Some epileptics experience auras. They are not merely colored halos that appear around people or objects ( like Van Gough's Starry Night). According to Lauren Slater's Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir,  epileptics may experience olfactory auras for days. One epileptic smelled jasmine for days before a seizure ( Although SLater pointed out another case where the patient smelled sewage.)
 In Mark Salzman's Lying Awake,  a nun suddenly starts writing ecstatic poetry. She discovers her ecstasies are the result of seizures caused by a terminal brain tumor. She must make the choice either to slowly die whilst continuing to enjoy the ecstasies or to remove the tumor and return to what she now conceives of as a "dull existence."  ( I won't ruin the ending for you.)  What is intriguing about this novel is the justice it does to the benefits of certain diseases.

Certainly there are those who are so attached to the benefits (and on occassion even the drawbacks) of a particular condition or disease that they will refuse to be cured. Other times so much of perception or identity has become linked with the disorder, it is impossible for the sufferer to really function without it. Those subject to the horror that was At First Sight ( based on a case history by Oliver Sacks) have an idea of the series of difficulties faced by someone who chooses to be "cured" of a lifelong ailment.

Which brings us to love. As Barabara Streisand once said "Sometimes people love you so much, their love is like a goddamn gun to your head." (Special points to heterosexual men who can identify the film.) Much like the nun, often in love we have to make the choice: go back to our healthy, but "dull", existence or embrace ephermeral ecstasy knowing, in the process, that such an embrace will surely result in a "bad end." It's a difficult choice. How do you voluntary give up the elusive smell of jasmine? How do you walk away from the spilling of poetry on the page? The moment of revelation when you look over your lover's shoulder as he kisses your neck to realize "Dear christ the trees on block are in bloom and I didn't notice? How did I miss it? How long have I not seen this beauty?" And more importantly, the question implied but never asked, how will I see this beauty again when he is gone?

Because gone he will be. As certainly as the nun has to make a choice, the beloved of an unstable or unhealthy lover must make a choice too. And essentially her choice is between end it now or end it later. One can not be host to such disorders for very long. Eventually even the smell of jasmine becomes oppressive, cloying. Even the rush of ecstasy becomes another cross to bear as opposed to a pleasure. Even if the unhealthy lover remains constant, in his way ( I have been faithful to thee Cynara in my fashion), the beloved may finally get up with the excuses, the absences, the demands, the tearful nights, the frightening hallucinations, and the shared delusions.
to be continued on monday.....

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