Wadjda (Haifaa Al-Mansour, 2012)
Mother: I want you to be the happiest person in the world. You’re all I have left in this world.
Ten years ago I wrote Medical Nemesis. The book began with the statement: “The medical establishment has become the major threat to health”. Hearing this today I would respond, “So what?” Today´s major pathogen is, I suspect, the pursuit of a healthy body.
IVAN ILLICH 1986, “Body History”, The Lancet, Dec. 6
The present-day culture relies almost exclusively on a techno-medical system leading to the so-called expropriation of health. This structure seems to neglect the healing power of the individual who overcomes indifference and desires to feel, being a living organism thus feeling life! However, this individual may feel ill while possessing the healthy standards accepted by all medical associations (The American Psychiatric Association recognized 59 psychiatric disorders in 1917. In the last years, this rose from 253 to 347 categories, SIMON WESSELY (2008), “How shyness became social phobia”). More, by means of pathologizing behaviors, boundaries between illness and normality then dissolve (TANYA GLYDE 2014, “Wanting to be normal”, The Lancet vol. 1: 179-80; CHRISTOPHER LANE 2008, “Shyness: how normal behavior became a sickness”).
I am healthy while I may feel ill because of the eclipse of my double-sun. And I suspect this atmosphere of loneliness (more intense in the midst of the crowds) could be the unfeeling that impairs my Dasein….
The Mirror (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1975)
The whole hospital [Ward No. 6] rested as it had done twenty years ago on thieving, filth, scandals, gossip, on gross quackery, and, as before, it was an immoral institution extremely injurious to the health of the inhabitants. (…)
But now when he was reading at night the science of medicine touched him and exited his wonder, and even enthusiasm. What unexpected brilliance, what a revolution! (…)
Psychiatry with its modern classification of mental diseases, methods of diagnosis, and treatment, was a perfect Elborus in comparison with what had been in the past. They no longer poured cold water on the heads of lunatics not put strait-waistcoats upon them, they treated them with humanity, and even, so it was stated in the papers, got up balls and entertainments for them. Andrey Yefimitch knew that with modern tastes and views such an abomination as Ward No. 6 was possible only a hundred and fifty miles from a railway in a little town where the mayor and all the town council were half-illiterate tradesmen who looked upon the doctor as an oracle who must be believed without any criticism even he had poured molten lead into their mouths.
It´s all nonsense and vanity, and there is no difference between the best Vienna clinic and my hospital.
Anton Chekhov, Ward No. 6
Whoever dreams loves… There is life-in a little town or in a heartless city-to go anywhere we want.
Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)
Wendy: Not a lot of jobs around here, huh?
Security Guard: I’ll say. I don’t know what the people do all day. Used to be a mill. But that’s been closed a long time now. Don’t know what they do.
Wendy: You can’t get a job without an address anyway. . .or a phone.
Security Guard: You can’t get an address without an address. You can’t get a job without a job. It’s all fixed.
Wendy: That’s why I’m going to Alaska. I hear they need people.
Security Guard: I hear it’s really pretty up there.
The rule-based social fabric tranpires in mainstream America. “It´s all fixed”… “The rules apply to everyone equally“…
Wendy and Lucy begins with the movement of trains, evoking the desperate plight of thousands during the Great Depression as well Wendy’s tragic rootlessness. (…) Economic circumstance begins to dictate her decisions.
(…) But both the mechanic and the Walgreens security guard are embedded in the same system (meritocratic, that is, competition and survival of the fittest at any cost), ultimately helpless (I also have to admit the side-effects of America, the bitter country´s birth described by R. Guardini –Letters from Lake Como: “Our country has to remain poor and our people emigrate so that you may fulfill your romantic needs there”). Neither can give her the means to escape poverty. Both have their own lives and problems and limitations.
Moreover, to a large extent doctors are no longer in living touch with the nature at work in the body, using its resources to heal and strenghten -think of the wonderful doctor in Stifter´s Aus der Mappe meines Grossvaters or the old Schnarrwerk in Raabe´s Lar! Medical thinking and action today so often move only in the pharmaceutical and mechanical sphere of formulas, preparations, and prescriptions. Our foods have largely been made artificial. We have now broken free from the living order of times: morning and evening, day and night, weekday and Sunday, changes of the moon and season. We live in an order of time that is our own making, fixed by clocks, work and pastimes.
The sphere in which we live is becoming more and more artifical, less and less human, more and more -I cannot help saying it- barbarian. The profound sadness [`depression´] of this whole process lies over Italy.
The decisive point is that we accept all this as normal. (…) Can life sustain this? Can it become consciousness and at the same time remain alive? (…) A system of machines is engulfing life. It defends itself. It seeks free air and a secure basis. Can live retain its living character in this system?
How sickening this is!
Romano Guardini, Letters from Lake Como
The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)
Think of the light given by an open flame. A little while ago I was in Munich. We were in the dining room of an old chapter house. It was lit only with candles hanging in a circle from the ceiling or held in the hand or set in candlesticks as needed. I was able with this light to see in a living manner the beauty of the baroque room. And in it we were in an environment that both enclosed us and received what we had to impart. It then became clear to me that with our gas and electric lighting with is finest in ancient building no longer comes to life. How everything became alive in the living light in a light that constantly battles darkness, that holds warm color and movement in the flickering flame. In such a light the room constantly comes to life afresh. It has froreground and background. The force of the light is graded form brightness close to the flame to the remaining darkness in the heights and corners.
Romano Guardini (1994), Letters from Lake Como
Vivre sa Vie (Jean-Luc Godard, 1962)
Nana: Suddenly I don’t know what to say. It happens to me a lot. I think first about whether they’re the right words. But when the moment comes to speak, I can’t say it. Why must one always talks? I think one should often just keep quiet, live in silence. The more one talks, the less the words mean.
A music that comes with the sunrise brings joy into the heart. This new world arrives quietly with every sunrise, even after a long sleepless night… It is the music of so many poets, the music of some thinkers, the music of all the free-spirited Mothers.
Only the heart is able to appreciate that beautiful symphony that awakes within the new day. It only takes one self-given life to restore hope in the heart of the city, between brothers and sisters, and overcome anxiety and depression.
Thirteen conversations about one thing (Jill Sprecher, 2001)
Walker: it’s perverse, isn’t it? people spend years developing their minds and educating themselves, but in the end, they just want to shut them off.
Beatrice: My eyes have been opened, I can never go back.
Entre el vivir y el soñar
hay una tercera cosa.
We must love, we all should love –isn´t that so?- without love there would be no life; anyone who fears and avoids love is not free.
Anton Chekhov, The complete short novels, My Life
Ostrov (Pavel Lungin, 2006) – The Island
[first lines] Father Anatoli: Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God…
“Instruct me: what am I do to do with you?”
With perfect sincerity, to show all the purity of the motives by which I wanted to be guided in my life, I said:
“The question of inheritance seems unimportant to me. I renounce it all beforehand.”
For some reason, quite unexpectedly for me, these words really offended my father. He turned all purple.
“Don’t you dare speak to me like that, stupid boy!” he cried in a hight, shrill voice. “Scoundrel!” And quickly and deftly, with an accustomed movement, he struck me on the cheek once and then again. “You begin to forget yourself!”
I loved my native town. It seemed to me so beautiful and warm! I loved this greenery, the quiet, sunny mornings, the ringing of our bells; but the people I lived with in this town bored me, were alien and sometimes even repulsive to me. I din’t love them and didn’t understand them.
I didn’t understand why and from what all these sixty-five thousand people lived. I knew that Kimry subsisted on boots, that Tula made samovars and guns, that Odessa was a seaport, but what our town was and what it did, I didn’t know… And the way those people lived was shameful to tell about! (…) I didn’t know a single honest man in the whole town. My father took bribes and imagined they were given him out of respect for his inner qualities; high school students, in order to pass from grade to grade, boarded with their teachers and paid them big money for it; the wife of the army administrator took bribes from the recruits at call-up time and even let them offer her treats, and once in church was unable to get up from her knees because she was so drunk; the doctors also took bribes during recruitment, and the town physician and the veterinarian levied a tax on the butcher shops and taverns; the district school traded in certificates that provided the benefits of the third category; the dean of the cathedral took bribes from the clergy and church wardens; on the municipal, the tradesmen’s, the medical, and all other boards, they shouted at each petitioner’s back: “You should say thank you!” and the petitioner would come back and give thirty or forty kopecks. And those who didn’t take bribes -for instance the court administration- were haughty, offered you two fingers to shake, were distinguished by the coldness and narrowness of their judgments, played cards a lot, drank a lot, married rich women, and undoubtedly had a harmful, corrupting influence on their milieu. Only from the young girls came a whiff of moral purity; most of them had lofty yearnings, honest and pure souls; but they didn’t understand life and believed that bribes were given out of respect for inner qualities, and, after marrying, aged quickly, went to seed, and drowned hopelessly in the mire of banal, philistine existence.
Anton Chekhov, The complete short novels, My Life