Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Regarding the Pain of Others by Susan Sontag

At first I was not sure if I liked this book. About a quarter into the reading I actually got into it and found some interesting points that Sontag makes. I also like how she weighs both sides of the spectrum. For instance she argues that looking at painful images can touch people, but also desensitize them if looked at these images often enough. I think doing this is important because there is no exact science to how looking at these images may effect one person to another.

At the beginning Sontag makes an interesting point about it being difficult to read the morning newspaper; being bombarded with horrific images. We all have experienced this. But the interesting point she makes is asking the question, “Who’s deaths are not being shown.” Although we may feel at times that we see so much death and destruction, there are many things that we don’t see.

The cliché phrase “A picture is worth a thousand words” I think does have some validity to it…When Sontag discusses the difference between a verbal account of war, rape and massacre and showing an actual photograph of what has occurred; it is not even comparable. Words such as war, rape and massacre of the innocent are things that we hear everyday and almost have become accustomed to, isn’t that scary?? Also, images of such things are portrayed in the media, movies and video games. But I do think that even though we see violent things on a day to day basis, a single photograph of a pile of corpses is something that words cannot express. On the other hand the disturbing image may spark an emotion, but seems as though people tend to forget with time. The effect diminishes. This goes along with the example of cancerous lungs and other images on cigarette packages. People were 60% less likely to smoke, but then what about in a few months or years? Would they forget about the images and go back to their old ways?

I love horror movies and Halloween and anything spooky (nothing too gruesome though!). But there is something about seeing real people in agony that does not interest me, but isn’t it like a train wreck or car accident? You do not want to look, but human nature is to take a peek and then you cannot look away from the horrible accident. Sontag does discuss why people like to look at gruesome sites and the curiosity involved; I agree because I think we are all filled with curiosity especially for the unknown. The example of Georges Bataille intrigued with the photograph “the death of a hundred cuts” was interesting. When Sontag discusses the photograph of a military leader kicking an innocent older woman in the head I cringed. As difficult as it may be to view these images, Sontag raises a good point about being obligated to view these pictures and know what is happening in the world. What can be done to stop these things? Looking away may seem like a natural reaction, but I think being educated about what is happening is important in the long run. Maybe I’m being too idealistic. It may be hard to identify with something that does not hit close to home for us. But I think it’s important to think about it in a different way…What if that was my sister? Or my mother? In today’s world this compassion is lacking and as a society we have become immune to violence. As Sontag points out we need to acknowledge what destruction that the U.S. has also done, not always highlighting the wrongs of other countries far around the world.

I like how Sontag ends with the idea that “we” do not know anything. Most of us cannot identify with knowing what it is like to be in war and experience things that are seen in these images. Who are we to say anything?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Response to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

I was getting pretty teary during this movie. Especially after going through a recent break up, I wanted to burst out in tears. But on the brighter side, I really enjoyed this movie and I’m really glad that we watched it in class.

As nice as it would be to erase someone or something from your mind, I do not think that it would be best in the long run. At first Joel and Clementine were eager to forget about one another, understandably after a painful break up. But then Joel realized that he regretted this rash decision. I strongly believe in fate and do not think that humans can change a path that has already been chosen for them. Even though both Joel and Clementine had the erasing procedure done, they still happened to find each other and reunite. So I guess my point is that sometimes the idea of erasing a painful memory or person may sound good at the time, but in the long run it will only cause more turmoil and confusion. Joel and Clementine found one another in the end and had no idea why they had tapes of saying bad things about one another. As much as being hurt sucks, the ways we deal with painful situations help to make us who we are today. Everything is a learning experience and we grow from these. I think I have matured in many ways by dealing with painful situations and without these no lessons would have been learned. So even if it were possible to fully erase people, I think this would be detrimental because you wouldn’t learn anything from your past mistakes.

Along with the idea of painful relationships, these are also the most fun and rewarding relationships. It is really a love hate cliché type of thing. The people that I have dated and really have loved are also the people that I can truly say I hate at times. I think this also applies to families. Nobody has a perfect family life and families often fight because they care so much about one another. The people that you care about the most in life are also the people that you fight with because you are so passionate about that person. Dealing with my ex boyfriend I always questioned how I could love and hate someone so much at the same time? It’s really a strange feeling at times.

As we saw in the movie, I do not think that it would be possible to fully erase someone or something from your memory. Joel and Clementine seemed to remember one another or have experienced strange sensations of which they did not understand. If you want to erase someone from your memory, it would generally be a person that you deeply cared for, and I do not think it would be possible to erase someone that you cared so much about from your life. You may forget about them existing, but find yourself acting strange about certain things. For instance Clementine acted strange when Patrick was acting like Joel, she knew that something was not right. There will always be something missing when you try to get rid of an important part of your life.

If someone offered me the ability to get rid of my ex boyfriend from my memory I probably would seriously consider it. It sounds like a tempting offer, but I know in the long run it would just cause me more problems and hold me back from learning value lessons to help me in the future…

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


P.S. I wrote my Introduction under the about me section, so scroll down and on the right is some information about me:)

Response to Pain: The Science of Suffering by Patrick Wall

Wow, this book I found very interesting (confusing medical explanations and all!). I really liked the fact that Wall has successfully steered around many commonly accepted theories, ideas and traditional ways of thinking by proposing new ideas with examples that make very much sense. My favorite example of this is when he discusses “that the brain analyzes the input in terms of what action would be appropriate” rather than “the brain analyzes the sensory input to determine what has happened and presents the answer as a pure sensation.” With all the biological terminology in this book the theories that Wall introduces may seem like gibberish alone, but as he uses many real-like examples I am better able to connect and see the theory as plausible. I am not a science person and some of the medical explanations about pain, although interesting, were not my expertise. This being said, the multiple real-life examples in each chapter were very helpful to show how the ideas come alive. These examples were things that unfortunately, we suffer or have close ones that suffer from. The sad reality is that everyone suffers from pain, whether acute or chronic, small or large.

Also, I found it great how Wall was very blunt about why pain is such a taboo subject, and neglected in our society, even though it is something that everyone has to deal with at some point. I never knew that medical students merely spend 3 hours in lectures about pain, when reading that I was shocked! Most of the time people are going to the doctors in order to relieve their pain and the doctors (with all of their schooling and all) are barely even considered knowledgeable on the subject. Along those same lines, I found it disturbing that charities are responsible for more funding for cancer research than the government. But why is there no charity for pain relief? I honestly do not see why not. I realize that curing diseases are important, but I also think it’s important to help improve a person’s value of life by helping them not to suffer. As with many things in society people do not want to address issues of which they fear or cannot explain, pain being a perfect example of this fear of the unknown. As long as we do not address the problem than it is not important, WRONG! Too many important issues in society are suppressed because of this mindset.

Wall discusses the concept of dualism, which he rejects and I totally agree with him on this issue. I believe the body and mind are interconnected, as the body as a whole interacts together. Also, the medical discussion shows that pain is not always felt in the place of which you would expect it to be felt. Wall shows us how nerve fibers and different parts of the body are interconnected as we feel pain. Along with this idea Wall discusses mental factors such as attention, anxiety, and depression which are also interconnected. My point is, throughout the book a reoccurring theme to me was that there is a fluidity that connects all the parts of the body and all the parts of the mind and also both can have a great effect on one another. Discussing the subject of pain in this reading has gotten me to realize that the whole body is involved in the pain processes and trying to relieve the pain. Before this reading I thought of pain as getting a burn or feeling depressed, not as an entire bodily process.

I thought it was also interesting how Wall discussed pain with unknown causes and how people were looked down upon. I think this is awful and is the worst way to approach a situation. How are doctors supposed to find what’s wrong if they have the cynical view that the person is making up the pain in their head??

Although the book was very interesting and made me look at pain from multiple different angles; I think some of the book gets a little repetitive at points. Also, I wish that Wall discussed more about emotional pain not associated with any physical pain.

Ending on a more humorous note, I liked how Wall added funny facts throughout the reading to keep us alert and awake. For instance Wall states that the Bayer Company discovered heroine as a strong narcotic that was not addictive at all…