Forget questions like ”what is consciousness?” You will be asking what is “is?” just a moment before the remaining husk of your awareness plunges into the ether. Versed, that tranquilizing nectar, is so strong that you may as well not exist by the time the operation begins. The word tranquility must be related to tranquilization. After the needle was placed in the vein, a surge of heat-the capillaries filled with chemical, pupils dilating, a sweat on the brow, and then detachment. This tranquility is escape of samsara, the mind above the body, detachment in action and certainly detachment from the body. I was told they had to tape my eyes shut before they took a drill to my sinuses for endoscopic surgery. Surgeons must be used to patients falling asleep mid-sentence-eyes unblinking, seeing the tranquil, her blouse blowing like the feeble fabric of the mind in the wind.
I was anxious to have a minor sinus surgery. My first experience with a medical procedure was a removal of my baby canine teeth when I was in elementary school. I was immune to the painkillers. The interesting thing is how very differently the brain reacts to chemicals. That pain which caused a fear of the dentist so inspiring that I’ve yet to suffer from a cavity since. For my sinus surgery (what a way to spend Spring Break of my senior year) this pain was nowhere to be found. It is like waking from a nap after the medication begins to wear off. Time might as well not have passed and I even felt rested. Thinking that surgery could be relaxing would have been beyond me before. A steady diet of hydrocodone and Netflix was the prescription for the next week, as I was prohibited from physical activity to prevent the healing scars in my head from reopening. The show I chose to watch in my altered state was Westworld. Without ruining the plot, the show is about a future world where the mega rich vacation to a hyper realistic park of the wild, wild west, inhabited by androids who the mega rich interact with in a variety of HBO-appropriate ways. What this show is also about is an examination of what humanity and consciousness is. It asks the question, what is humanity if our technology had progressed to a level where we could not differentiate between human and artificial intelligence? This forced me to ask an existential question that we do not like to ask ourselves in the new west. The mind is signed away by waiver temporarily for a surgery, and a team of specialists, Godlike in their apprehension and ability to influence the mind. A release form for the release of the mind from the body. The question is this: what do we do knowing the human mind is so feeble? Like a car engine, fundamentally altered when the wrong oil or gasoline is applied. You don’t have to worry about waking up. Anesthesiologists monitor the heart to ensure that the brain is not aware of what is happening.
It’s hard to ask about these things, or talk about these subjects, without appearing to criticize western medicine or be accused of an existential crisis. In the new west, we like to say “what crisis?- you exist!” I wanted sinus surgery, and I certainly did not want to be aware of the pain in and of itself. I might be criticized for calling the human mind feeble, especially by the minds that can scientifically understand the processes, the cogs and gears of the mind. I am no “science guy” and I sure as heck do not understand any part of the brain in a rigorous way. I am thankful that we know how to alter the mind, but what do I do knowing that during surgery, my consciousness could have been separated by an entire reality from my body and brought back in under two hours. Should that change the way I think about my mind, my body?
Luckily, there is nothing quite as affirming as having cleared sinuses. It would be a lie to say that during some of my worse sinus infections I would have wanted my mind as far away from my body as possible. Knowing about versed will make me less nervous for future surgeries as well. I know that the Student Experience Blog might not be the best place to discuss whether or not we can chemically separate the body from the mind, but I’m guessing it's a little more appropriate than it would be for other people my age to honestly recall their Spring Break experiences. I’ll leave you with the comfort of knowing if you ever are put under for a surgery and you are worried about it, by the time the surgery is imminent, choosing to be nervous won’t be a choice. Choice will not exist at that point.
David Losinski is a senior political economy major from Idaho Falls, Idaho.