Archives for the day of: December 2, 2012

I was really struck by something Lord David Puttman said at yesterday’s symposium on The Experience of Illness and the Arts (

The director shared clips from five of his most memorable films within this context (more on this later), one of which was The Diving Bell and The Butterfly. The clip he shared absolutely reflected the essence of what the book and the film was about, a ‘seeing’ of the sufferer’s experience through his eyes, or at least to the extent that any such thing is possible. In the clip, a nurse enters the room, and as she leaves switches on the TV, the cartoon channel. The sufferer, with ‘locked-in syndrome’, is utterly powerless and is unable to communicate that no, he absolutely does not want to endure listening to cartoons. The nurse’s action was not one of intended cruelty, most probably a moment of non-thinking. But it felt thoughtless and cruel nonetheless.

Lord Puttnam commented on the universality of the importance of what we choose to listen to. Thus, what our hearing senses are exposed to at the time of dying should be a critical component of how we die. He is right, it is important, even essential, on a very fundamental and human level, and it should require little effort, ‘mere’ thoughtfulness, to make happen. But I am not sure how often, if ever, this issue is addressed.

I am as yet undecided on my top 5 (unsure why I choose 5, must be contemplating the final 15 minutes or so…).

But, to kick off, one I am considering is Bob Dylan’s Workingman’s Blues (from the Album Modern Times):

‘Meet me at the bottom, don’t lag behind

Bring me my boots and shoes

You can hang back or fight your best on the front line

Sing a little bit of these workingman’s blues’


I have just spent the weekend at my Alma Mater, UCC, Cork (

The event was a thought provoking and enthralling symposium, which covered many diverse aspects of potential interactions between Illness and the Arts.

Music and poetry, including live performances and readings, visual art, fiction, social media and film, in the context of the experience of illness, were all explored in innovative and refreshing ways. Personal stories of the experience of illness were shared, and were both moving and enriching. We also heard about new models for exposing medical undergraduates to the humanities.

A very imaginatively curated art exhibition Living/Loss: The Experience of Illness in Art is currently on at The Glucksman Gallery, UCC (until March 2013). It is so worth seeing.

Much to consider, and hopefully to follow on from the symposium, including a book in 2013.

I was particularly proud that, firstly, I was able to contribute to this landmark event, and secondly, that it took place where many years ago I first set off on the road that has led me here.