Wednesday, 6 December 2023

Once there was a poet who was visited by powerful visions of God accompanied by blinding headaches. Her ecstatic visions she expressed in verse. Her headaches she expressed in fainting spells and the ordinary fortitude of the ascetic. When the headaches worsened so that they began to interfere with even the most mundane details of her self-maintenance, she was taken by a friend to the doctor. But this presented a dilemma. For, as the doctor explained, alleviation of the poet's headaches might be indivisible from loss of her ecstatic visions. The doctor asked for a week in which to review her tests and reflect upon the situation. After a week, he phoned the poet. The poet was not in, but he left a message on her voice-mail explaining that the dilemma — whether the headaches of a patient who writes ecstatic poetry should be alleviated or not — might very well come to hinge on this question : is the patient's verse of a superior or even exceptional quality? If it turns out that it is not, then this leaves the medical professional with a very straightforward case : transcendent platitudes symptomatic of a disorder of the right temporal lobe. In this case, he noted, little would be lost in aggressively treating the malady. The doctor referred the poet to a trusted literary critic for a second opinion.