I recently went through major surgery. It was laparoscopic surgery, and involved five fairly small incisions, so in that respect it was relatively low on the trauma scale. On the other hand, the robotic instruments that went in through those various incisions removed two feet of my large intestine, from the right lower up to the right transverse section. Now, the large intestine in its unmodified, factory original adult condition is about six feet long all told. Nevertheless, one can say with some fairness at this point that my colon is now a semi-colon. In any event, the surgery went quite well, I’ve been home for well over two weeks now, with no pain and very little soreness to report.
Nevertheless, there is an ever-present awareness that my body has been cut into. I would not describe it as “acute;” rather it is more like an amber-tinged, quietly lingering sense of shock. One of the aspects of this lingering sense is that it is neither sub- nor un- nor pre-conscious. (Some philosophers have argued that the first two, at least, don’t even exist, and that the appeal to them by various psychiatric and psychological doctors is an error. This is not a topic I will explore, however.) Rather, the experience is a fully conscious one. But it is a consciousness that is entirely felt; there are no words attached to it until after I focus my attention fully upon the experience and begin to verbalize it via secondary and tertiary processes with respect to the primary experience itself. I’m characterizing this consciousness as nonverbal rather than as preverbal, because the “pre” suggests an ordering with respect to other conscious modalities that I am inclined to reject. So after saying a few more words about my own experience here, I hope to leverage that data to illuminate various philosophical ideas, mostly from Whitehead (of course) but not exclusively. Along the way, I also offer the following as my own little testament against toxic masculinity and its attendant infantilism.