Wednesday, February 13, 2013
I think cats must lead lives of perennial existential despair. Think about it. A cat operates heavily on instinct; not surprising when you consider its frontal lobes are the size of a shelled peanut. I remember one time our cat got out and didn't stop at the stairs -- instead she kept going. I watched for a second before we opened a can of food and hauled her up short, and every line in her furry body was saying "YES!!!" It's like she realized in that moment what was missing. Now consider the fact that a cat has a theory of mind comparable to a rhododendron bush. It doesn't wonder if other cats feel this way; it's open to question if it wonders about other cats, period. As far as it knows, it's the only cat who's ever felt this way. And we've already established that a cat's hippocampus works in nanoseconds, so I wouldn't count on it retaining long, nostalgic memories. Given all this, we're pretty much forced to one conclusion: that when your puddy tat sprawls languorously on the couch, staring off into space, it's not relaxing; on the contrary, it's caught in the throes of an existential crisis that would make Sartre run for the nearest exit. In effect, it's thinking that there's something missing in its life, something very important, but it can't quite remember what. So it lolls about in despair, and you think it wants its belly scratched, when in reality it's wracking its poor excuse for a brain for the answer to the ultimate ontological mystery. No wonder they're stoned on catnip most of the time.
The biggest problem Parkinson's presents for me is my voice. It's the result of several different things. There's standard aphonia, which is the usual problem Parkinson's patients have, and which makes me sound much softer than I think I am. But there's also dysarthria, which causes slurring (such as that from a frontal lobe infarction); this is harder to pin down because the cause of pathology is unclear. It could have been a physical insult to my speech center -- or it could be something completely different. And there's also the butcher job that an E.N.T. did on my uvula, which causes extreme hypernasality. Plus my lungs are weak; this is caused by lateral scoliosis not leaving them enough room. P.D. exacerbates this. In short, while an operation may solve part of the problem, it might not solve it all. I'm reluctant to have my head unzipped just to see what's going on in there. The more research I do, the less inclined I am to believe that one procedure -- or even two or three -- will provide the Hail Mary pass that's needed here. I may have to settle for a cyborg-style mechanism that'll bypass my voice completely. Because it's looking more and more like, even a combination of brain surgery and reconstructive laryngeal surgery might not provide the magic bullet.