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Dicen que la muerte es fácil

Dicen que la muerte es fácil. ¿La muerte, una salida fácil, un escape para los cobardes? ¿Acaso hay más valor, más fortaleza en aquel hombre que arrastra la vida hasta el final que en el hombre que toma una pistola y se apunta a la cabeza mirando al espejo? ¿Será que el hombre que camina en círculos antes de encontrar su vía al precipicio merece más honor que aquel que corre y salta de golpe al vacío? ¿Y el inocente mártir que espera en su celda hasta el día de su ejecución en público, merece él más crédito por sus hazañas que la víctima que de manera autónoma y solitaria sube los peldaños de la plataforma hasta la guillotina y deja caer la cuchilla sobre su cuello? Sólo un ingenuo o un mojigato vería con desdeño al suicidio. No os estoy alentando a saltar del quinto piso, pero insisto en que hay ocasiones en que la vida ya no tiene vuelta atrás.

La muerte digna, la muerte que uno elige, requiere una mente fría. La decisión de evaporarse de una vez por todas precisa de un análisis casi matemático sobre lo que queda por ganar y por perder en la vida. Lo inexorable, la muerte, podría catalizarse con una sobre dosis de euforia o ralentizarse criónicamente con un baño de nitrógeno líquido. ¿Pero para qué evitar lo inevitable cuando ya no queda más por hacer, por ganar o por perder, por sufrir o por disfrutar? Me refiero a los enfermos terminales, a los ancianos, a los desahuciados, paralizados, heridos, mutilados en el alma o en la carne, a aquellos que están confinados a vivir sin vivir. Uno no decide cuándo ni cómo nacer, pero uno puede fulminarse cómo y cuándo le plazca.

Así que piedad, piedad al que se fuga del dolor de esta vida. No es fácil bajar las manos. No es fácil beber la cicuta. Así que no subestiméis a los prófugos de esta vida, pues descansar en paz es derecho y condena de todos.

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Farewell to Wellesley College

My Vesta,

I was your orphan.

In your arms, my mother,

I felt home

And I felt a foreigner.

 

I came to you naked

And you drowned me in a lake full of wisdom,

The more we learned,

The more ignorant I felt.

 

You brought to me love,

But not the love of the flesh,

Nor the love of men,

Nor the love of silver,

Nor the love of women.

A calcining passion,

A world full of beauty,

An endless thirst of curiosity.

 

My friend,

My solitude,

My muse,

My demon,

 

My love,

My nightmare,

 

This is the nostalgia of a farewell I always wished for.

I’ll miss you very much, but don’t you dare to come back.

 

My Alma Mater,

Grateful and salty,

This is our goodbye.

June 1st, 2018

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The Epiphany of her Mother’s Transformation

Not many people in this world would ever see their mothers as she did. She used to wake up every morning around six and put in the microwave a jar of that green jelly smoothie that they used to call “mommy’s pudding”.

Beep. Beep. The food was ready, but before this matutinal banquet, she would change her mother’s diaper. Involuntarily, the smell of the urine would always bring her back to those late nights in Rue de la Verrerie, which was the street where all the bars were at in Aix-en-Provence. “It smells like a street full of bars”, she would tell her mother and she would laugh with her eyes still closed.

Mmmmhhhh. Ahhhhhh. Mmmmmh. Ahhhhhhhh. The pain of stretching every morning. Her mother looked like a little caterpillar moving up and down, but not going anywhere. All her movements had been slowly effaced until she became confined to her own body. She was indeed a caterpillar, but without the promise of metamorphosing into a butterfly.  There was a feeding tube in her stomach that allowed her daughter to pour and pump some mommy’s pudding. She would then close the feeding tube and go back to bed.

One day, she couldn’t fall asleep, so she decided to read a book with the hope of eventually going back to the arms of Morpheus. Searching among her high school books, she stumbled upon a collection of Kafka’s stories. Die Verwandlung caught her attention. She remembered reading that novel when she was a fifteen-year-old. It was the bizarre story of Gregor Samsa, a man who wakes up one morning converted into a massive and monstrous bug.

Back in the days, Gregor’s transformation seemed so absurd and grotesque that she struggled to see any meaning at all in his story. Now, as a young adult and with a mother suffering from a gradual and deadly motor disease, she felt like Kafka had written a novel describing every aspect of her daily routine at home. Just like Gregor Samsa, her mother would open her eyes every dawn transformed into a giant bug. She would utter sounds that did not translate into words. Her psyche was disconnected from her body and her condition seemed monstrous to everyone. She did not even have the right to have fresh food anymore. Like an insect, she was condemned to be fed with a revolting green pudding that no other human would ever want to taste. In the past, she used to be the provider for her family, but had now become a financial burden. With tears in her eyes, she wondered whether she would also feel an immense relief once her mother died just like Gregor’s family did in the story.

The agony of such an intense realization took her back to bed.

Maybe I am the real hideous bug for my horrendous psyche does not match my physic either.

Not many people in this world would ever see themselves and their mothers as she did. They used to wake up every morning transformed into massive monstrous bugs.

The Brain through the Eyes of an Artist and Scientist

“Like the entomologist in search of colorful butterflies, my attention has chased in the gardens of the grey matter cells with delicate and elegant shapes, the mysterious butterflies of the soul, whose beating of wings may one day reveal to us the secrets of the mind.”

Santiago Ramon y Cajal in Recollections of My Life

 

Santiago Ramon y Cajal (Navarre, Spain 1852 – 934) is famous for his exquisite and realistic drawings of neurons. Cajal was the son of an anatomist and legend has it, his father used to take Cajal to graveyards in order to study and draw human anatomy. After this early exposure to anatomy, Cajal decided to pursue a career in medicine. Later, with the advent of cell staining methods, he focused on the study of neuroanatomy.  Cajal’s work in this field was essential in supporting the neuron doctrine, which states that the brain is composed by individual cells separated by gaps (synaptic clefts) as opposed to having a continuous network of cells. This idea might seem evident to us, especially nowadays where computers, staining methods, and microscopes allow us to see brain cells rather easily.  Cajal’s discoveries were, however, revolutionary for his time. He shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology in 1906 with Camillo Golgi (famous for his Golgi stain) in acknowledgement of his work on the structure of the nervous system.

Sadly, most of Cajal’s works have remained as archives in Madrid, but recently, some of his best works are being exhibited around the world. His drawings are full of both art and science. It is magnificent to observe the work of a man and his pencil next to the one of a confocal microscope. There is something that Cajal was able to observe that passes inadvertently for computers: the beauty of the brain.

I’ll finish this post by sharing a couple of pictures I took at the MIT museum in the exhibit “The Beautiful Brain”. I highly recommend going to see Cajal’s drawings if you’re around Boston.

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Dialogue with Z about the difficulties of taking care of a plant

H and Z are in the center of Z’s room. H is sitting on a chair next to the desk. There are boxes everywhere because Z is moving out. Z is sitting on the bed having a conversation with H. H is recovering from the ingestion of magic mushrooms.

Z: Do you wanna pet my plant now? (Reaching out to H with a plant on her hands) You said no to my plant last time.

H: (Accepting the plant and placing it on her lap). Yes, thank you. Sorry. Last time I was here, I wasn’t in the right state of mind.

Z: (Standing on her bed and taking pictures off the wall). I love petting my plants.

H: Do you think they can feel you? I dont’ think they can. They don’t have a brain or a sensory system to feel how you caress them.

Z: Well, I think they can sense something. You know, there is a change in their system. They respond to other stimuli, so I feel like they can sense you in some way.

H: I’m sorry, but I don’t like plants as much as you seem to like them. They don’t have a brain. I like dogs better.

Z: I’m not saying they are the same thing, all I’m saying is that plants can feel you and I love petting them.

H: Yes, yes, I see, I see. (Petting the plant). But I think it’s easier to take care of a dog than to take care of a plant.

Z: Are you serious? (Organizing a pile of photos on her hand). Of course not! It’s way easier to take care of a plant. They only need water. A dog needs you to take him on a walk, food, love, going to the vet. They need you to clean after them and they need more space. It’s a lot of work to take care of a dog!

H: (Looking at Z while Z is taking more photos off the wall). But a dog is not defenseless like a plant is. If they need something, they’ll let you know. They’ll bark if they are unhappy, scratch on the door if they are hungry, vomit on your floor if they are sick. A plant is prone to forgetfulness and to death because they have no voice, no movement, no way to remind you that they exist and they need you. That is what makes it difficult, at least for myself, to take care of a plant.

Z: (Making eye contac with H). Really? So are all of your plants dead?

H: No. (Looking down. Slightly sad. Handing the plant back to Z). I just don’t have any plants. I can’t forget them and let them die if I never have them to start with.

Z: (Takes the plant back). What a coward, my friend.

END

 

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Credit: Octavio Ocampo