Greetings friends. I have read your kind words about the partially “auto” and thoroughly biographical narrative The Hafeem Saul. I thank you.
I appear here now at the request of Janice, who has asked me to comment on the most recently released issue of The Hospice. She is concerned that it might seem irrelevant or petty, and would like me to explicate it. I am glad to do so. And, with the aid of a creature that I am reliably informed is a not a creature at all, but a soft mechanism, namely “ObservingAll,” I have sufficiently mastered the art of “posting” to write the following.
As this “installment” describes, a typically egocentric neurosurgeon, Dr. Ogsbury, attempted to reassure Janice regarding her upcoming brain surgery by informing her that, although she was about to endure said surgery in a fully conscious condition, she would not remember any of it; therefore, in his opinion, matters would stand the same had it never occurred at all. Janice retorted that by the same logic he could have no objection to his own murder. This perceptive remark (by a remarkable young woman) set off a train of reflections in my mind that have not yet run out.
Epictetus wrote: Why should I fear death? If I am, death is not. If death is, I am not. Why should I fear that which can only exist when I do not?
Very true. Yet I have never met the man who found these words comforting. (Bear in mind I write this as a person who has had the honor of meeting Epictetus.) But exactly why they fail to comfort remains unclear to me, and I have puzzled over the question much of my life.
When I heard Janice’s riposte to the sadly unphilosophical surgeon, I recognized that she had, in her uniquely individual way, raised a penetrating analogy to the problem. I believe it touches the heart of the matter, though in a manner I am still attempting to fathom. How shall I frame it? Perhaps like this:
Suppose I know that I shall soon undergo a savaging at the hands of a surgeon; say, for example, as is typical, he desires to earn the title “sawbones” by so removing my leg. Suppose that I know I shall not receive any anesthesia during this highly anticipated event, and will necessarily savor each tooth of the blade as it hews through my femur. And suppose finally that I will remember none of it.
Have I any cause for complaint? For concern? For demurral? For lawsuit?
At the present moment, I feel no pain. In the future I will remember no pain. If there is anyone who will be harmed by the event, it is therefore not me.
Strangely, though, I do not find this comforting.
Why do I not? — Saul