Volume 0, Issue 0

Symptom of Illness at a Cultural Level

In Discussion on 2014/12/05 at 4:24 pm
DSM-5 and DSM-IV-TR by F.RdeC, Wikimedia Commons, CC-A-SA 3.0

French edition of DSM-IV-TR and English edition of DSM-V by F.RdeC, Wikimedia Commons, CC-A-SA 3.0

Delusions are a bit tricky.

Be aware that I’m talking clinically about a symptom of a number of scary mental illnesses — the symptom that signals a disconnect from proper interaction with the real world. A symptom, but not an illness in and of itself.

In situations like this I adhere to a pretty strict definition of illness, of pathology. Unless the phenomenon interferes with an acceptable level of function of your body and/or interferes with your ability to earn a living (or to complete your coursework, if you are a student) and/or degrades your relationships with coworkers or classmates or peers or friends or relatives, it is not an illness. Short of that, it’s just a quirk or a trait.

When We Think of Beasts

In Discussion on 2014/01/03 at 10:11 am
La Bête de la Mer (Tapisserie de l'Apocalypse)

La Bête de la Mer (Tapisserie de l’Apocalypse), uploaded to Wikipedia by Kimon Berlin

When we think of beasts, we concentrate on, instead of the volumes of overwhelming similarities, that which sets us apart from them. Distinguishing characteristics. We can own them, for one. They might communicate or not, but they don’t speak any of the human languages, don’t demonstrate a huge vocabulary, and show little facility for learning languages that aren’t the ones they were born with. They aren’t big on manual dexterity and, when they make or use tools, they get by with the bare minimum. Though many of them sing or dance or both, they aren’t big on the literary arts or visual arts — but we should take into account that we look for representational elements when we don’t even share visual spectra with many of them, as we also fail to make allowances for lack of vocabulary and manual dexterity in expression. In any case, they don’t seem to tell stories, and we do like stories.

Beware the Curse

In Discussion on 2012/09/15 at 1:08 pm

curse tablet: EyguièresGo ahead. Let it out. You’ll feel better.

One of the places where human justice falls down is the belief, embedded in every story we tell our children from their earliest days, that bad things inevitably happen to people who are bad and that good behavior is rewarded. I’d go so far as to say that the recognition of the failure of that axiom is the source of every crisis of faith ever experienced. The innocent starve. The wicked get wealthy by cheating and stealing. Natural disasters take lives indiscriminately. We believe this unsupportable notion of the inherent fairness of the universe so strongly that when we see evidence strongly to the contrary, it is literally intolerable. We feel it as pain.

We demand justice — or we sink into depression, because all actions are futile and the results of those actions are arbitrary.