Gendering Nemo.

Hey, at least I'm among really good company...

Hey, at least I’m in really good company…

With Special Opening Act, Tony Smith!

What do Dune, The Road, Blindsight, Anathem, and I Am Legend all have in common? Together, they comprise The Five Worst SF Books EVER, as compiled by my buddy, Tony Smith over at Starship Sofa. Of course, this is hardly the first time Blindsight has been so honored— but when a winner of both the Hugo and whatever award is represented by that weird forties-era-Popular-Mechanics-airplane-thingy-in-front-of-his-fridge-at-the-lower-left-there weighs in, well, it’s worth sitting up and taking notice.

Thanks a lot, Tony. You owe me a brewery.

*

Anyway.

The BUG and I were hanging out the other day with a friend I’ve known for thirty years. Debbie and I attended grad school together; but while I devolved into an SF writer, Debbie jumped onto the tenure track and rode it to the University of Toronto, where she’s been doing odd things with fish for a couple of decades now. One thing I always take away from my time with her is a harsh reminder of how far past my best-before date I am, as any kind of biologist (she pointed out a couple of pretty significant flaws in that genetic-recoding paper I was salivating over a while back, for example).

So Friday. Over wine and cheese and salmon (and a horde of cats who’d once again hit the jackpot), the subject turned to this nifty little piece of research in which an anatomically-female rat was reprogrammed into behaving like a male, thanks to the injection of a certain hormone. (This is unlikely to come as welcome news to those on the whole defense-of-traditional-binary-marriage side of things, but that’s reality’s well-known leftist bias for you.) It was Debbie, typically, who saw the immediate potential for kids’ movies.

“There’s this question I put on my exams,” she said. “I ask my students what would have really happened in Finding Nemo, after Nemo’s mom got eaten by the barracuda.”

Let me just take a moment here to admit how much I loved Finding Nemo. I think I saw it at least three times in the theater— years before I even had step-pones as an excuse— once with an honest-to-God rocket scientist who also loved it. (I belted out “The Zones of the Sea” in the shower for weeks afterward.) Plus I used to be an actual marine biologist. And yet it wasn’t until Debbie brought up her question that the obvious answer hit me in the nose:

Marlene.

Marlene.

Nemo’s dad would’ve turned female.

That’s what clownfish do, after all. (Also wrasses. Also a bunch of others I’ve forgotten.) When the dominant female disappears from the scene, the next male in line switches sexes and fills the vacancy, becoming a fully reproductive female in her own right. So Marlin would’ve become Marlene— and while that might mean no more than a couple of bonus points to some UT undergrad (you can see why Debbie has a fistful of teaching awards), the ramifications reach all the way down to Hollywood.

We live in an age of reboots and sequels, you see. And In A World where even the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers get a dark and gritty (albeit unauthorized) update, what possible excuse could there be for not slipping a little real-world biology into a Nemo reboot? You wouldn’t even have to change the story significantly (although you’d need a new voice actor for Marlene— I nominate Amy Poehler). And talk about a positive sympathetic role model for transgender kids! Aren’t we long overdue for one of those? (Can’t you just imagine the drives home after Sunday school? “But Dad, if Marlin can change…”)

You listening, Disney?

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Monday April 13 2015at 10:04 am , filed under biology, ink on art, just putting it out there... . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

50 Responses to “Gendering Nemo.”

  1. “Sting in his underpants.” LMMFAO

  2. This is unlikely to come as welcome news to those on the whole defense-of-traditional-binary-marriage side of things.

    They might interpret it as saying that if you don’t behave like your physical gender, there is a pill to fix it.

  3. If he couldn’t make it through “Blindsight”, “Echopraxia” will make his head explode.

  4. Alexey: They might interpret it as saying that if you don’t behave like your physical gender, there is a pill to fix it.

    I can’t remember how many times I had my mind blown about gender and sex through the years due to sf. Triton by Delaney was one. I thought it was so cool that people could walk in to a clinic to have their body and/or brains changed according to preference.

    (and of course there was The Dispossed.)

    I think the next big mindfuck was Raphael Carter’s short story, “‘Congenital Agenesis of Gender Ideation’ by K.N. Sirsi and Sandra Botkin” and via liking that book and story I found the Rarely Asked Questions page about androgyny.

    There was a story along hte lines you give (I don’t remember how well written it is, and it may have been in a Year’s Best ed. by Gardner Dozois so it probably wasn’t all that bad.) where there was a “cure” for gayness in the form of some fetal placental thing? and the story followed through the social implications of that. but I barely remember it, and I may be conflating more than one story.

  5. Forgot to add that the magical pill narrative is problematic but that sometimes it was comforting as a wish fulfillment experiment.

  6. Sheila: did you mean The Dispossessed when you wrote The Dispossed? and did you *actually* mean The Left Hand of Darkness?

  7. Ivo,

    Derp. yes. thinko *and* typo.

    Oh I just remembered another genderfuck mind blowing author. Greg Egan. I think in Distress and also in The Clockwork Rocket series with the design of the aliens.

  8. Peter, I read the ! as somewhat flippant, but seriously, a trans movie with the same emotional tone of the original would be really kickass. Trans people get movies like “Boys Don’t Cry”.

  9. AngusM:
    If he couldn’t make it through “Blindsight”, “Echopraxia” will make his head explode.

    The weird thing is, he really liked Echopraxia. Gave it four stars in his audio review, as I recall.

  10. Tumblr will be all over this once they find out “cishet shitlords at pixar censored main trans character in Finding Nemo!”

  11. I’m kind of in agreement with him on The Road.

  12. Sheila: I can’t remember how many times I had my mind blown about gender and sex through the years due to sf.

    Think it was Vonda N. McIntyre nailed me way back when by describing a character then suddenly throwing in “she” or some other gender clue that challenged by notions. Three times in one book and I fell for it every time. Think it was this one…

    Enterprise: The First Adventure

    But was sure that this was one of the characters, Kirk’s drinking buddy whom they list as male:

    http://memory-beta.wikia.com/wiki/Agovanli

    Then within pages, McCoy’s doctor-mentor. Then much later another alien just to remind me that my mind wasn’t yet free. 😉 Don’t have my copy anymore to check.

  13. Damn Peter, I, a lowly marine bio masters grad knew that clown fish are all born male and that the most dominant become female. And you can’t use the argument that you specialized in marine mammals. My specialty did not even include vertebrates.

  14. Your buddy Tony Smith seems to me to be responding with emotional reasoning for at least two of the works: I am Legend and The Road, which is perfectly valid, but rather limited as it tells me more about Tony Smith than the books in question.

    My experience of Dune is that you need to weather the first hundred pages, and probably a re-write of the opening would’ve made the book more accessible, but again that only really tells me that Tony Smith doesn’t like books that are not easily accessible, and not a lot about the rest of Dune.

    As for his opinions on Blindsight, not worth the paper they’re written on. 😉

    As for Anathem I have no comment to make as I’m unfamiliar with the work, but would hazard a guess his opinions tell you more about his beliefs and underlying assumptions than the text per se.

    In conclusion reviews are opinions, nothing more, nothing less. At the end of the day I dislike being told what I should think about something, but recognize that I swim in a sea of cultural beliefs that prejudice my good intentions.

  15. And talk about a positive sympathetic role model for transgender kids!

    Not gonna fly, transgender kids are too niche a demographic? Probably less than 0.5%…

    anatomically-female rat was reprogrammed into behaving like a male, thanks to the injection of a certain hormone. (This is unlikely to come as welcome news to those on the whole defense-of-traditional-binary-marriage side of things, but that’s reality’s well-known leftist bias for you.)

    Why not? It’s been obvious for some time that while women and men differ, there are people on both sides whose personalities and/or sexual behaviors are atypical, for as yet undetermined reasons.

    IMO, the traditionalists are welcoming this line of research, provided it’s going to enable procedures or medications which would all but ensure heterosexual offspring.
    Greg Egan once wrote a short story touching on this topic.

    I believe traditionalists would also be delighted by this linked article. It argues that many male-female differences are innate, not socially determined. How is that reality having a leftist bias?

  16. PhilRM,

    I had a struggle getting through the Road. So bleak! So repetitive! The weird thing is, it stuck in my mind afterwards and wouldn’t go away. I’m glad I read it, but I wouldn’t likely read it again.

  17. Peter Watts,

    That’s amazing to me, because it sounds like this guy has trouble with cerebral, ideas-based sci-fi, and Echopraxia was nothing if not cerebral.

  18. Sheila,

    Hey, I liked Boys Don’t Cry!

  19. guildenstern42,

    I certainly thought it was memorable, and (especially the earlier sections) very well written, but I thought the story was just ludicrously melodramatic, to the point that I was rolling my eyes at scenes that were intended to be shocking and horrifying.

  20. Anony mouse: Damn Peter, I, a lowly marine bio masters grad knew that clown fish are all born male and that the most dominant become female.

    Yeah, so did I. It just never occurred to me when I was watching the movie.

    Bet it didn’t occur to you either.

  21. guildenstern42,

    Yeah, I liked it too. but, tragic trans narrative.

  22. I don’t mind reading/hearing someone’s personal feelings about books, so I’m not knocking him on that. I have reactions like his too. for example, I couldn’t finish Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled or Never Let Me Go because I found them too depressing. I couldn’t stand the suspense of not knowing if the guy would ever wake up in the former, and I couldn’t stand the passivity in the latter. I’ve read most of his other books though.

  23. On one hand, I find it very interesting that the scientists doing research on rats has managed to control their behavioural gender expression, because that gives the scientific community greater knowledge of how brains and that nebulous concept of “gender” works…

    …on the other hand, as a trans person, the possibility of chemically altering someone’s gender expression post-development worries me. It sounds like a technology that could be ripe for abuse that targets trans people[1].

    Though thankfully, the linked article is somewhat vague on the process, and they don’t say they can change the mental gender of the rats at an arbitrary point. The actual process appears to be pre-natal, which is far less worrying in the “inject trans people with chemicals until they conform”-sense.

    [1] Though since we’re on Watts’ blog, there’s an interesting question of whether changing someone’s mind (if it’s a painless, risk-free process) to feel comfortable in their physical body is actually “wrong” in the moral sense; why not stick needles into someone’s mind to make them feel comfortable – and why not just write up electrodes to people’s mind to keep them in an eternal state of bliss?

  24. Re: Y.

    I think that both traditionalists and “stereotypical Marxi-sh left” would suffer from developments a-la that mouse experiment.

    It strongly undermines notion of “will” and humans as independent noble agents with a uniquely human ability to freely shape the world (Gattungswesen, which is crucial for Marxism, and pretty much any philosophy that shares lineages with it) and it also undermines the notion that anyone really “chooses” anything and is thus “responsible” for “sins” (free-will-ish bullshit is pretty important for eithics systems derived from Abrahamic cults).
    Oh, and proponents of naturalist ethics are, as usual, disqualified from even participating (because there is no way to consistently argue for or against any kind of intervention into a natural system-state from a consistently naturalist position), but that’s just business as usual.

    Whether you like it or not, “stereotypical left” and “traditionalism” share a lot of social policy attitudes (they diverge primarily on what constitutes sociological and “managerial” merit, as well as what constitutes “deserved” “social status”, but when it comes to human nature and ethics (especially, for some reason, sexual ethics), second wave/radical feminists, Marxists-Leninists and capitalistic religious right converge on many points.

    The people who benefit from these kinds of discovery are technocrats like myself ^_^

    Technocrats like myself are kinda-left from “traditionalist perspective” (and ARRRGGGHHH from “stereotypical left” perspective :) ), so reality does have a left bias of sorts, just not the kind of left bias a Marxist (or a more-or-less typical proponent of critical theory, for that matter) can be comfortable with.

    Re: Eukie

    I guess that depends on whether you see mental states (and attendant physical brain structures/functions) as “privileged” compared to the non-CNS parts of one’s body.

    If brain structure/function is just “yet another organ” and not the wondrous seat of wondrous self that is totally-not-just-an-object-like-all-else, then messing with brains is ethically no more problematic than messing with something else (which is, not that much of a problem)

  25. Re: 03’s re: Eukie,

    Interesting way to state it.

    Re: Eukie

    relatedly, I’d not mind stick electrodes in to my brain to control depressed states (I hear that deep brain stimulation might help with depression). or even enhance “normal” states (I wish I was better at focusing and/or executive control). Right now I take an antidepressant and an anticonvulsant for mood regulation. They are not as invasive as electrodes but if there was some technology that was less invasive as either I’d appreciate it.

    I also wouldn’t mind being able to hack my brain for entertainment purposes. Maybe it isn’t a common wish, but I would love to satisfy my curiosity about many things — try out different identity types (extroversion, gender), try out different qualitative experiences (hallucinations, memory, perceptions). try out different abilities (different ability to focus, etc.).

  26. Dear Mr. Dr. Peter Watts,

    Please forgive this ignorant foreigner who isn’t even a native English speaker, has no nautical backgroud, doesn’t know why people say “bulkhead” instead of “wall” and finds this quite a bit frustrating, for making the following joke:

    While reading Echopraxia, the next time I’m going to read the word “bulkhead”, I’m going to murder somebody, anybody, the first being that appears in front of me.

    Sincerely yours,
    T. gondii.

  27. Re: T. gondii,

    Bulkheads are kinda like walls, but on ships, airplanes and like (so, by extension, spaceships) and occasionally have more functions than space management and structural load bearing.

    Rule of thumb: if it’s not a hull, and not utterly cosmetic, it’s probably a bulkhead of some sort

    Re: Sheila

    Well, I would be curious about reversible biological sex change, assuming it would be more like “resocket brain in a different body, Eclipse-phase style” and not “spend many years performing dangerous and painful therapies and surgeries”, and assuming it would actually provide something verifiable close to male sexual experience.
    I mean, feeldoes are fun, but I’m reasonably certain that it’s not the kind of experience guys feel when they fuck someone.

  28. I wonder if the horror I feel at the idea of changing people’s brains to match their body has to do with the fundamental belief that a person is more than just the sum of their brain body interface?

    Also, that the body is somehow less than than the mind.

    All I can say is that we swim in a sea of cultural assumptions that prejudice us to think in certain ways. A very thought provoking piece and comments.

  29. Eukie: It sounds like a technology that could be ripe for abuse that targets trans people

    Would this not be actually of help to trans people? Seems to me, if the brain is fixable, it makes more sense to fix it so it’s in line with the body than to try to alter the entire body to match. As I understand it, the psychological benefits of gender-reassignment surgery are somewhat spurious.

  30. 03,

    Being able to experience the act of sex in a male body would certainly be way cool, but I am curious about more than that. It would be interesting to experience the cultural baggage of presenting as a different gender, along with any biological differences.

    For example, in my culture, I notice that males interrupt more frequently than females, that they are not as condescended to in certain areas, that they receive more teacher time in classrooms, that they negotiate without being penalized for assertiveness. etc/ It would be interesting to experience all of that. I can get some of these if I segregate myself in a conversation or meeting with only women, but it’s still different. I think living that experience would be qualitatively different because the cognitive* overhead of day-to-day life would be different for me based on my profession and my interests (stereotypical male?). Aside from the cultural experience–back to biological, I don’t know how blood levels of various things (/me hand waves a lot) are different, but I’m sure those would lead to interesting varieties of mental experience.

    People drink alcohol to change their brains for entertainment, this would be the extreme end of that behavior.

    * also, I’m not entirely familiar with the approach of embodied cognition versus the approach of traditional cognitive scientists, but I am intrigued. I’ve been reading a couple of books that survey the topic. and based on that, I think the cultural landscape might result in a different experience of the world beyond just “cognitive overhead” stuff.

  31. Eukie, far warning if you have not been on the crawl for a while. Y is a troll and tends to post things with an inflammatory stance and/or with inaccuracies so that people get embroiled in a discussion to correct them. With respect to trans surgical therapy, there is literature that shows a decided benefit. If you’d like refs, I’d be happy to dig the ones up that I found. If you already know them, no worries.

    (about me, with respect to gender I am mostly cisfemale but would like to be able to express as more than just female. I like having options? also, cognition and the brain is hella interesting and gender is one aspect of it.)

  32. Sheila: With respect to trans surgical therapy, there is literature that shows a decided benefit. If you’d like refs, I’d be happy to dig the ones up that I found. If you already know them, no worries.

    Decided?

    The data is acknowledged to be of ‘very poor’ quality. And the conclusion is full of weasel words, reflecting the fact that a metastudy of a number of pretty crap studies isn’t *that* useful.

    Swedes conducted a better study, but it
    What is certain is that the SRS is in no way a ‘cure’, that is, outcomes after the operation are still far, far worse than of controls who never had GD.

    I have no doubt that in cases of transsexuals who won’t end up looking implausible, surgery undoubtedly has benefits, as it appears to alleviate the gender dysphoria.

    However, I can’t see how the surgery is going to benefit, for example, a tall male with a manly face. You can’t re-shape the skull, and making the jaw more gracile won’t help that much. The lot of ugly women is already bad enough, as men are often superficial by nature, and I don’t believe ugly women who look like they might have been male have it any better. That is, unless they can give very little fucks about the attitudes of others. Trading gender dysphoria for the ability to make 90% of people you meet uncomfortable, well, doesn’t sound like much of a win.

    Sheila: It would be interesting to experience the cultural baggage of presenting as a different gender..

    It’s been done, by a journalist, who went to quite some trouble and spent a lot of time and effort doing a pretty involved male impression.

    Her conclusions: (read it all though, quite interesting)

    . And I found out that gender lives in your brain and is something much more than costume. And I really learned that the hard way,” she said.

    Vincent says she’s healed now and glad to be rid of Ned. But her views about men have changed forever.

    “Men are suffering. They have different problems than women have, but they don’t have it better,” she said. “They need our sympathy. They need our love, and maybe they need each other more than anything else. They need to be together.”

    Ironically, Vincent said, it took experiencing life as a man for her to appreciate being a woman. “I really like being a woman. … I like it more now because I think it’s more of a privilege.”

    .

  33. Ashley R Pollard: I wonder if the horror I feel at the idea of changing people’s brains to match their body has to do with the fundamental belief that a person is more than just the sum of their brain body interface?
    Also, that the body is somehow less than than the mind.

    I’ve read that this is due to the influence of Abrahamic religion which believe in that the ‘self’ is not a property of the human body but it’s a distinct entity, a ‘soul’. And immortal, etc, thus better than the mortal & repulsive* meatbag it’s attached to.

    *maybe it’s just me but thinking about my large intestine and gut bacteria makes me uncomfortable. Too bad there’s no way to get it replaced by something more elegant and better engineered and manufactured to exacting standards by say, Japanese.

    My impression is that very few people truly believe that their mind and their body are one.

  34. it’s neat that the gut has receptors for neurotransmitters. my body is threaded through my brain.

    If I miss a dose of antidepressant I get brain zaps and an upset gut.

  35. Re: Y

    Actually, you can considerably reshape the skull.

    It just remains kinda risky and clocks in at above $35000 for a serious augmentation effort.

  36. 03: It just remains kinda risky and clocks in at above $35000 for a serious augmentation effort.

    I’ve read about jaw modelling. Are they seriously messing with the brain cavity, cheekbones, etc? Whew.

  37. John Varley is my go-to for genderfuck/trans/fluid narratives. The dude has a serious fascination with genders and multiple characters change their genders across his novels, and several returning characters appear as different genders across different books. It rules.

  38. 03,

    I ended up skimming for research on outcomes when I found out that some of my friends are transwomen and also after sitting in on a discussion at a con that was about trans* authors/representation/etc. I am pretty good at being a clueless well-meaning asshole making a lot of 101 mistakes at my friends so I have to do homework.

    There’s a pretty high risk of suicide without treatment and even still with treatment.

    I had a freakout once when I couldn’t get in touch with someone.

    anyway, from what I’ve read it seems that discovering things at a really young age is good because medication to delay puberty until things get figured out has pretty good results. I did a self terminating search and haven’t kept up with literature.

    Y, sorry for knee-jerking at you. I try to avoid engaging with you but was worried that your negative framing might be dangerous.

  39. Eukie: there’s an interesting question of whether changing someone’s mind (if it’s a painless, risk-free process) to feel comfortable in their physical body is actually “wrong” in the moral sense; why not stick needles into someone’s mind to make them feel comfortable

    I’d argue that the fact that something isn’t morally “wrong” is not in itself a reason to do it; it may not be morally wrong to stand on your head for five hours either, but I’d need a stronger argument to invest the effort. So I guess the question is, which option makes the person feel “more comfortable”; change the mind to suit the body, or vice versa? (Or even leave the incongruity intact, if the person has serious qualms about messing with nature’s/God’s handiwork, or something.) In that context, it all comes down to what the individual wants at time t. Even if you think they’re making the wrong call, it’s theirs to make, even if you think they’d choose differently under different conditions.

    Kind of like suicide, actually. You either respect the decision, or you infantilize the decider.

  40. Sheila: I also wouldn’t mind being able to hack my brain for entertainment purposes.

    I’m pretty sure that’s coming. Sooner rather than later.

    Ashley R Pollard: I wonder if the horror I feel at the idea of changing people’s brains to match their body has to do with the fundamental belief that a person is more than just the sum of their brain body interface?

    Or it may arise from the suspicion that we are just the sum of those processes. That inspires a certain dread in me, I’ll admit— because it implies that when I tweak those settings and become something else, that new entity may have no desire to revert to what it was before.

    It’s one of the things I may have harped on too much in Echopraxia: what’s the difference between transformation and suicide?

  41. Peter Watts: It’s one of the things I may have harped on too much in Echopraxia: what’s the difference between transformation and suicide?

    Rate of change? A bullet to the head or 40 years to the back of the neck, probably they both change you just as much, but one is invisibly gradual and the other inconveniences the cleaning staff.

    That equivalence makes me wonder if there’s a space for self help books for the suicidal… “Kill yourself! …With our 10 step exercise program!”

  42. Peter Watts: That inspires a certain dread in me, I’ll admit— because it implies that when I tweak those settings and become something else, that new entity may have no desire to revert to what it was before.

    Dread?

    That idea fills me with hope.

  43. Peter Watts: It’s one of the things I may have harped on too much in Echopraxia: what’s the difference between transformation and suicide?

    A good question. Is it suicide if the entity that lives on has your exact memories? Or is it not suicide only if it thinks and feels as you do?

  44. Nestor,

    ha, the self help book program: wait 20 years.

    Very young me is a fundamentalist/pentecostal with a lot of cognitive dissonance between that world view and the world view of someone who loves science and stories.

    Old me is an atheist with some of the same loves as young me.

    maybe the dread would be not wanting to turn in to someone the younger you would hate.

    (this trend in teh thread reminds me of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vacuum_Flowers )

  45. […] Peter Watts on Gendering Nemo: […]

  46. @Eliza Gauger: I was wondering when someone was going to mention Varley, and until you spoke up, I was actually astonished that nobody had. I recall reading a lot of his short-stories in the Journal of Fantasy and Science Fiction back in the early-mid 1970s, when he was practically a staple of that periodical. He created a future universe in which I really wanted to live… and I kept wondering when he was going to take that universe and tie together all of the short-stories in a novel-length piece. At the time he did, I was initially sorely disappointed, though he regained my love and admiration when (after decades) he finally pulled it all together with the Ophiuchi Hotline.

    @Peter Watts: It’s one of the things I may have harped on
    too much in Echopraxia: what’s the difference between
    transformation and suicide?

    It may be that the difference is whether or not you continue to transform. Speaking as someone who has undergone a whole lot of revisions in mental “status” — most of it involuntary due to physical illnesses with side effects on cognition, or due to probably well-intended but inappropriate[1] application of medications to treat side-effects when there was no treatment for the physical condition[2] — simple transformation in cognitive style can be pretty overwhelming. For most of my life it would have been deeply unreasonable for me to be happy, for example, and having happiness forced upon one when it is situationally inappropriate can feel almost like slow murder when it’s not a personal choice to effectively kill off the parts of you capable of feeling an appropriate (if low-grade) despair. But more generally:

    As human beings we spend a lot of our lives in transformation; from our first awarenesses we grow, we change, baby teeth are shed and new ones erupt. Right about the time we have become well-adapted to our pre-adolescent childhood, adolescence turns our brains to mush with a hormonal onslaught, and right about the time we start adapting to that, sudden adulthood transforms us again, in most cases, with things like wisdom teeth and a capacity for empathy, with a shedding of extreme self-centeredness and an expansion of pair-bonding to familial devotion and adoption of a greater social circle of tribe and nation. (Again, “in most cases”, for all of this.) We transform from journeymen into masters, middle age hits and children reach maturity and usually we have less energy in the real world and far more energy in the mind. For many, a transformation again strikes; intelligence may become wisdom, with experience and knowledge churned over again into something less definable and perhaps far more integrated. Sometimes, although we may far better understand, we may become less comprehensible to those not in a comparable status. Eventually, physical decline and perhaps mental senescence. As Sheila says, “maybe the dread would be in not wanting to turn in to someone the younger you would hate”. For me, it’s less about hate (or lack thereof) and remaining someone, or becoming someone, not incapable of being comprehended by the younger me[3]. I have transformed, I will transform again, however slowly or in however slight degrees. Life itself is transformation; only in death do we cease transformation, which is a rebuilding into a new life or life-stage. Transformation isn’t the same as decay, though with aging sometimes decay is part of that transformation. Suicide is choosing to stop or to avoid transformation, perhaps.

    Notes (possibly too personal):
    1. Neuroleptics are not appropriate treatment for undiagnosed hypothyroidism.
    2. Neuroleptics, or antidepressants, are not appropriate treatment for borderline hepatic encephalopathy of viral origin[4].
    3. At the risk of snippy replies, “actually, I have never been all that comprehensible”.
    4. Antivirals have their own mentally transforming effects, and a sense of relief from appropriate-if-mild despair is one of them, provided you aren’t taking enough interferon to make you want to throw yourself off of a building.

  47. Mr Non-Entity: and usually we have less energy in the real world and far more energy in the mind.

    Another mind-body dualist, eh.

    Also, do people who’re not couch potatoes have less ‘real world’ energy at middle age? All people I’ve heard of complain of feeling ‘wrung out’, etc, in the evenings were not in good shape.

  48. @Y: re: Another mind-body dualist, eh.

    Also, do people who’re not couch potatoes have less ‘real world’ energy at middle age? All people I’ve heard of complain of feeling ‘wrung out’, etc, in the evenings were not in good shape.

    Define “middle age”?

    Last question first: Probably you are mostly correct. As for me, generally speaking I have done my best to take care of my health, without being a yoga jogger or a joggy yoger or whatever might be trendy nowadays. However there are some things you just can’t fix with exercise, and 30+ years of surviving HCV will take its toll. Middle question: Until really very recently, energy (or lack thereof) wasn’t my problem, much.

    First question: I’m not supporting mind-body dualism, “mens sana in corporo sano” isn’t really dualism any more than the yin/yang is a dualism; it’s a unity. It’s supposed to be a balanced unity. What I was expressing was that when I was much younger, sitting still and thinking was less easily done than was getting up and running hither and yon. Sitting inside and thinking, if the weather outside was good, never came easily to me, thinking while cutting the lawn was more my style.

    Seriously, though: thanks to very modern medicine, I am going through yet another phase of transformation, with surprising speed, and it feels very much like the opposite of suicide. My form of exercise right now is walking rather briskly away from where I was standing three months ago, at death’s door. If anyone here needs to wonder if “harvoni(tm)” works, it sure seems that it does. Maybe I’ll live long enough to regret seeing Our Gracious Host’s future take shape around us, if “the jackpot” doesn’t kill most of us first.


  49. Peter Watts
    , Or it may arise from the suspicion that we are just the sum of those processes. That inspires a certain dread in me, I’ll admit— because it implies that when I tweak those settings and become something else, that new entity may have no desire to revert to what it was before.

    Which is why I’ve enjoyed both of the books of yours that I’ve read. I would add, apropos of change in therapy, one of the key blocks to change in therapy is what’s on the other side of the divide when one becomes someone different.

  50. Off-topic.

    JFC…

    http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/05/11/frozen-assets-arctic-espionage-spying-new-cold-war-russia-canada/