Warm Fuzzy Feelings. Or, The Point of That Dialogue.
I know my dialogues can be oblique, even enigmatic. This last one had a point, however, even if it was a bit subtle. I’ll state it more openly here.
Consider two facts. The first is that I have been vaccinated for hepatitis B. It’s true, I have. I never really expected to get hepatitis B, but now I know that it’s more or less impossible. It’s one nasty disease, and I’m never going to get it.
The second fact is that I am happily married. Boegiboe and I seldom fight. We spend hours and hours together and enjoy almost all of it. Whenever I think of him, it’s almost always fondly. When I am dying, I will think: Whatever else has happened in my life, I’ve had true love, and that’s awesome.
These two facts have very different emotional registers.
The first fact has never once given me a warm, fuzzy feeling. I remember getting vaccinated. It was a series of shots over several months. It wasn’t fun at all. Since that time, I almost never think of it. Still, it is as far as I can tell an unqualified good. I am better off for having been vaccinated, but my knowledge of this betterment is cold and logical.
The second fact makes me happy whenever I think of it. So I think of it often. I like being happy.
Suppose I were to discover that I was not actually immune to hepatitis B. Perhaps the vaccine I received was defective. If I were to discover this, I would make sure to ask my doctor for a re-vaccination at my next appointment. Although I take no pleasure in being immune to hepatitis B, it’s still a trait I would act to acquire.
Now consider: Louis XIV does seem to have known true love; perhaps he felt similarly to the way I feel in my own happy marriage. But the medicine to which he was subjected was a lot of horrible nonsense, usually ineffective when it wasn’t downright harmful. This was an age in which a knife wound might well be treated by bloodletting, as actually happened with Louis XV. That’s literally how bad things were.
That the Sun King survived un-anesthetized surgery for an anal fissure is a tribute to his bravery and also to his good luck, especially given that the principles of antisepsis were totally unknown. But it’s hardly a tribute to the surgeons, who could just easily have killed him.
I think it’s possible to have had warm, fuzzy feelings in any age. But it’s only recently become possible to have a quiet insouciance about certain deadly diseases, or a reasonable confidence about the outcome of a major surgery. The fact that these things don’t generate warm and fuzzy feelings is irrelevant to the question of whether we should want them. So it is, I’d say, with most products of the Industrial Revolution.