, believes that "Hell is other people."  Other people are irritating and obnoxious because they 1) distract us from our self-absorbed lives in which we are completely living within our experiences, 2) others can be competitors for resources necessary to life, can inhibit our necessary activities, and can kill us, 3) experiences with others lead them to objectify us, remind us that we are limited by our bodies and will one day die (18-20).  Yet we need others, both to interact with and to take care of us, as is depicted in House's care for others who would otherwise die.  We also are said to need each other socially, we prefer to be in this hell that is other people, even though they are so damn irritating.

Anyway, I'm more interested in specific sections of this essay.  In particular, the author explains Sartre's "bad faith" as "varied efforts that individuals take to escape disturbing aspects of the human condition" (24).  It is to deny the existence of some element of oneself, one's being.  It is, when of necessity making a choice (and what isn't a choice?), excusing your will from the equation- "I cannot drop out of school because it would disappoint my mother."  Really, it is your decision, even in religious matters- "I cannot kill because God prohibits it."

Now, the author of this essay extends the idea to House's chronic pain.  The idea that he believes he has no choice but to take Vicodin and be misanthropic because of his pain, but really it is his decision (24).  This is complete bullshit.  I don't even care if my response is unscholarly because this philosophy-writer (I won't even give her the title philosopher, I am so angry) has absolutely no understanding of what long-term terrible pain is.  It is not a decision to be in pain-- this is uncontrollable.  The Vicodin is not a solution to pain.  I'm not sure where this perception comes from-- Vicodin merely lessens the intensity of the pain, if effective, and there are extremely unpleasant side effects in many cases.  Yes, he is deciding to take pain medication, but it is literally an alternative to dying.  It is impossible to live with terrible pain that will not end-- suicide would become a necessity, not a choice.  And how can one have control over one's emotions?  What a mind-elevating thought!  I will control my depression with just my mind- hurrah!  Very Tom Cruise-ian.  I really hope that people in general do not feel this way about pain.

McMahon also mentions an episode entitles "One Day, One Room" in which House ends up providing care for a rape victim after she specifically asks for him following their meeting during his clinic hours.  That House would agree to this, I think, demonstrates empathy, which the author completely ignores.  Perhaps he literally understands her pain.  I would like to argue that chronic pain sufferers have more empathy, and I think that House shows this nicely.  Sure, he isn't sunny, but he obsesses over his patients and dead colleagues.  I will need to consider this further.

Goldblatt's "Is There a Superman in the House?: A Nietzschean Point of View."

Goldblatt argues that House may be Nietzsche's Übermensch, as explained in Thus Spoke Zarasthura, "an extraordinary individual who transcends the limits of traditional moralityto live purely by the will to power" (Kemerling).  Well, House certainly lives outside of the rules of traditional morality.  He straight out says "humanity is overrated" after all. He doesn't bureaucratically flaunt the rules as one of the world's leading diagnosticians, he simply ignores that the rules exist.  I would argue that he only gets away with it because of his status, by which he achieves power in the hospital setting, but then this isn't a cultural studies essay.

In any case, the real juice of the essay comes from the section called "Pain," in which it is suggested that House's chronic pain is what allows him to be so accomplished and Übermensch-y, "via focus and intensity" (36).  I really doubt that the pain allows for any more focus; pain generally acts as a pretty good distraction from anything that isn't the reality of the aching now.  In any case, Silk and Stern consider Prometheus and Oedipus as original models for the Übermensch (36)-- in what ways does pain contribute to Übermensch-ianism (okay, I may be stretching the neologisms a bit).  Prometheus daily had (and still has, according to the myth- as eternity continues even still) his liver eaten by an eagle and Oedipus presumably had swollen feet and ankles.  House's genius as a diagnostician is attributed to his pain, as is the greatness of Prometheus and Oedipus.

Again, annoyances.  Goldblatt straight out says that House's pain may be psychosomatic.  There is evidence in the series, but that annoys me as well.  In the episode "Three Stories" we see his leg-- the muscle is completely gone.  There is real pain and a real physical cause.  Real pain can be alleviated by non-medical relief methods, and this, I think, is too often ignored.  Why is meditation not seen as a legitimate means by which to deal with the reality of chronic pain?

Furthermore, House's pain is referred to as a "flaw" (37).  I'm not sure what Goldblatt's definition of flaw is, but I find it insanely irksome used in this context.  The idea is that House would be perfect, if not for his pain.  Why do all of these authors assume that he is only a jerk because of pain-- the wider implication is that all chronic pain sufferers are misanthropic, which simply isn't true.  Many of us are lovely people (okay, I've lost the logic, but you know what I mean).  We are not deeply flawed or broken-- we simply are and are chronic pain sufferers.  Oh, if only I was up on my Derrida, I could get into signifiers and signified.  Another time...

Dryden's "House and Moral Luck"

This article really wasn't helpful at all, so there's no point summarizing it.  I thought there was something to mention, but nope.  In any case, this essay was really interesting-- the idea of consequence defining the degree of an offense.  And the "magic bullet" that is the consent form. ...  So... anyway...

Works Cited

Cline, Austin. "Bad Faith & Fallenness: Themes and Ideas in Existential Thought." 2010. 29 July 2010

Dryden, Jane. "House and Moral Luck." House and Philosophy: Everybody Lies. Ed. Henry Jacoby. Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series. Series Ed. William Irwin. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2009. 39-51.

Goldblatt, David. "Is There a Superman in the House?: A Nietzschean Point of View." House and Philosophy: Everybody Lies. Ed. Henry Jacoby. Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series. Series Ed. William Irwin. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2009. 30-38.

Jacoby, Henry. "Selfish, Base Animals Crawling Across the Earth: House and the Meaning of Life." House and Philosophy: Everybody Lies. Ed. Henry Jacoby. Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series. Series Ed. William Irwin. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2009. 5-16.

Kemerling, Garth. "Ubermensch." Philosophical Dictionary. 2002. 29 July 2010

McMahon, Jennifer L. "House and Sartre: 'Hell is Other People'." House and Philosophy: Everybody Lies. Ed. Henry Jacoby. Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series. Series Ed. William Irwin. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2009. 17-29.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010



Philoctetes lost in exile, marooned on Lemnos. He had such a love
for bloodshed.
Death in war is quick,
    in our dreams he imagined his head removed
    by one swing of a mighty weapon
    wielded by a great Trojan hero.
        Hector is dead.

Achilles was killed by poison, wasn’t he? Perhaps
the greatest warriors are fated to slow and toxic deaths,
retribution for a life spent so adeptly taking the lives
    of others.
A snake bite was enough; poor Philoctetes,
    left behind.

It did not take the body, instead it stole away with his soul.

Left because of throbbing foot, no ointment.
    You'll be back,
    come to get my bow; I had sympathy for Heracles.
Poor Heracles
dying demi-man, the shirt of Nessus
burnt and poisoned him, carelessly
but quietly removing his flesh. He was driven mad
by the bloodthirsty gods, and killed his own
children, Chalkoarai. In the end
    he stood upon the funeral pyre and screamed
    for just one brave man. I lit the fire
    that relieved his agony,     and he became my god.

They’ll come back for me. Odysseus
would leave behind a wounded friend. He
was no brave man; the gods will not
                                           favor him.

Penelope, wait not
    for a man so cruel as take from a dying man
his pride, leave him behind with no glory, let him
perish alone and aching, growing old. Warriors
should not live to middle age. I have lost
                                                     my youth to Lemnos.

What does a war need but foolhardy youths and constant lovers?

Let me go to die at war. There is nothing
more noble than the passion
to perish in blood, fighting
for beauty, the beauty of a stolen woman, doubtlessly ravaged
and homesick. We are all destined to have bodies
    ravaged and a longing for home that aches
        like a toxic arrow in the foot. And I am left


here's the rub

So, I picked up a copy of House and Philosophy: Everybody Lies.  I'm working on a paper on representations of CNCP in House, M.D., particularly that experiences by House himself.  The show really goes into CNCP, digging in to causes, side effects, overall influences on life.  But would we say that it accurately portrays the life of a chronic pain sufferer (ah, I switched back)?  I really need to read some of the transcripts or re-watch some episodes, but I've honestly been pretty pleased with the picture overall.  Except for the whole empathy thing.

Anyway, the first essay in House and Philosophy focuses on Socrates' "the unexamined life is not worth living."  Basically, Jacoby, the author, argues that House is or at least may be living the good life because he simultaneously lives a life devoted to logic and puzzle solving while, whether as his purpose or not, helps people.  God is said to be unimportant, particularly as House is an atheist.  Well, it was a short paper and pretty darned dumbed down, to be honest.  Hurrah for definitions of nihilism and subjectivity. 

The trouble is, (here's the rub) so far, it seems that House's chronic pain is only tangentially mentioned, generally in a "pill-popping" line briefly giving his personality.  It isn't just this book, but pretty much every article I've read on House, M.D. thus far.  I would argue that chronic pain is essentially linked to the lives, philosophies, personalities, etc. of everyone possessed by it.  I don't see how "the good life" can be equated with "a meaningful life" in this context.  And I think his pain is more than significant when considering the line "I find it more comforting to believe that this [life] isn't simply a test"(qtd. 7).  If House believes only in the present life, what misery must he feel in the reality of it being so marred by pain?

Oh, and what's with this line on page 14: "For [House], it's more about solving the puzzle.  Why?  Because that satisfies him?  And it takes away his pain?".  It takes away his pain?  What?  Where did that idea come from?  I find writing poetry mentally stimulating, but I certainly wouldn't go as far as to say that it takes away my pain.  This book was published in 2009, which means that the essays were most likely written before House goes off Vicodin.  Let's consider that maybe Vicodin both allows for this alleged existing "good life" and the removal of (some) pain. 

Not to mention (well, actually, to mention) the pretentiousness of Jacoby's closing lines, "How miserable can [House] be saving lives, sleeping around, and doing drugs?  Pass Aristotle the Vicodin" (15).  At what point are people going to start distinguishing between recreational opiate use and medical opiate use?  Taking Vicodin isn't fun if you're in chronic pain; generally, after taking multiple pills of high dosages, you will still be in extreme pain.  It is merely lessened to some degree, hopefully leaving you functional.  This constant "pill popping" phraseology is at least made clear in intent with the "doing drugs" line.  There really seems to exist this general opinion that House is a drug addict versus opiate dependent. 

I'll really need to get into Jemma Theivendran's article on opiate use in House, M.D. later this week.  Short article, very insightful.  Not sure I agree with her methods though.


Works Cited

Jacoby, Henry. "Selfish, Base Animals Crawling Across the Earth: House and the Meaning of Life." House and Philosophy: Everybody Lies. Ed. Henry Jacoby. Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series. Series Ed. William Irwin. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2009. 5-16.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I've been thinking a lot about CNCPers (yes, yes, I am trying not to say "chronic pain sufferers" because it is too non-secular (or is it not secular enough?).  I really enjoy using the term "sufferer" because I associate with dukkha-- life is suffering.  I wrote a paper on the benefits of pain for reaching nirvana after all, even if I didn't buy into it at the time.

Quite the tangent...

So, I was told today that I am stressing far too much about things that aren't really my problem-- trying to fix the problems of all those around me.  I'm not sure if it's true for me, but I started applying the idea to other CNCPers (Chronic Non-Cancer Pain... ers... I didn't want to say patients!).  It's really interesting to see the degree to which others bend over backwards to help relative strangers.  I wonder if there are any studies on CNCPers and empathy.

Which is why I tend to lean towards annoyance with regard to House, M.D.  Though I enjoy the show, I just wonder why they didn't decide to make a character with chronic pain more compassionate towards the pain of his patients.  I remember an episode where a patient literally dies from pain (how dramatic!) and House remains callous, at least externally.  

I need to print out some articles on empathy.  Oh, it is a tangent-y time.  Strange how this blog also acts as a chronicle of medication side effects.  I think my nighttime pills have already started working quite beautifully, bringing me to loopy joy. 


Here's the worst of it, plain and simple.  I forgot to take my medications this morning.  I put them all together in my pill box and everything, it's just that I was so busy at work, I didn't remember.

My mistake only occurred to me when the pain got so terrible I opened my pill box to get some extra pain medication. 

The trouble is, I don't want people to see my taking so many pills either.  The best strategy so far seems to be laughing off the ability to swallow so many pills, a few very big, at once-- some joke about fellatio. 

There's always the thought of throwing them all away, but days like this remind me why that'll probably never happen.

Monday, July 26, 2010

thoughts- a free write

Solving disease or solving me?  I'm not looking for a cure.  I read an article today on House M.D. called "The Afterbirth of the Clinic: a Foucauldian perspective on 'House M.D.' and American medicine in the 21st century."  Modernist healers approach disease like a mystery to be solved objectively-- distance yourself from the suffering.  House spending as little time with the patients as possible.

In the absence of a cure, can't I ask just for a bit of respect?  The exhaustion of having one's intelligence questioned-- what sort of idiot believes she can heal long-term muscle damage through Qigong?

Philoctetes lost in exile, marooned on Lemnos with a snakebite wound.  Left because of throbbing foot.  You'll be back, come to get my bow.  I had sympathy for Heracles.

The thing about House is, he knows pain.  We all know pain, that's true- thus the noble truth of suffering.  Dukkha.  But continuous pain, how can I accept this pain if I don't believe it has made me more empathetic? 

The finale, it haunts me.  Knowing that such pain and pain-related sadness would come to pass, who wouldn't wish for an alternative?  House wishes he'd chosen amputation.  Oh, if only the pain weren't in my neck.  Even then, haven't I considered it?

These hells. It is easier to call it myth than to consider Sisyphus rolling his boulder up and up and up always knowing it will roll back down, his back constantly aching.  Prometheus, loving soul, his liver consumed daily, all for stealing fire.  I imagine his children were freezing.  Atlas carries the burden of the world on his literal shoulders.

For eternity.  It makes me consider whether or not this pain will follow me when I "shuffle[..] off this mortal coil." 

Anyway, no more free writing for me.  It just loops around too strangely.  Let us blame my new medicines- meloxicam and neurotin.  Oy.

Works Cited

Rich, Leigh, et al. "The Afterbirth of the Clinic: a Foucauldian perspective on 'House M.D.' and American medicine in the 21st century." Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 51.2 (spring 2008): 220-237.

Sophocles. Philoctetes. Trans. Carl Phillips. Oxford and New York: Oxford UP, 2003.

An Autoethnographic Analysis of CNCP and Treatments as Considered in House M.D.

Anyway, that's a working title.  I will definitely need to make it a bit hipper.  Honestly, it looks a bit sterile up there, doesn't it?  Maybe start with some troublesome quote from the show. Possibly "this mutilated, useless thing" in reference to his leg.  That probably won't work- but I'm not working on this paper with D (how anonymous), and she'll have something clever.

There really don't seem to be that many papers written about House M.D.  I wonder why that is.  I wish that the book of philosophy based on it was more widespread in theme-- it seems like his pain is only mentioned versus addressed as a major characteristic of House himself.

D and I are really interested in how this tv show has influenced public perception of CNCP (chronic non-cancer pain) and treatments.  For example, everyone seems so irritated that House takes Vicodin at all.  In reality, very few people become addicted (and my hallucinations were more of an allergic reaction than addiction thing)-- the issue should not have been him taking Vicodin, but his consumption of so much Vicodin.  And is he even taking any pain medication at this point?  I mean, seriously, it is impossible to function without something-- literally, impossible.

There's a great episode in season one where he goes off Vicodin full stop on a bet, and that one is very powerful.  He breaks his hand to distract his mind from the leg pain-- effective empathy-building depiction of pain.  In any event, how can this episode be related to later ones, where he stops taking Vicodin and seems more or less fine?  Especially his response to a placebo-- that was just irritating because it suggests that CNCPers' pains are 100% mental.  All hail the all-powerful mind, the body is dead.  Why do people so easily forget that the brain is a physical place, an organ?

End mini-rant.  I will be putting up a proposal for the Cultural Studies conference which better lays out this paper and the associated theory.  Someone has a pretty sweet House M.D. paper doing a Foucaultian analysis in terms of Birth of the Clinic.  What's not fun about that? :)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

cortisone shots

I can't remember exactly what the procedure was called, but it is basically getting a whole bunch of cortisone shots.  The dr. felt about my back for spasms and shot me wherever it hurt.  The real trouble is, since those places already hurt so badly, stabbing them with a needle made it really hurt.  Honestly.

I was very impressed that the dr. was able to tell the locations of the pain.  She could literally feel the muscle spasms.  It is nice to be so easily believed.

In any event, my back has felt much better lately, after having all of those shots (about ten).  But it was so unpleasant to get them.  Dilemma.

Sorry this post is so poorly written :/

Sunday, July 18, 2010


    mind   speak
explanation of    ?

oh, brain stem
f i n g e r    r i p p l e s
    heat. then cold
godly God-ly visions

electric razor
    wonderful bee sound
locks of hair
                   fall to the ground.

To think about

From 500 Days of Summer, spoken by the narrator (non-character), speaking of Summer:

Since the disintegration of her parent's marriage she'd only love two things. The first was her long dark hair. [pause] The second was how easily she could cut it off and not feel a thing.

Artaud-- essay in progress (sorta)

I've been thinking a lot about how to apply Theatre of Cruelty (Théâtre de la Cruauté) to the writing of effective inter-subjective poetry.  As Scarry explains, and I've reiterated in previous posts, "one's own physical pain" can be effortlessly grasped, while "another person's physical pain" is effortlessly not grasped (4).  That is to say it comes naturally to me to be aware of and perceive my own pain, whereas it comes naturally to others to be unaware of and/or not perceive the same pain as an outside body (outside my body).  Yet, it will be my argument in my thesis equivalent that the perception of others' pain is not only important but necessary to the curing not of physical pain but cultural apathy towards the pain of others.  This is a distinctly U.S.-based study, with recognition of certain realities, such as extreme lack of American aid to other countries as related to our GDP (recession notwithstanding).

The lack of empathy for the pain of others is not at all insignificant; while it seems that my study has thus far been treated as a mere trifle among some members of the academy, there are obvious and well-known historical accounts of apathy leading to subjugation and mistreatment.  In particular, consider the bases for slavery and the treatment of slaves in the U.S.  The idea of seeing one's slaves as akin to one's animals merely draws from the same argument that neither people of color nor animals are capable of feeling pain.  In this belief, comes the implication that neither has a soul.  I often draw upon the arguments of Descartes in a harsh refute of the still popular French philosopher, for his essay "L'homme" was not only the basis for the mind/soul (espirit) - body distinction, but also vivisection (surgical experimentation on live and historically not sedated or numbed animals).

Descartes most famous cogito ergo sum in Discourse on Method includes a similarly worded concept:

From this I knew that I was a substance the whole essence or nature of which is simply to think, and which, in order to exist, has no need of any place nor depends on any material thing. Thus this “I,” that is to say, the soul through which I am what I am, is entirely distinct from the body and is even easier to know than the body, and even if there were no body at all, it would not cease to be what it is (19).

In his essay "Thought's Measure," Charles Bernstein refutes this idea and the dismissal of bodily importance, particularly in the creation of the I.  He explains:

As the body is to a person, so language is to the world; to speak of a 'soul' is then to speak of a projection cast by the body.  In this sense, to discount the pervasiveness of language- to be so accustomed to its presence that its constituting power over the values and objects of the world is disregarded- is to avoid the body and with it the materiality of time and space (63).

This quote is followed by an excerpt from Ted Greenwald's "Off the Hook":

    He is gone now
    Taking his body with him
    When all the time
    I thought it was
    The beauty of his mind
    I loved

I suppose it is no wonder that Descartes abandons the importance of the sexual self in the creation of the I; he was certainly under a lot of pressure from the Church.  Yet, if Pope had trouble with Galileo supporting heliocentrism, why shouldn't he have had trouble with Descartes disregarding the bodily suffering of Christ (the Passion), so important in Catholicism?

What is more troubling for me, however, is why, if the mind is so almighty and superior (at some point, I fear I may have to read The Interpretation of Dreams to refute all of Freud's ego-centrism, pun intended) to the body, why can it not then grasp the pain of others?  In a truly empathetic mind, the act of torturing should be an act of torture against oneself, yet this obviously is not the case.  In sooth, can we not say that my questions look into the very nature of a solution to the problem of war?

But his body doesn't care a whit what
his mind is up to. Pretentious intelect-
ual, it thinks, as it goes about its business
eating everything in sight, saying yes
to whatever guilty pleasure comes along,
the mind the monotone in the body's song.
(Wallace 70)

In any event, my argument is that using language to describe one's pain is not only important but essential in the effort to create a culture of empathy in the United States (and beyond, though I do not wish to imply that my examples or considerations are universal in scope).  Bernstein speaks of breaking down the differentiation between thinking (creating) poetry and writing poetry on the page, and by doing this eliminating the fabricated mind-body distinction.  While it is recognized that poetry exists as more than words on a page, the physical element is often neglected-- the reality of the hand traveling across the page or tapping madly on the keyboard in construction of the poem.  I do not mean to suggest that all poetry is constructed in this manner-- I think, for example, Milton's tongue and his daughter's hand would both be physical acts in the creation of Paradise Lost and his other works.  And it is this physical component of poetry creation that I would like to consider.  In fact, in his An Inquiry into the Good, Nishida considers Goethe's "intuitive composition of a poem while dreaming" (7) an example of pure experience, one which the distinction between perception and sensation is revealed to be false.  In this case, Goethe simply acts as the physical participant in poetic creation-- he is a scribe who merely marks down the words of "God" (Nishida's term) as recognized in a true experience.  The act of transcribing is all important in true poetic creation.

This concept is similar to many of the elements explained in Artaud's "Theatre of Cruelty'" in Theatre and its Double.  In this essay, he speaks of a "unique language halfway between gesture and thought" (89).  While Artaud specifically considers stage theatre in his work, I would like to consider the implications of his theatre philosophy on poetry making.

(continue!-- spectacle, activating the senses and awakening audiences versus creating diversion-- deemphasizing words themselves.  How can spectacle be brought to the page?  What are the implications of his Spurt of Blood and other works as impossible to actually perform?  Is this, in fact, poetry?)

Works Cited

Artaud, Antonin. Theatre and Its Double. Trans. Mary Caroline Richards. New York: Grove Press Inc., 1958.

Bernstein, Charles. Content's Dream: Essays 1975-1984. Evanston, IL: Northwestern UP, 2001.

Descartes, René. Discourse on the Method for Conducting One’s Reason Well and for Seeking Truth in the Sciences. Trans. Donald A. Cress. Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Co., 1998.

Nishida, Kitaro. An Inquiry into the Good. Trans. Masao Abe and Christopher Ives. New Haven and London: Yale UP, 1987.

Scarry, Elaine. The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World. New York and Oxford: Oxford UP, 1985.

Wallace, Ronald. The Uses of Adversity. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P,  1998.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Love at first touch- edited

I love to pull at my blisters, poke them with sterilized needles, release the captured milky liquid, pour hydrogen peroxide on the wound.

I love to tear my scabs from my skin, put the opened skin into my mouth and drink.

I love to press on my bruises with my fingers, test how much they hurt, discover how the different colorations relate to the different degrees of pain.

I love to run the dental floss down deep between my teeth, cut into my gums, let them burn for hours.

I love to use my hand as a toy when I play with my little white cat, flutter it around like a bird until she pounces on it, marking me as hers.

I love to tug tug tug at my hangnails, bite them off, rub them on my jeans until they remove themselves from me.

I love to use my fingers as weapons, my will as a weapon-- prove that I am visible, geographical, and three-dimensional, human and mortal

I love to wage war against myself, make violence to myself, controlled and without need for IRB approval.

Monday, July 5, 2010

On Torture- Part One

It is interesting to consider the idea of torture, particularly the Hollywood presentations of torture, in relation to chronic pain.  Prolonged pain, I suppose, would be a downer, so it seems always to appear in brief scenes, however many in a single film.  A great deal of time is given to the explanation of the pain.

In particular, I am again and again brought back to the torture of Wesley in Joss Whedon's Angel.  The five types of torture that shall and are inflicted upon Wesley are explained at great length, including: blunt, sharp, hot, cold, and loud.  The audience witnesses him being cut a few times by a piece of glass, and the next time we see Wesley we know that he has already been through all of this mess.

Yet even when longer scenes are depicted, the act of creating pain itself is generally brief but gruesome-- the cruel extraction of teeth or other body parts, sharp jolts of electricity.  Such acts are so painful, we are told, that they simply cannot be withstood for more than a few seconds at a time.

This reality may be one reason that Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ was seen as so particularly disturbing.  I had long believed that the scene of the scourging (flogging/whipping) must have been exorbitantly long-- I had heard it lasted somewhere around fifteen minutes.  Yet upon viewing this scene recently, I have found that it is remarkably shorter than has been said- under three minutes. It is a portrayal of pain, and a successful one as far as empathy is concerned, but the real question that remains is how to portray even more long-term pain effectively?

One of the television shows that has been important in my understanding of pain is the medical drama House M.D.  What is particularly interesting about this show for me is the depiction not of the first experience of prolonged pain, but the secondary pains-- the effects of pain on House as a CNCP (chronic non-cancer pain) sufferer.  We see hallucinations, an inability to urinate, irritability, a limp, use of a cane, etc.  I will definitely need to a do a more in-depth analysis of this show in the future, in particular this most recent season's finale, when House speaks with a woman in a similar condition to his own just before his CNCP begins.  Like House, this woman is faced with the choice between having her leg amputated or risking death, which House explains could result in lifelong pain-- yet in this instance House instead clarifies for the woman why she should choose amputation.

House: You asked me how I'd hurt my leg. I had a blood clot, and the muscle was dying. And I had all these doctors telling me I should amputate, and I said no, and they did this... very risky operation. I almost died.
Hanna: But you saved your leg.
House: I wish I hadn't. They cut out a chunk of muscle about the size of my fist, and they left me with this mutilated, useless thing. I'm in pain... every day. It changed me. Made me a harder person. A worse person. And now... now I'm alone.You don't want to be like me.
How can we display our pain without being seen as overly dramatic, "fakers"?  There is little doubt now that anything that cannot be sensed (seen, heard, felt) by multiple people as a communal experience is capable and likely of being questioned.  Elaine Scarry explains in her book The Body in Pain that the person in pain can effortlessly grasp the reality of pain, while as the person perceiving another's pain, it is effortless not to grasp the reality of hir (his or her) pain (4).

Chronic pain is tortuous-- in the case of my own pain it is not only long-lasting, but often unbearable.  The feeling of having been whipped 39 times can last with no hope of relief.  Flesh wounds will generally heal, CNCP often does not or takes a long time to heal.  There is no weapon-- the weapon which Scarry finds the most important part of understanding another's pain (13). Is the only manner in which this pain can be sensed and perceived by other's through the aftereffects?

I would like to consider the portrayals of pain experiences as demonstrated in films, such as the tinnitus depicted in Music Within

(See at about 25 seconds to around 31 seconds)

I will come back to this post later, and put a bibliography at the end, but it's getting late, and my neck hurts, as it generally does.