Friday, February 14, 2014

The Long, Dark Night of the Teeth

It started on Wednesday, with an achy, not-too-bad kind of pain on the left side of my upper jaw.  I thought it might be a sinus issue.

It got worse yesterday, and I was lucky enough to get an on-the-spot appointment with my dentist, who confirmed that no, actually, the root canal I had a few years back has gotten re-infected.  Better handle up on that ASAP.

Tomorrow (today), I have a 9:00 appointment with an endodontist to re-do the root canal.  But in the meantime, I'm up and blogging in the middle of the night, nursing a pain that the drugs can't even touch.

So here is a thought.  Wouldn't it be a different world if we could actually feel other people's pain?  Like, on an individual level, how many of the people that today will be dismissed by their doctors for "psychosomatic" (read: imaginary) distress would get real help?  And on a societal level, how much more quickly could we progress if we could actually feel the mental anguish of our fellow sapiens?  How fast would bigotry crumble if the average person KNEW the kind of pain that comes from having to live in a body that doesn't match your gender, or trying to suppress a sexuality that will get you shamed, fired, hurt, or killed? 

Maybe it would be a utopia of compassion and understanding.  But then you have to think about how that would change our manners.  Like, it's already bad form to go into the office when you're sick, because somebody else might catch what you've got.  How much worse would it be if you showed up KNOWING you'd inflict your pain on your co-workers as soon as you walked in the door?  And does the person who walks onto a crowded subway on the verge of a nervous breakdown become a commuter, or a terrorist? 

So there'd have to be social coping mechanisms.  It might become polite to shut yourself in at home when you're miserable, so you don't wound every random stranger you pass in the street.  Certainly you'd be expected to medicate yourself.  The chronic, severe, and untreatable kinds of pain might even require you to kill yourself.  So in the longer, Darwinian run of things, the people who survive and prosper would be those who are the least prone to pain themselves - mental or physical - and those who are the least affected by the pain of others...aka the bullies.

On the balance, maybe it's best that we stay over here in Earth 616.  It's not perfect - not by a long shot - but I like the idea of living in a world aligned to the virtue of striving to understand other people's feelings, rather than the necessity of scrambling to escape them.  (And on a selfish, vocational note, a good story is basically empathy in a can anyhow.)

All right.  It's 7:00AM.  Two more hours to go.  I can make it.  But it's a really good thing that I don't know where to score drugs on lower Greenville.

Oh, I’m in pain! I think this is what pain feels like!


  1. Pain anywhere in the head is just the worst. I hope you have serious relief by the time you read this.

    Interesting post. It's true ... if you string something out like "what would happen if we could feel each other's pain," the Darwinian endgame might very well look like what you describe. It would be impossible for us to develop compassion, for that means "suffer with." If our actual synapses were jangling along with the object-of-our-compassion's, we'd have to punch them in the head or flee. Emergency Rooms are bad enough as it is.

    1. I guess we wouldn't punch them in the head, since that is the equivalent of punching ourselves in the head. We would just flee.

    2. Oooh, dude - or crying babies. I mean, they are the avatar of unignorable referred pain, right? This would be a nightmare world!

      (And thanks for the love - it'll take a few days to get back on the right side, but the surgery went well. Wholeheartedly agreed, too - head pain is the WORST.)

  2. This post did make me think about what that would be like. Story idea! ;)

    1. Take it, P! Take it and run all the way to the end zone!

  3. You know I feel your pain on the teeth thing, though perhaps more on a financial level than on a physical pain level. Good luck with it!

    My thoughts on Global Oversharing are probably not surprising. I imagine we'd all have roaring addictions to the extremely metal drugs the entire world has spent its budget on and NO ONE would want to be a medical professional.

    I'm so behind on all my emails that it's bordering on joining Witness Protection and changing my identity to just start over. But I am Slowly Squeezing things around. Happy Chocolate Day to you, the Dude, and Peaches!

    Novocainy hugs, Frankles