Teeth and Watches: An Afterthought on the Man/Machine Divide

Last night, I had a simple but (modesty aside) brilliant idea. Everyone who would like to write about philosophy or spirituality, especially to make some kind of grand statement about the nature of the body and the soul, should first experience a really bad tooth infection. I don’t just mean a little toothache, I mean the kind of hardcore infection that happens when several truly incompetent dentists miss a cavity in one of your back teeth and the thing keeps growing and growing until the nerve itself is really badly infected.

I mean, the pain is unimaginable. It comes on in waves, and these waves drown out everything else about you. You can barely talk, you can barely move, you can barely think, there’s just pain and pretty much nothing else. It’s like your whole brain just gets hijacked by it.

And then? You go to the dentist (again), and (assuming you get a decent one this time) they stick some chemicals in you, which make you go numb. Then they drill a hole in you, cut the nerve – snip – and it’s over.

Just like that, like repairing a watch (something else I did last weekend!) Your whole existence was crippled by this tiny, tiny nerve sending electrochemical signals to your brain, and this unimaginable pain, which nearly blotted out your very consciousness, can be stopped just by a little cut.

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