Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"Can I be ill and happy?"

A PT friend sent me a link to an article called Can I be ill and happy? about a book he is reading, Illness: Cry of the Flesh, by Havi Carel, a philosopher, also the author of the article.

A review of the book found on the sales page says (abbreviated):
"This book is a tremendous achievement, as well as being a very moving personal document. It is a philosophical meditation on the nature of and social meaning illness, disease and death. It discusses philosophical and psychological literature, Epicurus, Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty. But it is also a personal memoir, it is about Carel's experience of being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, about what that meant for her presence in the world, about how she appeared in the eyes of others, and how she felt she appeared. It is about the encounter with medical professionals and their detached and external perspective on another's catastrophe; it is about the varied reactions of friends, some of whom couldn't maintain friendship. It is about how to confront the fact that all your assumptions about how your life is going to go: career, relationships, family, old age, can just be taken away. Carel was diagnosed with lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM), a rare disease that affects young women, and for which the progosis is about 10 years from the onset of symptoms. The sufferer experiences a progressive decline in lung-function over that time. Life may be extended by a heart-lung transplant, but that's, obviously, a difficult business. .... She uses Merleau-Ponty's ideas about embodied subjectivity throughout the book to explore what illness is like for the sick person and how powers and abilities that are invisible to and taken for granted by the well person become all too manifest to the sick (or disabled or ageing) person. All the time, she is constantly moving backwards and forwards between this theoretical discussion and the fact of her own experience: the first onset of symptoms, "denial", diagnosis, treatment, the foreclosure of plans, projects, possibilities. The phenomenology of social situations gets explored too: how people react, their sensitivities and insensitivities, callous reactions, stupid injunctions from ignorant people to try faddish diets of exercise routines."
Another review.
"The book seamlessly blends philosophical writings in illness (mainly those of Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger) with phenomenology to privilege the first-person experience of illness. It begins with a discussion of what is meant by the phenomenology of illness, and by the end of the first chapter it is clear why Carel chose to adopt a phenomenological approach. We learn more about how the illness affects her on a personal basis, rather than a simple statistical charting of her decreasing lung function.

Next, Carel examines the social world of illness. She suggests that rather than viewing illness through either the first or third person (depending on your relationship to it), it should be managed through what Buber calls the I-Thou encounter, of one person genuinely encountering another. Using this approach to illness, Carel argues that the principal exchange between doctors and patients should be more empathetic and compassionate, rather than based on the "objective" method most commonly associated with Western approaches to health and illness.

Later chapters examine death and what Carel terms "health within illness". Here, the philosophical discussion centres on Heidegger's characterisation of human existence as "being able to be". Carel asks whether ageing and illness means coming to terms with being unable to be. Given that somebody might be ill, does being ill mean that he or she is unable to have a good life?"
Definitely looks like it would be worth a read. Looks like it will contain all sorts of extractable information useful to anyone embedded in a humanantigravitysuit complete with lifespan, whether short or long, coded into it.

No comments: