Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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A New Drug Allows Women to Be Pro-Choice on Periods

Do we know enough--physically or psychologically--to use this power to abolish the menstrual cyle for the real benefit of women? (Thanks again to Rob Jeffrey.)

Discussions - 69 Comments

This is a funny article to find referenced on this blog. Julie? Where's Julie?

Through my college years, I took my birth control pills steadily to avoid menstruation until it was convenient to me. If I were carrying a particularly heavy course load, I might wait all semester. The nuisance of the effect of hormonal change on my emotional and mental capabilities made it seem a sensible choice. I never planned on having children, expecting a career, not infants.

Despite my recklessness in that regard, my subsequent six children are healthy. A few years back there was a study proving clinically that taking birth control pills that way had no effect on reproductive health, to which I can attest. I can't speak of this drug, Lybrel, nor of abolishing menstruation for a year or more at a time. The bit about women bleeding eventually despite the pill suggests that nature will get its way, which is an idea that I find pleasing.

I admit that it's relatively creepy for me to pontificate about this, but modern science is all about liberating us. And this could be viewed as big-time women's liberation: No longer, conceivably, will women be stuck with a burden not shared by men. (The alternative would be the development of a pill that would produce menstruating men.)

Kate, you don't think lengthy absence of menstruation implicates the self-understanding or self-consciousness of woman as woman? Or is just having to take the pill enough? Isn't a major difference between man and woman that woman knows tacitly she is not autonomous? Doesn't this have to do with the motions of her body? Sorry to be somewhat creepy like Peter.

No, it is not creepy. Certainly women are as puzzled and fascinated by men as the other way around.

I tried to imply without getting into it that my choice to avoid the complications of the motions of my body was caused because I was in a competitive situation: the classroom. I could not AFFORD to be effected, or maybe "affected" even works here, as a woman's hormones so move her emotions. My hormonal disruptions, as I thought of them then, well, as I still think of them if comes to subjective thought, were a detriment in that situation.

A woman, not competing with men, would have the luxury of indulging her body in natural processes. Those painful menstrual periods those women spoke of in the article could be dealt with by analgesia if they were in a position to be socially and financially protected by a man. The housewife might even be able to take to her bed. When I was a "kept woman" I did not need to exert such controls on my body.

When life demands going to work, going to school, avoiding pregnancy and other detriments to career, such debilitations go beyond pain and inconvenience. Most women know exactly what their limitations are in coping with what would once have been called "the world of men." Today, a woman MUST be autonomous. It is the increasingly rare and certainly blessed woman who is not. The pill and other forms of birth control facilitate a woman's autonomy, but are not infallible, as the incidence of abortion proves. Yet it is the major thing, avoiding pregnancy, which allows women to be more like men in the area of reproduction. Subverting the body in this matter, which for most women is a symptom of being female and not a defining point, is a convenience and for some women considerably afflicted, maybe a little more.

What's so creepy about commenting on the use of science to abolish our natures all for the matter of modern "convenience" even if discussing another sex? How many doctors tell their patients that birth-control pills act as abortificients without them even knowing it? Is all this leading to liberation of the human person or its enslavement to technology? Are female bodies supposed to be in harmony with nature or at war with it, assisted by science?

Ok it's not creepy. Then I'll say with Kate that the real subtext is to "free" women to be more like men and to free men from the burden of worrying about women and their particular problems.

On "harmony with nature": the same, I guess, would be true about aspirin,since pain is natural.

What is creepy is clicking through to a thread and seeing that the people there already know I'm going to click through to it! Am I that predictable?

Peter, you, on the other hand, are caught me entirely off guard with this post! You really do cover it all, don't you? And I love your suggestion that we should develop a pill for men that makes them get periods! That reminds me of an article I read in college about "sympathy pregnancies" and men walking around with those fake bellies to empathize with what their wives were going through. What is wrong with people?!

As for me, I like having something beyond my total control on which to blame my bad moods. What woman worth her salt hasn't used this old chestnut to her advantage? It's a useful weapon in the arsenal that ought not, it seems to me, to be abandoned. Just as people should not become slaves to their physical nature, so people should not always seek to deny their physical nature or make it irrelevant. Instead, why not use reason to make our physical natures work toward higher (i.e., more natural) purposes. That is to say, teleologically? It's harder and it's more rewarding in the end--just as art that glorifies and brings out nature is better than art that defies it. Sometimes, indeed, such art is even more beautiful than nature itself . . .(at least I've never seen a better looking real man than Michaelangelo's David.)

That is why I have always thought the Catholic prohibition on the pill to be good common sense--apart from the morality of the thing. There may be cases where it is necessary (without getting too graphic, I have known of situations where people have had to take it in order to preserve their fertility--i.e., stop too frequent menstruation and the emptying out of their egg supply) but the changes that the pill works on the body should be more worrisome to people than they seem to be. I have never had a gynecologist who did not try to push the pill on me--even after I told them I was Catholic. I think the ideology of the pill is more dogmatic and in denial than anything Catholics can be accused of. It's a hormone, after all and we all know (or perhaps, remember) that those can be powerful things. The science is imprecise, at best, when it tells us what it is doing to us--both physically and mentally. And it changes all the time . . . think only of the recommendations regarding HRT! Also, I know that the pill Kate talked about above was a much stronger brand than the kind they prescribe today. Why? Because they found problems with the health and well-being of women who took it for a long time. But they can't/won't discuss those problems as openly as they should because to do so would be to cross the women's movement.

And I have to say I am mystified by Kate's claim that she needed the pill to get through what she saw as the masculine demands of college. I didn't find anything about college (or grad school for that matter) to be particularly masculine or beyond my feminine powers of coping. Indeed, there is something particularly feminine (as Aristotle notes) about the intellectual life. I suppose I coped with school in ways that differed from some of my male counterparts, but there's more than one way to skin a cat--as they say. I actually think (perhaps oddly) that coping with the demands of children and motherhood is more difficult and, uniquely so, for women with our natures/emotions. And yet, it must be so. Another long story . . . But great, if unexpected, thread!

Thanks, Kate.

if this pill does not also eliminate PMS then why bother.

Men might find this more of a relief then women.

"I'm so bloated and crampy"

pete, that's the point. It DOES eliminate PMS, or at least postpones it for a long as the pill is working properly. All I've got to go on is this article, but apparently the point would be to prevent ovulation for months at a time as menstruation is triggered when ovulation has occurred, but there is no implantation. This is Tony's point about birth control pills being potential abortifacients. If the aim of this drug is to prevent the negative symptoms of the menstrual cycle, it must also prevent ovulation. That is not absolute, as is evident in the last paragraphs of the article.

Robert, you are welcome. I am sorry that you only get my point of view, as other women may well see all of this differently. Maybe another woman will turn up and refute me.

And she did! Julie, we must have been writing at the same time. I was CALLING for you, in that first post and you must heard me.

Not being Catholic, or anything else in a religious way back then, I was on birth control to prevent pregnancy because of my morally wayward lifestyle. That I could use those pills to avoid my hormonal fluctuations was a side benefit as far as I was concerned. Do not be mystified, but consider, Julie, you are probably much sharper than I am. In the early 70's, at Columbia, I needed all of my wits about me to do well. To get weepy during final exams was NOT to my advantage.

Or perhaps college subsequently is softer than it was then, with the increasing predominance of women. I can agree that it was physically easier than being in a more labor-intensive job, as when I ran an off-set printer one year, or when I worked in a cannery. Was Aristotle comparing his feminine intellectual life with farming?

I really wasn't just writing about my personal problems with coping at college, but also about women in the workforce competing with men. I have always wondered how Margaret Thatcher, or Condoleeza Rice managed themselves when they had PMS. Did an aspirin or two do the trick?

What's creepy, to me, is this development itself, the matter-of-factness of this little finishing touch on the emancipation of women from womanhood, this elegant little nail in the coffin of natural sexual difference. It illustrates our complete prostration before technology-driven "progress" of liberation from nature... but for what? to what end?

And do we really know what we're doing? Just on a purely biological level, are we that sure we know how a human being, a whole human being, male or female, works? Setting aside the question of abolishing menstruation, have you not noticed how we keep adding pills to treat one symptom or another, and then another, and then another for the side effects of the previous, etc? -- but aren't we still guessing about how the whole being (again, even as a biological entity) really works? Technology decomposes us into so many parts to be treated by so many specialists. Do we really know enough about the good -- or let's just say, the proper functioning -- of the whole to be suppressing effects that we find inconvenient. I'm just guessing, but I'm guessing we don't know as much as we pretend to know.

Ralph, I think you nailed it. What I was trying to get at--in my clumsy way--is that no one ever seems to ask, "What's wrong with having mood swings?" Are we sure that we should control them in this way? Life will become (and pardon my choice of words in this context) just a bit too sanitized if the impulse to control everything inconvenient or unpleasant is not checked. The irony is, that in the end, there is nothing more unpleasant than a perfectly sanitized life.

Kate, I meant nothing personal by saying that I was mystified. I actually am mystified. Which probably indicates that I AM NOT sharper than you--though, perhaps, I am luckier. I guess I never suffered from the kind of debilitating symptoms you described. I've never felt compelled to take to bed or even to take an Advil. And I've certainly never felt that menstruation interfered with how my brain worked . . . though perhaps, it has affected my temper. Still that's really hard to say . . . isn't it? I know women who claim to know exactly how PMS controls their moods, etc., but I've always been skeptical because I have no such knowledge of myself. I fail to understand how these women have developed it. But having no alternative, I guess I have to take their word for it. I've always been too bored or too busy to take note of these kinds of things . . . but I suppose I've never felt awful enough to be compelled to note them. Instead, I usually chalk up my own mood swings to a failure to control myself--whatever the initial irritant. Maybe I'm lucky, but I have always viewed this whole business as more of a nuisance--like hay fever--than an oppressive condition. The biggest bother of it, to me, is the necessity of having to carry a purse!

As for the dumbing down of college . . . though you are probably right that, overall, college has been dumbed down since you attended . . . I don't think that adequately explains my mystification. Remember that I studied politics, at Ashland, after all. That was no Mickey Mouse program--even in those ancient times. And in graduate school I was usually the only woman in most of my upper division classes.

Finally, re: Aristotle and farming v. intellectual life, women, etc. Remember that the lives of most women in his time had no more leisure than the lives of most men. Though the leisurely life of a woman can (in almost all practical cases) be more leisurely than that of a man. So, a woman of leisure can develop a very fine mind--and one that is very often better than that of most men. In the end, however, when it comes to the life of the mind and men are given the advantage of true leisure, I think men have the advantage. They can be more abstract because they are less distracted by the demands of the body (as discussed here) and by the demands of the heart (or is it oxytocin?). But in its pure or exaggerated form, this can make them tyrants. So even if some few men can excel to intellectual heights most women can't imagine, it is rare and--in many cases--it can be monstrous. But I'm on a different subject altogether now.

Ralph, yes, but... I give you louie's point. Pain has a purpose, but do we really feel that we have to put up with it because it is natural? When has man ever been content with pain and embraced it, not seeking to avoid it? Pain avoidance is natural to man.

Drinking this morning's cup of coffee is the result of a set of unnatural processes, because that is what man does, transform nature to suit himself.

Of course we do not really know what we are really doing with our bodies. We do not really know what we are doing with the earth, we do not really know what we are doing when we say "Good morning" to one another, nor the effect of what we step on when we walk about and spread about on our shoes wherever we go. But medically, cause and effect are observed because we do take some care of what we do with our bodies. We know quite a bit about how the body works, but no, we do not know everything.

In my first response above, I tell how I abused my hormones in this way, only for a couple of years, but in complete ignorance and disregard for what I might be doing to myself. Maybe it was only by the grace of God that I was still able to have healthy children. But I did, and no more miscarriages than than any other woman I know who was multiparous. Anyway, I do NOT know why I am going on about this. One of my first acts after understanding that God was real was to flush my b.c. pills and antidepressants.

Julie, maybe for some of us hormones are more powerful than for others. Yes, I agree that controlling mood swings, for whatever cause, is a simple human responsibility. I do not blame any woman for getting whatever help they can with that, even as I do not blame any depressive for taking chemical help, if he finds it helps.

At Columbia I was studying Art History, for goodness' sake. They probably took me because I was transfer student from Oregon and they were big on regional representation at the time. I was in retreat from politics and all serious things. What I understood of politics at the time made less and less sense to me as I learned more and more of the way the world worked. My response was to retreat into art and beauty. My love of study and desire to make a career of that compelled me to work very hard. Another long story, I suppose. But I have been reading you here for more than a year; you are much sharper than I.

Did Aristotle, any more than most men, take the hard work of a woman's life to BE hard?

Your last paragraph is very good, but we have been tending to wander from the main topic, so I won't address it here. It reminds me that my copy of Unprotected is waiting for me, and I have the leisure to read it today.

To be sure, Kate, and Louie, there is nothing simple, or clear and distinct, about following "nature." My point is not even that nature can be a complete and adequate guide. We have an obvious, natural, interest in avoiding suffering. But what happens when we make this avoidance the leading principle, almost the sole principle, in organizing our lives, individually and collectively? I submit that we have reached a point where, if we do not find a way publicly to articulate some source of meaning, some common (dare I say authoritative)understanding of human fulfillment irreducible to the relief of physical pain or discomfort, then we are lost -- then we continue to deploy our seemingly unlimited technological power to the relentless erosion of our humanity.
A beautiful, extraordinary text on this subject is Flannery O'Connor's "Memoir for Maryann."

Any heart-to-heart between Ralph and Kate can't help but move us all, and in a classier world it would be easy to get your show syndicated. I'm traveling today and have only a minute,
but I will echo read O'Connor, beginning with the Memoir for Mary Ann.

Peter, you forgot louie.

We do not make avoidance of pain, suffering or even inconvenience the point of our lives. We are happy to set that all aside to direct thought and energy to other things. Well, no. As I think about that, especially thinking about my students, that is not always or even usually true. I do not really disagree with your main point there. However, hasn't it always been the case that for much of humanity, the physical WAS the center of life? That for most people there is no real "point" and that they are more inclined to discontent than to fulfillment is a different, larger and sadder issue. I am not sure that denying ourselves relief from physical pain and discomfort or the benefits of technology is the answer.

The required reading list for this blog is just staggering. I am supposed to be reading about the Civil War right now and find myself lost in endless detours. It is a rich delight for the undisciplined, barely focused autodidact, but will play merry hell with my summer. I will make time for "Memoir" which I may have read but do not remember by the title.

Kate, what Ralph and Peter are warning about is the therapeutic state. The physical is much more the center of life today than before, compared say to medieval times, though the body is valued less at the same time. I think you would love Walker Percy's "The Thanatos Syndrome." I'd recommend it before Mary Ann, cause I like Percy better, though Mary Ann is short and sweet. It's in a collection of O'Connor's called "Mystery and Manners," though it may also be online. Blessings.

On the dangers of the therapeutic state, we could also read the Unbomber's manifesto.

There still is the question: why does this intervention seem more disturbing than, say, taking an aspirin or undergoing anesthesia. After all, we don't really understand how either of those work.

Is it because this intervention seems to go to fundamental differences between the sexes? If so, should we also favor pulling drugs that combat male pattern baldness?

This "louie" is a trouble-maker.

Robert, I hated Percy's Thanatos Syndrome and avoided him for all of these years as a result. I have only picked him up again on Peter Lawler's recommendation. The O'Connor piece is not online. I looked.

I am also looking at articles on the "therapeutic state". My previous assumption when reading that term was that it referred to something like Huxley's Brave New World and I find that sometimes it does and sometimes it does not, being a more broad implication of culture and not always so much about government coercion. Still, I understand the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but have never been able to see how the bad might necessarily lead to Heaven.

Which reminds me of a story. The pastor's wife met a woman who worked for the county Department for Human Services. This Mennonite lady thought it would be nice if some of the many young, mostly single mothers she was helping could get advice and encouragement from older, more experienced, (and Christian) mothers with stable families. The pastor's wife enlisted some of us who she considered successful mothers and we would go in once a month and sit around over coffee and bagels talking (and laughing) about our children and child-rearing. We would take turns watching the kids in a nursery and my home schooled boys took a hand there.

The thing started well, but became popular enough that this woman's superior noticed and took it over. She brought in "experts" to lecture and we volunteers found ourselves being told how wrong we were in our child-rearing or being taught New-Age relaxation techniques; it became a real waste of time. Some of us stuck with it, because we had genuinely become attached to some of the young mothers who had really tough lives.

Eventually, we were asked to attend a series of meetings as to how to better help these poor young mothers. We patiently put up with a lot of nonsense, until a staffer from Family Services told us the real purpose of our re-education. They wanted us to befriend these young women, get in their homes and report back to the county with our observations. Unless someone reported them, the county could do nothing for them. We ladies looked at each other in some alarm. As this authoritative man explained, "All families are dysfunctional. We need to get into these homes and see where they are dysfunctional so we can help them." I asked why we would be of any use, if all families were dysfunctional, our families might be presumed to be dysfunctional, too. He blithely said, "Oh, someday we will get the law changed and be able to go into any home and fix every family. Until then, we can only go into homes where abuse is suspected and reported." I had to ask; if all families are dysfunctional, then isn't dysfunction normal. If is normal, why does it have to be investigated and governmentally regulated? He laughed and said that normal was not necessarily good. Families were too important to be left to themselves.

At the next coffee break, we took a brief consultation, and left.

Louie, if I were Queen I would favor pulling those male pattern baldness pills for sure. I rather like bald men (ask my husband) and I tend to lack respect for men who worry enough about their hair to take such extreme measures. Besides . . . the side effects are rather ironic, aren't they? They add poetic justice to strengthen my point above that the perfectly sanitized or managed life is, in the end, perfectly unpleasant.

But on a more serious note: doesn't the common sense of the matter suggest that headaches, pain from surgery or battle wounds, pregnancy prevention and baldness are all very different things. While having in common their origins in the physical nature of man, lumping them together into a simple discussion of technology v. nature might be a bit myopic.

Kate, I think Aristotle understood women very well. I don't remember if he addressed your point exactly . . . but I think you might find his general attitude surprising. Add his Ethics and his Politics to your summer reading list--along with this wonderful and helpful guide from Mary Nichols. Sorry to burden you with more reading . . . but you asked for it!

Julie, I do ask for it. And I thank you.

However, I think pregnancy prevention can be a very good thing and is not the same as male pattern baldness. Some women (me, when I was young and you cannot believe how foolish) ought not be having children. It is within the nature of their foolishness that they are likely to be bad mothers.

I cannot imagine a perfectly sanitized or well-managed life. There are always problems, other people's wants and needs, side effects, tsunamis, bugs, dirt, something. Someone does something unexpected and all is in disarray. I just do not think that it is possible, having a managed life. Earth, life, flesh, God are always there to pull back.

Kate, that is a powerful and chilling story. It would fit in some dystopian novel. Since experts cannot allow themselves to reflect on the human good, the effectual truth of their ministry is the emancipation from traditional "normalcy" (=enslavement to technique/technology).
Meanwhile, allow me to opine that, while Percy is a most thoughtful and interesting author, O'Connor is in another class entirely by her exquisite literary art and her unique, profound religious vision. The "MaryAnn" I found in her Collected Writings at Library of America, though it must be in some other collections, too. It is only a few pages long. Email me if you want me to send you a copy.

Greetings from the very pretentious Westin Pasadena, where all the women, I predict, will be taking the new pill. Yes, I did forget that troublmaker louie, who's most recent point is very challenging. Our whole high-tech society is based on conveniences, drugs, etc. that we don't much at all about how they work.

Kate, I agree w Ralph on your story, but don't have the ability to say anything right now. And I'll send you the MLib edition of Flannery O'Connor if you email me your address.

Kate, Sorry to have misread you so, and so confidently too! Peter is no doubt right about his temporary abode, perhaps fitting for discussing Bacon and Descartes. We need to all get together over bourbon....

Ralph, I do like O'Connor, but she is a relatively recent find for me and I haven't read all of her stories, yet. "Revelation" is a favorite. The problem with reading her stories is that I have to take time to think about them before moving on to something else.

re #26: Experts tend to have their own ideas about human good and since they are experts, who can argue?

I have emailed Ralph. Aristotle is downstairs on a shelf, but O'Connor is not. Thank you for your offer, Peter, but you are in prestigious, pill-popping Pasadena.

Robert, I like bourbon. I have a question about your #21 because I wonder if people really are all that different from one era to the next. Maybe the prosperity of our current world brings ordinary, mundane preoccupations of men to the public eye. What we have of the past is from the literate, who might have not have been the clearest expression of their contemporaries, but something else again. Still, wouldn't any person from the past have rejoiced at ease from pain? And isn't the preoccupation with health and the care of the body analogous to earlier superstitions and isn't that just how people are?

Well, people aren't different essentially, but different parts of the soul come to the fore in different epochs, or political regimes as we say. You are right as rain in noting that "the prosperity of our current world brings ordinary mundane preoccupations of men" to the forefront. But aristocracy takes a more haughty and proud view of such things, thinks human beings are more important than that, looks up rather than down, disdains being overly concerned with necessary things. At the same time, they are more realistic about the mystery of things, less confident we can master the body or nature. A funny account of what I'm trying to say can be found in passages from Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee--say when the Yankee goes out with Sandy dressed in armor--or more prosaically and profoundly in Tocqueville's Democracy (Vol II, Part 2). You are also right that religion always was connected to the fate of the body, but only in modernity do we fancy we can master it with scientific expertise. Tocqueville thought that democratic despotism would be the rule of therapeutic experts, over a post-human herd that had lost an image of human greatness. Human greatness seems to depend on the virtue of courage, which at bottom is the ordering of the low to the high, the willingness to face death and to endure suffering for the sake of the real life (which you so eloquently describe in #29). Note also that the religion of humanitarianism teaches us to hate suffering more than anything else, while our religion teaches we should suffer with Christ. Let me say however that your lifely realism is womanly in the best sense. I am glad you like bourbon. i was worried after the Percy suggestion.... You know he was also a bourbon fancier and has a marvelous essay on the subject. Do you still teach Art History?

Well, whatever should occur, Mr. Lawler, it ought to be a group of men who make the decision as to what women will and will not be able to do! If they decide that our menstrual periods are compulsory, then it shall be so. It's really rather amusing to consider just how selective your skepticism of concern for others' well-being likely is, how questions of "do we know enough - physically or psychologically" fade into the ether when, say, bombs will be utilized or torture performed. Amusing, but still sad.

Isn't it funny how new poster names just POP UP to make certain caustic comments. Almost well-known to us decide to manufacture a veritable army of non-conservative supporters.

I'll bet if we google the name "Teresa Roleski" it will be utterly prior references in Google. In short, it's a made-up name.

Nice try, Scanman, but we are onto your dumb tricks.

Robert, you give me a lot to work on. I will touch on the point about our religion and suffering with Christ, because it is something I have been thinking about through this whole thread. The Christ suffered physically because of what other people did to him. His suffering was not a matter of daily fleshly ills, as far as we can read, so I do not know that we are expected to suffer in those, but rather to be expected to suffer for goodness' sake and for faith. Consider what He did on Earth; miracles of healing were a speciality.

Which is, I suppose, the precedent for doctors to think themselves god-like.

The Twain: you are speaking to the incident with the enchanted hogs? The whole book could be a question as to what IS high and that technology might not be the summit. As to Tocqueville, if I take the job offer from the high school where I used to teach, I will certainly use that chapter in my selections from that book. I used other chapters, when I taught there years ago, but this speaks to a problem in Christian schools, which I suppose I'd better not get into as it will take a long time to explain and is not pertinent here.

Percy: I did not hate the theme in Thanatos Syndrome, I could not stand to read the story. I will look for the bourbon essay, but confess it will not be on the top of my reading list for some time.

I have only been working outside of the home for a few years. My only chance to teach Art History comes when one of the teachers from the small high school I mentioned above asks me to come in and do a presentation on some particular historical epoch. A 45 minute period, hit the high points (To your point, really: what is the aspect of the soul that is to the fore.) and talk really fast, showing images through my laptop and a projector. Surprisingly, the student response is always very good.

Kate: If you have time, send me an email about your thoughts on the problems with Christian schools. My kids attend one, as you know, and I will certainly find whatever you have to say on the subject useful.

Re: Christ's suffering. I am way out of my area on this but I can't help commenting: I am skeptical about your suggestion, Kate, that Christ suffered only because of what was done to him rather than from the ordinary burdens of the physical body . . . unless you mean to suggest that the only reason he ever had to endure a human existence is because of our sins. In order for Christ to fully redeem humanity, I always understood that Christ had to become fully human while at the same time remaining fully divine--one of those mysteries we cannot really grasp. If true, this would seem to imply that he suffered all the ordinary pains of human existence, e.g., hunger, thirst, discomfort, etc. Indeed, we know that on the cross he cried out, "I thirst." Certainly, if he did "thirst" it would have been in the ordinary sense--and not as a metaphor for a longing to be closer to God or for more wisdom--as it often is in our case.

I don't think Christ or Nature's God demands that we suffer unnecessarily if we can help it, but it is thoughtless to never question the limits of our powers in this regard. It is no doubt true that at some point, pain and suffering interferes unnecessarily with our higher purpose--whether you believe that purpose to be about becoming more fully rational or to be a coming closer to God. At some point, it must also be true that the alleviation of suffering interferes with that same purpose. Sometimes pain and suffering teach us things, as we learn from our mistakes. I would never claim to know, as a matter of certainty, where that point is in every case. But I'd say finding that point should be our guiding question in coming to the best possible earthly solution in these matters.

Finally, you said:However, I think pregnancy prevention can be a very good thing and is not the same as male pattern baldness, in your last post to me. I think, perhaps, you misunderstood what I said to prompt that. My point--without passing any judgment about whether preventing pregnancy was beneficial--was precisely what you said. They are not the same; not even in the same league. Not even the same sport! (And that's for sure!) I only meant that using the one to draw logical conclusions from the other is misleading if the huge distinctions between them are not kept in mind.

And finally, someday, if we can arrange it--we should all get together for a bourbon (or four). We should have an NLT conference in Ashland someday. I will suggest it.

a quick good morning and an acknowledgment that the thanatos syndrome is not necessary a great novel, just great philosophy...begin with the last gentleman, kate...and to the real or fake teresa, i too will worry on the day women actually start listening to me.

Peter, I began with Lost in the Cosmos and have continued. The Last Gentleman can be next, but he will have to wait his turn. Sorry, Peter, I listened. Worry.

Robert, on the low and the high: (It is a busy day, I was interrupted and only just remembered that) I wanted to connect Shakespeare to the idea. He manages to place characters of both high and low in their proper places in his plays. Earthy things and higher things are presented or considered. That is one reason we love Shakespeare so much.

Enchanted pigs! A scream, but I was thinking more of the trouble Hank had dealing with the little irritants like sweat inside his armor and bugs crawling over him at night. Think also of maybe my favorite chapter, "The Small Pox Hut," wherein the King proves his courage to the Yankee--choosing to succor the dying rather than cower before a bacterium.

The greatest miracle and healing is the resurrection of the body and the mending of the psyche, and then their reunion, which is prefigured in the miracles you mention. We must all pass through death however. I think we agree that there is nothing at all bad about docs, even modern docs, as long as the scientists don't dream of making us "better than well" or reconfiguring our sexuality (men menstruating?!). At any rate, the chief point about suffering is that IT is not the worst thing for us men. God sort of sanctified it. The real question then, as Machiavelli saw, is whether that makes us weaker or stronger.

I understand now your feelings about Thanatos, as Peter anticipated. You might enjoy better the interviews with Percy, esp "More Conversations with Walker Percy," or some of the essays in "Signposts in a Strange Land," including some good stuff on religion. Well, you're teaching your children. Mine, the one I taught, is going off to college this Fall....

Julie, that is why I said, "as far as we can read". I really meant in terms of being ill. We never read of his having so much as a cold, though yes, you are quite correct, he did suffer those other very unpleasant things, and got quite a stunningly difficult batch of misery at the end.

I am needed elsewhere and hope I can respond more fully later today.

I agree with Julie's Christology; Jesus would have had itches to scratch with Hank, and I can imagine him with a cold. After all, Jesus wept, and anticipated his bodily suffering ("let this cup...."). Yes on Shakespeare.

Mine, the one I taught, is going off to college this Fall....

Can that be the enchanting little girl I remember hanging out at APSA some years ago? But upon reflection, the math adds up . . . My, how fast the years pass . . . ! I think what frightens us about these kinds of realizations is the recognition of how much the kids change and grow in this span of time in comparison to how little we do!

dain: What's your deal, anyway? I might not be "famous" on Google. So what? Are you some kind of cyber-stalker or something? Creepy. Yeah, that was my first comment here at this crazy blog. So what? Were you born with pre-earned experience as a commenter on this blog? What exactly is someone supposed to learn by Googling "dain" or even "Kate" or lots of other names? And why should anyone bother doing so? Is that what you do in your free time? I shouldn't have bothered to dignify your totally insubstantial comment to begin with, so I'll end here.

Yes Julie, it's her. If she has her way, she'll soon be hanging out at some APSA's on her own.

I think my own daughter is probably about the age your daughter was then . . . will it really pass me by that quickly? Well, I wish her well in college and at future APSA gatherings!

See you later, "Teresa." Have fun with "Craig," "Sonny" and the boys.

Julie, time spends faster than money and unlike money, you never get more of it. You blink and the kid is getting married, although day-to-day it seems like forever till they are cogent beings.

Pain and suffering do teach us things we can never learn in other ways. But there is something "creepy" and wrong about seeking pain and suffering. Those who know real pain, the Mary Ann in the O'Connor piece that Ralph so kindly sent me this morning, or my daughter-in-law who has been sick all her life, set those painful things aside for joy. Joy comes in spite of, not because of, pain and suffering. The contrast between the two, suffering and joy, makes the ability to enjoy joy the brighter. I positively love a good laugh because I have known depression (Apparently an inherited inclination, not some spiritual malaise. Though God is the light in that tunnel, for me.) I love laughter the way I loved morphine when I shattered an arm. Ease from pain is sweet. I would never withhold that from anyone, surcease from pain, if I knew a way to give it. Nor can I condemn those who seek relief. I know what you mean about looking to our own powers and seek God and laughter in depression and do not take drugs, preferring reality. Yet I can't see crucifying anyone on the cross of my conviction in that.

Teresa Roleski, if you are still reading; I think you need to read more of Mr. Lawler before you jump to hasty conclusions about his thought.

It was good of you to comment. As you will have noticed, not many women do comment here. I have found this to be a very congenial spot to discuss and debate, though I do not know how I escaped being labeled "troll" when I began writing merely under my first name. Many people did when I started here, and the name just comes up in the box and I click it without thinking.

I do not know any woman who says, "I bleed, therefore I am (woman)," at least beyond the first event. In #4, I called menstruation a symptom of being a woman and not a defining event. It doesn't sound as if you would disagree.

Kate, I seriously doubt "Teresa" is the real deal. But it does bring up a question: Where do women tend to blog in a political vein? And if they don't, why not?

Kate, not many women may say that, and yet it does indeed seem to be bound with womanhood and reproduction and the natural order in the same way that men have all their parts in order. I don't see it as a "symptom" but rather the wondrous beauty of the harmony and rhythms of the natural order (not if the pain itself is beautiful). It is part of the creative power of women (and men) that allow them to participate in the creative power of God. Also, while Christians don't seek pain and suffering (that would be masochistic), their symbol is the Cross and thus they have a very unique understanding of pain and its redemptive quality.

Mr. Lawler: Well, if you would be instructing women that they must have their periods, then I too worry for the day when women listen to you.

Kate: Mr. Lawler's post gave me the distinct impression that the whole issue was something that men would need to determine if they would permit women to do it. In other words, what any woman may or may not want is irrelevant. Women are simply subjects to monitor and direct.

Dain: I KNOW you aren't the real deal. You're just "dain," whatever that means! To prove you're the real deal, why don't you give us your full, real name? That way we can Google you to find out how wildly brilliant and successful you are. One creepy fellow!

My Bible says that women must bleed. That's because Eve made Adam eat the apple. The Lord said that women should obey their husbands or they get beat, in accordance with nature and nature's God. Also, people don't come from monkeys, that's just a bunch of atheist hooey.

Robert, for Twain insects just must have been the worst, the vilest of creatures. He never has anything good to say about them at all. And yes, the imagined discomforts of armor-- it was as well Hank never took to hair-shirts. That book was the favorite of my girlhood. I still love it.

God sort of sanctified it., suffering, yes, I suppose you are right. Yet the sanctification comes with Jesus taking it, the sins and suffering of the world on himself as the Christ, sacrificed. He took it on, relieving us, and to refuse that gift seems beyond rude. I know we say science does this or that for us, but if God makes the men who make the medical wonders, then we can still be grateful to Him for those gracious gifts, too.

But scientists remaking us in abnormal ways, that is freakish.

Some people are stronger with suffering, but some people are certainly weaker for it. I have spent too much time visiting in hospitals and seeing different people there not to know that different people receive pain and suffering differently.

I am down to one child at home, my only daughter. I hope I survive the experience. Some people speak of their sweet little girls, and by Julie's description, you had one of those. Is the your first one going off to college? No one ever tells you that sending a child off, especially the first, is one of the hardest things in the world to do. You want it, mind, and are happy about it in your mind, but there is something that comes crashing in your heart. We dropped the oldest one off and cried all the way home.

Tony, I loved reproduction. Well, pregnancy was full of trials, and labor ranged from three days in a home birth to eight hours at the last - no joy there - but the babies were worth the whole mess. And yes, this is tied to that, but it really is not the best part. Also, for woman looking to procreate, it is the sign of failure.

I think pain sought is not particularly redemptive. I heard today of a young girl who is cutting herself and I see no redemption in that sort of suffering. But redemptive pain as you speak of it, maybe I address that above in #53.

Theresa, I think Mr. Lawler speaks of man in the generic sense - mankind. Do we (all) know enough to alter this natural state of women?

If the state told you MUST do this, take this drug, for the greater good, would you do it? Even if not that, but if taking this drug left you unable to have children later, or inclined you to difficult multiple births, or had some other problematic side effect, would you take it? If women in America stopped having children, as a side effect of this drug or others like it, would the benefits outweigh that? I think these are some of the the concerns, not some paternalistic drive for dominance.


I couldn't help note your crying on at leaving off your first at school. Seeing my dad do that when he left me off in Washington D.C. for a summer internship was one of the transforming moments of my life. Up until that moment I was caught up in the excitement of being independent and "grown up" and wrapped up in "me." After that moment, I realized what a giant pain in the keister I had been/was (probably still am). And yet, he loved me. I expected Mom's tears, but Dad's cut to the quick. I was changed--if only a little--after that. And I have tried, mightily, since not to speak with disrespect to my Dad. Not always with success but I try. I hope that happens with my two some day.

Julie, then maybe we should have let our son see our tears. We put on brave and happy faces to keep the kid buoyed up in the bubble of excitement you describe. The car doors closed, we drove around the corner, turned to each other at the red light and saw the damp reality in one another's faces. It was a long, wet ride home.

Dear Kate, she is my only one. But she is so wonderful. She is off to Dallas soon, but tomorrow morning is making scones and cream and tea for us, for all the British and American (and Anzacs too) soldiers who didn't come home for tea in this last god-forsaken century. I am reading Conrad Black's biography of Franklin Roosevelt, and though he did not have the greatest character when young, he was one of those who handled suffering with aplomb, stronger and better with suffering. You are wonderful with whom to talk.

Actually, Teresa McTroll, I am a fairly successful person. I'm sure you'd be surprised...which is why I won't use my real name. I'd like to remain successful. I've explained all this before, and since you are one of these trolls that orbit NLT like an Oort Cloud of negativity, waiting to swoop in like some sniper comet, you've read all this before.

Kate, again, where do all the women blog? Anywhere?

Honestly, dain, I do not know. Joe Knippenberg pointed us to the Faithful Democrats site and there were many women blogging there about politics. I wrote some there, but nothing "affirming" and was either attacked for that, or for my political stand; I had a lot of nerve to be a Republican. They would write some things that I found illogical and even loony: "I wear a cross pendant to Democratic Party meetings, thereby boldly declaring my faith. But I am very careful not to say anything, so as not to offend." Oh, my.

Do I have to go look for where all the women blog about politics? I don't care. I thought I was all right here, and have appreciated the gallantry of men on this site. I was a little shocked that you attacked Teresa. One of the reasons I would avoid the blog sites where women write in a political vein is to avoid the type of emotion I find there. It is easier for me to ignore the angry masculine emotion I sometimes read here. I am happy to ignore it. Really, dain if you think someone is a troll, wouldn't it make more sense to ignore said person than to make a fuss?

This person is a troll, and I simply wanted fellow posters to know that. You are free, of course, to doubt me on that...but I do have a very finely-calibrated Trollometer. From "her" posts, it's clear "she" has some knowledge of the blog...clearly problems with the "war on terror," but only now "she" is posting? Color me skeptical.

Oh dain, I'm sure you're a legend in your own mind! But while we're at it, let me just note that I'm a bit more successful than you are. Following your silly approach, the claim must make it so! Also, while I know I'm stating the obvious here, you do flatter yourself in thinking that one would need much time to figure out the gist of this blog. I pretty much got the picture in under an hour. For instance, you're the resident blowhard and self-anointed Expert on Every Subject.

Dain . . . as always, your advice is just ever so helpful for us fretful little women who need your big strong manly advice to protect us from all those dangerous and frightful trolls out there perched upon the bridge of our virtue and intellectual purity. Thanks ever so much for your gallant service on behalf of our cause . . . sheesh! For my part, I do hope the successful Ms. Roleski will remain long enough to see whether she is correct in her assertion that it doesn't take long to figure out what we're all about here. I'm still working on that one . . .

Well, all I can is that a thread on periods resulted in over 63 comments is rather astounding ... now, I need to go back and actually read the comments and the progession of thought and arguments.

Kate: No offense, but your tears would not have made much of an impression (if your family is anything like mine). Dad's impressed me because of their rarity. I had never seen them before and since then, only once (at his own father's funeral). Thus, I know they mean a great deal. My mom, like me, can be set off by a Hallmark commercial. That's why, by the way, I think there is this call these days for men's tears. People rightly sense that it means something important. But it will cease to mean anything if men start crying like George Voinovich.

Julie, my husband is more likely to cry than I am. There are just some things that can make him very tender, though I have never seen him weep at Hallmark commercials. Serious things can move him. People who do not know him well are very touched when he tears up at public events.

I am actually more likely to tear up when laughing than when grieving and can be reduced to helpless, heaving tears by a funny story well-told. There have been exceptions, hormonally induced, which I find very awkward. Watch out for menopause, is all I can say.

Well there are exceptions to every rule . . . still, moms are supposed to cry over their kids. I, on the other hand, cry when I'm happy, cry when I'm sad, cry when I laugh and when touched and when mad! Menopause will surely do me in! The post-partum period nearly did . . . but once I became aware of it I thought it was funny more than embarrassing--and occasionally illuminating. I actually sobbed while watching Dumbo with my then two-year old daughter after my son was born. But when I reflected upon why I was sobbing, I realized that it was because of new emotions that no matter what intellectual understanding I may have developed, I had never been able to feel in my previous life--not having been a mother (and especially of more than one child). When the song "Baby Mine" began to play and Dumbo snuggled up to his mother, I began to feel in a whole new way how much responsibility I was taking on and how much my daughter was depending on me to make her feel safe and loved! I don't know why it hit me at that moment so deeply . . . but it did. I have never forgotten it and--as corny as it sounds--I think it sometimes helps me to be a better mother. I think it would be terribly sad if people tried to eradicate those kinds of feelings from life.

It cannot happen, eradicating feelings. Controlling the expression is something else. Thought, stirring feeling (which is what you describe) or feeling stirring thought is how the human mind works. We express ourselves differently.

Anyway, what you describe about being a mother and what you saw watching Dumbo replayed with every subsequent child, for me. The awareness of the humanity and the human need of each of them was always re-piercing my motherly heart. There was never a sense of a mass, except when packing for vacation or some other process where the numbers of clean socks required could be daunting. Each was important in his own person and personality and soul.

I have been thinking of the creative wonder, as I think Tony puts it above, of the processes of a woman's body. Menstruation happens when the creative process does not. Bleeding when pregnant was always a horror and then there were the miscarriages. As I may have said above, processes were not a source of delight, but the child was. The processes were just the painful nuisance one had to go through to get to the real wonder - a person with something very interesting going on through the eyes. Who would miss that? Who would do not do that again and again as often as possible? A person, a wonder and the potential for someone wonderful, unique in the world. People kill that and call it a right. How?

I have often felt that some of these things you describe as nuisances were nuisances too. But I have also wondered (as I am sure you have) if I was right to so consider them. Perhaps they are more than just a nuisance or a means to a higher end. Perhaps there is something purifying in them in and of themselves? I agree that we cannot eradicate feelings--but we seem to try mightily to eradicate some (and you allude to some of that toward the end of your last). But I have also often felt less joy than you describe in looking into the eyes of those two darling persons who have been the end product of those nuisances! I have even sometimes wondered if they weren't more of a nuisance than those nuisances you describe! This does not, of course, mean that I don't feel the love for them that I should. But they do demand so much patience . . . more than I can always muster. I think my idea of motherhood is less romantic than yours . . . but then, perhaps I'm not as gifted in that as you seem to be. While I think it is better for a mother to care for her children than to work outside of the home, I do understand why many women find home life more difficult than work life.

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