Tuesday, May 25, 2010
This is why I'm so fascinated by psychiatry. What happens in a young brain to cause pain and pleasure to get confused? What is it, exactly, that 'turns someone's mind'? What pushes someone to make the jump from normalcy to freakdom? Because, rest assured, there is such a thing as a freak, such a thing as 'sick.' (As for why we brand certain things freakish and sick, that's a topic for a whole sociology library). For example, so-called "supermasochist" Bob Flanagan, the infamous early-90s arts grant recipient whose performances included nailing his manhood to a board onstage. He also happened to be (at the time of his death in 1996) the longest-living person with cystic fibrosis, a disease that generally kills people--horribly and painfully--in their teens if not earlier. Was he fighting the pain of his illness with pain that was self-inflicted, in order to finally have some control over the pain; to be able to say, "CF, I will hurt myself before you can"? Or did he eroticize the pain because it was the only way that his psyche could make his life with CF bearable? Did his masochism (admittedly extreme) have anything to do with his unusually long life, a way of fighting death by courting it? Flanagan attempted to answer this question (or at least a tongue-in-cheek send-up) in his poem 'why'. I almost linked directly to that poem--on second thought, just google it up. More about this soon, I think; I've been thinking about this a good deal lately.