Having Fun with English Homework

I thought I’d post a piece I did for my English class this morning, a “reading journal” that each of us is required to write about twice a week based on assigned readings. It goes without saying that my words might make more sense if you read these two articles first:

“Jenny’s Sick” (the better of the two):

http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/jennys-sick/

“Standard Loneliness Package” (A little long, but not too bad):

http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/standard-loneliness-package/

One more thing: you may notice that the tone is a little… informal, for lack of better word… for academic writing. The primary audience here is my classmates, not my teacher. Besides, I like to take the stuffiness out of school assignments.

Prompt:  In the two short stories you read for 3/5/14, the authors take up the notion that pain and illness are somehow important to the human experience. What do you think? Do you think a world without pain or illness would be ideal, or would it rob us of something that makes us who (and what) we are? What, if any, benefits do you see illness and pain having on the human race? Would you personally want to live while exempting yourself of all illness and pain if it were possible?

“A world without pain” sounds like the start to the prompt of a ridiculous science fiction movie. By the end of this movie, the hero will have given at least one speech concerning the “human condition” and the bad guy who originally wanted to live forever in a world of happiness and butterflies will look like a fool .It’s a plot that a lot of science-fiction writers have toyed with, and it always has the same overall moral: pain is part of what makes us human. Getting too deeply into why we need pain is the job of philosophers and screenwriters; this world-without-pain scenario is so overplayed, so impossible, and so simultaneously desirable and undesirable that the rest of us shouldn’t even bother. You want to sit around and think about the human condition in a world without pain? Pick up a science fiction book, preferably set at least a century in the future. There’s about a one-in-five chance that somewhere in there the author included at least one little bit of “oh, the population is dehumanizing because technology can take away all pain and they’re basically robots now”.

I loved these two stories because they did something different with that theme. “Jenny’s Sick” took this to a completely new level: not only are the people aware that they never get the sniffles again, but there are extremists out there that are willing to prove their humanity by giving themselves cancer. I know that the story has a sad overtone, that Jenny is seen as crazy, and that we’re supposed to reflect on how it’s more human to die and experience pain and so on… but credit where credit is due: I have a lot of respect for Jenny because she never tells you why she likes to be sick. She jokes about it! That takes some guff! That’s how humans should act: tolerate pain, enjoy pain, hate pain, but don’t question pain. It’s there. Unless it’s life-threatening, it’s trying to teach you something – try embracing pain.

Yes, I know that Jenny’s use of “disease” is a really obvious science-fiction upgrade of today’s drugs. Yes, I know the point of the story was to show how a “real human” would be viewed in this society. Yes, I know that the reader was supposed to focus on the procedure that changed Jenny’s mental wiring. I know, I know, I know.

“Standard loneliness package” was a lot harder to read and follow, and harder still to get the point of. Again, the societal lesson-of-the-day that the author gets across is simple: a world where pain is optional would wreck society. The only thing I want to say about “loneliness package” is that I noticed that the word “funeral” popped up all over the place (twenty-five times, by my count). That’s a subset of the world-without-pain thing that’s ignored sometimes: emotional pain. But anyway…

As for my own speculation concerning a world without pain (which I suppose this reading journal was supposed to be about)? I’d rather not dwell on it. Yes, it would be nice not to get sick. Yes, it would be nice to rid the world of disease. Yes, I do have feelings. But it isn’t something worth dwelling on, in my opinion. For one, it can’t happen. It simply can’t happen. People that are born with damaged nerve endings tend to die young because pain is a forecaster of danger – say appendicitis, or a car running over your ribs. Secondly, we all know that pain is necessary. The people I know who suffer most in this world – soldiers and medical staff – don’t even acknowledge pain in front of their counterparts, because they know they’re all in pain and there’s nothing they can do to stop it. After your first big “ah-hah” moment, when you first discover this truth, there’s no reason to talk about it anymore – and if you really, really want to, just log onto Netflix. To keep bringing up the necessity of pain to the human condition is to beat a dead horse; not only is it redundant, but you’ll feel like crap afterwards.

Word Count:  798

I want to apologize for not posting over the last several days. A combination of things has kept me from posting, including the world’s nastiest sicky-buggy-plague-disease. It feels good to get back on the horse, though.

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