Thursday, December 6, 2007

On Blindness - II

A diagnosis for an odd condition of the retina (the left one in my case) had me very worried at the end of September, particularly as I was facing highly vision-intensive work in November. The doctors at my university prescribed a nasty drug that is contraindicated in people allergic to sulfa antibiotics (which I emphatically am), but neglected to ask me about allergies. Immediately after the appointment when they (apparently) correctly diagnosed my condition, I began obsessively researching it, fortunately turning up that little fact and avoiding what could have been a very nasty trip to the emergency room. I also found out the condition is virtually untreatable, meaning there was no good justification for the prescription; the only solution is to somehow lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.

When I contemplate blindness, Saramago's masterpiece comes to mind. The first 100 pages or so are a bit dull (he can tend to get himself overly wrapped up in language). But Saramago is Kafka's son (who, as he always named his poor victims K., was a writer to whom I particularly related), at least with the half of his oeuvre that is existential, as opposed to fantastical. Blindness explodes into life about one third of the way through and catches the reader in a captivating commentary on divine retribution and original sin. That's my interpretation, but then, I would be Catholic.

I spent October in a fair bit of pain due to eye fatigue, barely able to work in 3-hour chunks, often only twice a day. With lots of time to contemplate the meaning of life, love, and happiness, here's my conclusion: the one and only way to deal with men is perfect ambivalence. Once one realizes that one's own company is far preferable and that it is their job to convince us to have anything at all to do with them, it all becomes amazingly easy. At my advanced age, starting in October, that is exactly what I set out to do. I'm in Berlin, a fascinating city populated by, well, at least one fascinating person. The weather is horrible but I am free -- free of the U.S., free of work-a-holism, and most importantly, free of "that need to go out and find somebody to love" (courtesy of Jim Carroll).

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