Monday, May 23, 2005

On Anaesthesia

A few weeks ago, I had two wisdom teeth extracted.  I was given the choice of general or local anaesthesia and chose local.
 
Boy, was that unpleasant.   Most people have two roots per wisdom tooth, but I am one of the lucky few that has three.  In addition, my gum tissue is so tough it bent the standard gauge needle used for injecting novocaine.
 
At any rate, after twenty minutes the two teeth were out and I was biting down on a gauze bandage to stop the bleeding.  I went home and spent the next day and a half on codeine.
 
So, it was unpleasant ... but the novocaine and codeine prevented me from having the sort of experience most people in history have had when they needed a tooth extracted.   I can only imagine what the whole process would have felt like with no pain medication other than, perhaps, a couple of slugs of whiskey.
 
Last week I read Romano Guardini's The End of the Modern World. In it he posits that modern man came to an end with World War II, and that the man of the future will be "mass man."   A lot of what he says was prophetic for the time the book was written (1950s), but old hat to us today because it has all come true.
 
But he discusses at some length how "mass man" will be a "non-human human" and part of that non-humanness comes from being cut off from the classic human experience, such as pain.
 
Other examples--abortion/euthanasia, of course.  But also insurance and savings accounts.   Providing financially to cover every "suboptimal outcome" that could happen to us gives us mass men a sort of illusion of control over things that are really out of our hands.
 
For instance, if I have good insurance and plenty of savings and I die, well then my wife and kids are well provided for.  On the other hand, I am still dead.   To what extent does "I've got everything covered" leave out the spiritual aspect?
 
I am thinking about this because I work in industries that pay well but have considerable uncertainty looking to the future.  Perhaps I am employable in five years, perhaps not.  To what extent does socking yet more money way take me away from being a "lily of the field" as it were?
 
One obviously has obligations to provide for one's family, but at what point does this just become an excuse?