Monday, June 30, 2014

Prionic Man

bovine spongiform encephalopathy (photo by Dr. Al Jenny)
It’s not a laughing matter but a book review in the Times of Stanley B. Prusiner’s Madness and Memory: The Discovery of Prions--A New Biological Principle of Disease (“A Victory Lap for a Heretical Neurologist,” NYT, 5/19/14) about the discovery of prions and Creutzfeldt-Jakob brings up the problem of becoming involved in conversations with those whose brains have turned to mush. Communicating with someone who has the human form of Mad Cow is the neurological equivalent of knocking your head up against a brick wall. The same obviously hold true for Alzheimer’s which the review also alludes to in describing the substance of Dr. Prusiner’s book. The human mind, what’s left of it, at any given stage of life, is enormously inventive and it’s capable of projections and transferences which allow it to see an intelligence at work in a floating piece of shit. And so these conversations go on like the old knock knock jokes and the hope is that there’s someone at home, but in some cases there isn’t and a lot of time and energy has been wasted in the attempt to pass along vital information which is not being registered at all. In a lesser form this is happening all the time, since even the most valued correspondent, even the most admirably empathetic creature is undergoing their own version of Mad Cow, as consciousness withers away and dies, taking with it the repository of memory once lovingly and innocently entrusted to it.

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