Monday, 23 February 2009

Deeper into the abyss

(Note: the following entry was written after a dinner of half a wedge of brie and half a bottle of Bordeaux. This entry may contain traces of depressed, drunken, existentialist rambling)

Boffins have discovered that the mere act of labelling an emotion immediately lessens the physiological emotional response... meaning that every time you watch a horror film and the formerly-virginal and soon-to-be-dead supporting actress clings to the hero and says "I'm scared!" in response to the sudden appearance of the depraved killer, instead of smugly thinking "Well derr!" the correct response should be "Clever girl that. Labelling her fear, engaging cognitive processes to suppress her innate fear response so that she'll be thinking straight and able to deal with whatever the fiend outside cares to throw at her. Unless it's an axe." It also means that there may actually be some therapeutic value to the seemingly pointless exercise of writing about the various episodes of misery that pass for human experience these days, so here's part 2 of the "on the couch" series...

So, if that's where it all began, where does it all end? hmm?

Well, death. Obviously.

That's a very bleak view, don't you think? You know Freud theorised that we all have an innate drive towards for death...

Freud theorised a lot of things. But on this one he probably got it somewhat right. The old joke of death and taxes just isn't true... I'm sure plenty of human existence occurred without any sort of taxation, but they all lived their lives racing toward death. It's mankind's obsession, his destiny. Yet we do nothing but fight it. Why do we do anything if not to try and cheat death? Building magnificent monuments, accomplishing great feats, the simple act of fucking and procreating, what is any of it but pissing in the wind, trying to leave a tiny "I woz ere" as the prospect of your own death blows a gale. 

Well, a not insignificant number of people think there might be more to life than death... perhaps death is not the end...

Perhaps they're right. Perhaps this is all some cruel test that will all make sense in the aftermath, and we'll sit around some celestial club lounge reminiscing about the good ol' times: "Hey, remember the crusades, the holocaust and the 'age of terror'? Geez, we took ourselves seriously back then didn't we? Ah, the folly of youth..." You can perhaps a lot of things, and deliberately imagining another being outside and independent of your existence, yet responsible for every object and event in it doesn't seem like a productive use for the human mind. Especially when there are monuments to be built, feats to achieve, and fucking to be done. Lock a newborn in a mansion with no access to the outside world, and I'm sure they'll imagine all sorts of things beyond the walls, none of them true. And even if they did manage to imagine the truth, what use would it be? There existence is constrained, and they have no way of knowing if there's anything outside the hollow building.

Why this sudden turn to morbid thoughts? Has something happened recently?

Yes, of course. The usual confrontation with the mortality of your parents. Suddenly realising that your original infantile model for God is not everlasting. It's not as though there haven't been health scares for them in the past, but somehow this one's worse. My dad has dementia and is getting worse.

Pardon the cliche, but how does that make you feel?

Upset that it has happened, scared about what's going to happen, worried for my parents, angry that there's nothing I can do to fix it, guilty that I'm not back home to fail at fixing it... the usual mix. I'm trying to be calm and reasonable about it, someone has to be, since Mum's really not coping, but they really don't make it easy. Somehow reading up on 'help sheets' for carers was the worst part: in one they say any changes to the household for the purposes of safety should "respect the person's dignity", and under the suggested changes to the house list "move the locks on doors to somewhere they might not think to look" to stop them wandering. Honestly, I'd rather be kept prisoner in my own house by a big security guard than having my 'carers' effectively lock me in the house with the chains of my failing faculties.

People often react to this sort of thing in stages...

Yeah, I know. This will pass. I'll pull myself together and deal with what needs to be dealt with, and with the inevitability of this oft-repeated drama, it will be difficult, it will hurt, and Dad will eventually die. If you look at it from a purely practical point of view, a sudden death would in many ways be less traumatic.

Well, you know what Freud would say about wishing the death of your own father...

Frued can shut his cancer-riddled mouth. Believe me, there has never been any desire to supplant my father and live out his life. Far from it, my parents seemed to be constantly angry and I could think of nothing worse for my own life... Funnily enough, this latest crisis has shown me that I was probably wrong the whole time - their lives weren't hate-filled and bitter... it seems they do love each other after all, but just show it in an odd way. Otherwise why would they continue? And to think I spent much of my childhood wishing I were adopted for no reason. Of course, now there is a reason.

What do you mean?

Now that I see what my genes have in store, it doesn't look like it'll be smooth sailing from here on out, lifespan-wise. Sure, I'd like to think that faced with losing my mind and inevitably hurting those around me I'd take care of it somehow, but for all the toga parties, I don't think I'll prove to be such an antique roman. If you think on it too long, you could end up with some crazy ideas: given a strong likelihood of dementia in your old age, and the associated pain, upset and cost that that will incur on your 'loved ones', then logically you should go through life avoiding having any 'loved ones' - if you love them, you won't want to hurt them, but you know that with your genetic disposition and the current state of health-care that there is a very good chance you will... surely it's your responsibility to avoid relationships? Or at least campaign for euthanasia rights. But then again, perhaps that's the whole point of marriage... a high stakes gamble on who's going to outlive whom, and who's going to have to shoulder the burden. Again, statistically speaking, the women of the world are getting ripped off. Their few extra years of life expectancy meaning their twilight years are wasted on drooling men... as opposed to their years of youth, no doubt also spent with drooling men.

Oh, is that the time? I've got another appointment. Perhaps we can continue this next time...