Queen Mary Hospital 31 August 2012


“Everything: the minutely detailed history of the future, the archangels’ autobiographies, the faithful catalogues of the Library, thousands and thousands of false catalogues, the demonstration of the fallacy of those catalogues, the demonstration of the fallacy of the true catalogue, the Gnostic gospel of Basilides, the commentary on that gospel, the commentary on the commentary on that gospel, the true story of your death, the translation of every book in all languages, the interpolations of every book in all books.”

Borges, The Library of Babel

Well that Endoscopy was rather novel. I realized that as opposed to the other “‘scopy” (the ass probe) this was going to hurt a bit and feel strange. It’s a tube down your throat.

In the tube up your ass deal in July, I was given the wonderful anesthetic of Nepenthe, a drug that causes you to forget the procedure: it kicked in as the tube went up and the next thing I knew I was breaking my fast in the sun, and being assured that the procedure was over. But this form of anesthetic isn’t used for endoscopy, instead, simple Novocaine in the throat.

The endoscopy causes a struggle reflex as if you’re being force-fed (and if the US Army pulls this shit in interrogation, flag officers should go to jail: to do it to another human being without a medical reason is a violation of human solidarity, mutual recognition and dignity).

I controlled my reflex to minimize the pain and the risk of tearing the esophagus. With a child or drunk you probably would have to use sedation, but that might pose extra risks. I was able to take it like James Bond would.

And in the fug I hear amidst the nurse’s Cantonese, the Doctor’s Chinese/Australian English say, “big lesion”. Oh shit.

But it is good news in the sense I already KNOW I’m sick, and of a cancer of officially unknown origin (99% probability prostate), and the more we (my doctors and I) know, the better. Still, one reason I like anesthesia, from chloroform to laughing gas to booze to Nepenthe, is that I don’t have to be a gorked-out fly on the wall as the Doctors confab, and throw out theories such as “holy Mackerel, what a lesion! Damn!” or “ai-yah!!” or “this guy might be dead…naw he ain’t dead…yet”. I am the CEO of this effort and I want the executive summary once the doctors have sorted out the possibilities.

Something’s pushing against the stomach wall. A good sign is that it’s soft and not hard. We don’t know if it’s part of the known cancer but in general, one patient one disease (even in Aids, a meta-disease or empire of maladies, like cancer).

Perhaps I’m pregnant. Unlikely.

Not feeling any stomach pain. But, this may reduce the stomach volume, painlessly reducing appetite as a feeling of fullness, causing my inability to gain weight past 164 lbs.

So another outpatient procedure is scheduled. And I’m down for breakfast at the DeliFrance in the hospital, with Edith Piaf singing Non, Je ne regrette rien, where they try to give me a staff discount, bring me my food and call me Doctor (Doctor! Is there nothing I can take? Doctor! To relieve this belly ache?). I don’t mean to be smug but I am getting rather inured to this medical grind. Men must endure what might be their going hence as the King admonished Gloucester i’ th’old play. Sometimes I think that the real challenge would be living longer and figuring out what I want to do with the gift of more life as opposed to pissing it away, “poured out like water on the ground”.

Strangely my training in academic philosophy is actually helpful in this dark hour even though William Dunbar (see below) snarls in ancient Scots, at the “art magicianis and astrologgis”, that “them helpis no conclusionis slee”. For central to academic philosophy is something that screeching harridan Ayn Rand didn’t know: that to be meaningful a proposition has to be falsifiable: this is why miracles happen all the time.

People do go into remission because they love their wives and find the right things to say to their wife and to their God as in prayer. Or they survive because they are like me, alone, perhaps to protect the people I love against my intimate rage, and with a network of friends on an island, but, again, alone; there are many different ways to the waterfall. My way always single, others’ way with others. Both can be good.

It is amazing that Republican politics is all about capitalist self interest. Because very often one’s reason for living might be the Other. In Tina Howe’s excellent play Painting Churches, the aging Mother says of the aging and difficult father, I would have put a bullet through my head were it not that he needs me.

‘Course, the Republicans daren’t say that the self-interest of which they speak is that of a 19th century projection of the white man’s self image as a patriarch, who has a wife, children and slaves as “his”. But that’s what they mean. With the result that they have to get every single white man to vote, because polls are now indicating, for example, that only 0% of all blacks will vote for Mitt Romney.

That’s not a typo: it’s zero percent with a margin of error of plus or minus three percent which means, of course, that some blacks may vote Republican…this was an African American habit in WEB Dubois’ time…or on the other hand, new black people may appear to vote for Obama and against Romney. I am not sure how the latter would work. The point being that Romney’s base of support rather resembles Wiley E Coyote’s when WEC runs off the click while pursuing Road Runner.

Since I have of course no plan to vote for Romney, it’s game, set and match. Romney will save a lot of money if he just sits at home like Coolidge and not campaign because he will lose. But perhaps “thrift, Horatio” doesn’t matter when you’re as wealthy as he.

People also survive just enough to be profoundly happy without God like Ed Murrow, the newsman who spoke truth to Joe McCarthy and smoked too much but died serene…happy, in fact, because after so many years of four packs of Camel straights a day, Murrow found he didn’t have to smoke: I know from my own experience in stopping smokes, booze and Nicorette that being able to give up a trivial and nasty thing is one of life’s more under-rated joys. There’s something to be said for a drunken brawl as I have admitted. But there’s also something to be said, especially later in life, for going to bed early, like HL Mencken’s Calvin Coolidge, who turned the White House, Mencken said, into a “peaceful dormitory”.

But learning a little about the distinction between a proposition that can be falsified (a medical diagnosis) and a necessary truth (a mathematical theorem that has been proven) aids serenity in its own little way, along with better known techniques such as breathing and meditation.

Prayer? For me right now prayer feels like spamming…sending out messages with no hope of their being understood. Perhaps because my father never understood that I needed connection with him and my sons don’t understand this either, I pray perfunctorily to God or Nature more as a way of stopping myself from driving myself batshit than in hopes my prayers will be answered. I have long felt based on Emmett Fox’s book on the Sermon on the Mount that the best prayer is ontological, as in fiat voluntas tua, thy will be done, rather than “oh Lord won’t ya buy me a Mercedes Benz”.

But if God is as I understand him a Power greater than me then of course this Power will answer the prayer of the simple believer in Mary, qui Mariam absolvisti, who goes to Lourdes, and the Hindu who goes to the river to wash. This is an outdated 19th century view characteristic of British Liberals. It is considered both simple and patronizing of the masses whose whims are now sanctified by those who’d profit by sating those whims. It is also true and far better than the horseshit being spewed by power mad Christian, Islamic and Jewish daemons and salesmen, you ask me.

Don’t get me started you know how I get. It is now common knowledge among us bottom feeders that on the ground we can all get along whether Christian, Muslim, Jew or whatev, that we don’t need half the crap we buy, and that anyone who pays two thousand Hong Kong dollahs for a rolling bag needs his head examined.

There is some self-delusion. People say “I never shop at IFC Mall” but upon close questioning we find that they bought their Mac at the Apple store (it’s hard to find a new Mac with a knocked down price) and books at Dymock’s. What they mean is that they don’t go into City Super, the most expensive grocery store in the world, or Aldo’s for shoes.

But on balance the class system is real. Which is why it’s nice to know that gazillionaires also get what I’ve got. For all men are mortal, and we all treashah, as Jack Kennedy said, our children’s fuchah.


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