Human-ities · Philosophy · Science · Theory

Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain

Different kinds of pain summon different terms of art: hurt, suffering, ache, trauma, angst, wounds, damage. Pain is general and holds the others under its wings; hurt connotes something mild and often emotional; angst is the most diffuse and the most conducive to dismissal as something nebulous, sourceless, self-​indulgent, and affected. Suffering is epic and serious; trauma implies a specific devastating event and often links to damage, its residue. While wounds open to the surface, damage happens to the infrastructure—​often invisibly, irreversibly—​and damage also carries the implication of lowered value. Wound implies en media res: The cause of injury is in the past but the healing isn’t done; we are seeing this situation in the present tense of its immediate aftermath. Wounds suggest sex and aperture: A wound marks the threshold between interior and exterior; it marks where a body has been penetrated. Wounds suggest that the skin has been opened—​that privacy is violated in the making of the wound, a rift in the skin, and by the act of peering into it.

Read Full Article by Leslie Jamison at VQR

Human-ities · Philosophy · Social/Politics · Theory

On the genre of “Raising Awareness about Someone Else’s Suffering”

A propos of absolutely nothing, a few texts I’ve found helpful in unpacking the aforementioned genre, in no particular order:

1. Binyavanga Wainaina’s “How to Write About Africa.” You’ve probably read it already – and if you haven’t, get on that – but I need to get that out of the way first. It’s the entrance to any serious conversation, the prerequisite. Not just because he’s right, but because it’s funny. And its funny because it comes from a place of exhaustion, of total and complete exasperated frustration. That’s important, because it helps you understand how omnipresent this shit is, what an unstoppable energizer bunny of neverendingness it is. Humor isn’t enough, is never enough – after all, how can you satirize people who satirize themselves? – but the recourse to it tellingly reflects an experience that you need to come to terms with, the experience of living in the world created by such discourse. As he wrote in a reflective essay, later:

“How to Write about Africa” grew out of an email. In a fit of anger, maybe even low blood sugar — it runs in the family — I spent a few hours one night at my graduate student flat in Norwich, England, writing to the editor of Granta. I was responding to its “Africa” issue, which was populated by every literary bogeyman that any African has ever known, a sort of “Greatest Hits of Hearts of Fuckedness.” It wasn’t the grimness that got to me, it was the stupidity. There was nothing new, no insight, but lots of “reportage” — Oh, gosh, wow, look, golly ooo — as if Africa and Africans were not part of the conversation, were not indeed living in England across the road from the Granta office. No, we were “over there,” where brave people in khaki could come and bear witness. Fuck that. So I wrote a long — truly long — rambling email to the editor.

Written by Aaron Bady, The New Inquiry. Continue HERE

Human-ities · Science

Emotions as Equations. Can all your problems be solved by simply getting your sums right?

Oliver Burkeman: “I believe the best CEOs are truly ‘Chief Emotions Officers’,” writes Chip Conley, early on in his book Emotional Equations: Simple Formulas To Help Your Life Work Better. This is an inauspicious start. Conley himself is “chief emotions officer” of an American hotel chain and thus joins those with similarly wannabe-edgy corporate titles – Sales Ninja, Social Media Rockstar, Chief Evangelist of Wow – in the section of my business card organizer labelled First Against The Wall When The Revolution Comes. Worse, his book promises to reduce the ambiguities of emotional life to a series of pithy mathematical equations, along the lines of “despair = suffering – meaning” and “curiosity = wonder + awe”. In short: Conley’s job title + my scepticism + some uncomfortable echoes of that “Blue Monday” claptrap about the formula for the most depressing day of the year = very low expectations indeed.

Yet a recalculation is in order, because it turns out the book, out now in the US and published in Britainin April, contains a valuable kernel of an idea. Conley was forced to confront his previously ignored emotional life when he lost a friend to suicide, then suffered seemingly work-induced heart failure; perhaps these experiences explain why his “emotional equations” are far less glib than the label implies. After Viktor Frankl’s Holocaust memoir, Man’s Search For Meaning, got him through a very dark period, Conley concluded that its message was “despair = suffering – meaning”, an elegant distillation of Frankl’s insight that extremes of anguish need not destroy the soul if a sense of purpose, and of choosing the meaning of one’s experiences, remains. (Admittedly, Nietzsche put it better: “He who has a why can bear with almost any how.”) Meanwhile “suffering = pain x resistance” arguably pinpoints the essence of Buddhism: pain may be unavoidable but suffering is optional, and it’s the product of struggling against pain.

Continue Article at the Guardian