Intellect, Endoscopy

Dan Sinykin in Avidly:

Mark_Rothko_no_name_1969I lie on my back with a medical napkin draped over my thighs as the urologist, his nurse, and I stare at a screen that shows the inside of my penis. It looks like we’re traveling virtually through a fuchsia tunnel to a new dimension, if that dimension were my prostate. The tunnel’s surfaces, even at this near scale, are surprisingly smooth. We search for a constriction. The urologist pilots the endoscope through my prostate, into my bladder. “There’s where your kidney connects,” he says, noting a small, puckered orifice. Surveying broadly, he asks, “See the ridges?” The inner tissue of my bladder looks like the surface of Mars. “Your bladder has had to work harder than it should over a period of years.” The endoscope zips back, rewinding from my bladder, through my prostate, out my penis. The doctor pats my knee. “No constriction, slightly enlarged prostate, bit of bladder stress,” he says. “You’re fine.”

And so, again, I’m left with no explanation for my pain. My friend Megan insists I routinely mistake the etiology, that the explanation isn’t physiological, it’s psychosomatic. It’s academic. A hum thrums inaudibly beneath the vying egos of grad school seminars and the bureaucracy of faculty meetings. But we feel it. It is the pulsing of our bodies in rebellion. Migraines, stiff joints, ulcers, urinary tract infections, psoriasis, and lots and lots of back pain. Though academic studies of embodiment are—thanks to affect theory—in vogue, we seldom talk about our bodies, at least publicly. Pain is so private, so difficult to communicate with clarity, as Ludwig Wittgenstein and Elaine Scarry have shown. And academics aren’t, say, coal miners. To whinge from the comfort of the ivory tower can feel shameful. Such shame doesn’t mitigate our pain. So maybe we should talk about it.

More here.