Saturday, September 14, 2019

Diary

At this point I seem to have fully recovered from the Lyme disease, if that's what it was, and I've been catching up on various tasks that had been neglected for a few weeks. I've also been curious about some of the medical aspects of my illness. Though unlikely, it is possible that I did not have Lyme disease on this occasion, because one can have it with no symptoms; I was diagnosed with it from antibodies, but it is theoretically possible that the antibodies came from a previous exposure. Thus, it is possible that the illness was produced by a different, unidentified bacterial infection which also can be cured with doxycycline hyclate. There is so much that is unknown in medicine that it is easy for me to be skeptical about diagnoses. Strangely, I got some unexpected benefits from this illness: I lost ten pounds, my eye pressure fell to its lowest level ever, reducing my chances of glaucoma, and a slight ache that I've had in my intestines for the last forty years seems to have disappeared. The fact is that doctors have no idea what the full ramifications are of the antibiotics that they prescribe. This is particularly true at the microbial level, because we have trillions of microbes in our bodies, many of which are poorly understood.

I am at a loss for something to read and have ordered a couple of biographies of artists. I was unable to find any current nonfiction that appeals to me, and I am embarking on a different biographical sub-genre from what I've read previously. When you come right down to it, the lives of most thinkers, writers and intellectuals tend to be a bit dull, since they lead controlled lives and usually don't take real risks. The exceptions occur when external circumstances force them to make changes that they may not have made otherwise, as was the case with Czeslaw Milosz. Artists, on the other hand, often lead conspicuously unstable lives, which are sometimes fueled by psychiatric illnesses. Thus, they are more likely to be bohemians than college professors. Their downside is that their messages may be indecipherable or incoherent from an intellectual standpoint. For example, what was really going on in van Gogh's head? Does anyone know? Nevertheless, for anyone who is attuned to the visual arts, paintings can be deeply satisfying in an entirely different way. I am increasingly disillusioned with academization, because it sucks the freshness out of everything and lays the groundwork for mindless dogma in one form or another. As I've grown older, I've found that the wisdom I once attributed to college professors was illusory, and that unmediated thoughts have a greater potential to produce useful insights and meaning. Intellectuals tend to follow one rut or another, and they encourage you to join them in their rut. Colleges and universities have given rise to the myth that some sort of omniscience can be reached through continuous research and learning, but I now think that, because of our well-documented cognitive limitations, the baton should soon be passed to AI, if that becomes a possibility. In the long run, we may be better suited to the arts than to the sciences, because we can perceive and appreciate the arts without attempting to stretch ourselves beyond our innate capacities.

I must confess to having become, somewhat reluctantly, a political junkie. This isn't because I actually like politics, but because the current state of national politics in the U.S. seems to have triggered a fight or flight reaction in me. The manner in which government is now being conducted in Washington, D.C. feels like a visceral threat which cannot be ignored. In essence, a criminal is in charge of the executive branch of government and his accomplices control the Senate. It would have been difficult to imagine this scenario occurring a few years ago, even with the sort of incompetent politicians that we've grown used to. What is maddening to me is the length of time that it is taking to straighten out this mess. What should have taken weeks or months to accomplish is taking years. Since I have no deep allegiance to the U.S., if conditions deteriorated significantly from where we are now, I would be prepared to move back to the U.K. – I've just renewed my passport. However, that possibility seems remote, and it is really only a matter of waiting for Trump's long-overdue departure.

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