That was the worst episode of nip/tuck I've ever seen. The show may have jumped the shark.
How beautiful the world was today.
I swung by Student Health today for a prescription. I had expected to have to set up an appointment and have some things faxed from home, but the visit turned out easy. The receptionist was out but the doctor was in the waiting room. She asked if I'd been here before, and I said, yes, she had seen me last semester for a particularly horrific case of strep throat. She remembered me and wrote me a prescription on the spot. We had an enjoyable talk about what an effective and lovely drug Paxil is. She said many she'd talk to had said it changed their lives, and I told her I shared a similar sentiment. And we talked of the bad press it gets because of the devastating effects it sometimes has on people who suddenly go off it. I told her how it's nothing like the stereotype people have of antidepressants--it's so much more subtle than that.
There is an obvious tension here, for a man who, while sympathetic to utilitarianism, rejects it on the grounds that utility is not the end all. There is a tension for a man who thinks people who would hook up to the experience machine are making the wrong choice, when that man himself refuses to experience reality through his untampered emotions but rather prefers drugging himself, ever so slightly, for a more enjoyable ride. (Incidentally, the linked-to Wikipedia article is rather poor, and mischaracterizes Nozick's thought experiment, somewhat.)
This tension is only superficial. Let me explain what the Paxil does--to me, at least--and why it does not move me away from reality. Without Paxil, I enter a biweekly cycle of moods. Without fail, I spend 3-7 days happy, and then 3-7 days miserably depressed. Sometimes, during the happy part of the cycle I get really wild, completely extroverted, full of energy. I can make jokes easily, draw connections quite quickly. Usually there is no transition between the moods; the world just suddenly seems different. When depressed my thoughts tend to stick on certain things: I get very shy, unable and unwilling to talk to others. There's a feeling of heaviness and sometimes pain in the chest. I sleep a lot. I usually think of suicide constantly, and if not suicide I at least have a continual urge to cut parts of myself. I sometimes have mental images of blood, just gushing out of some part of me, skin ripped off or wide open.
Once I started taking Paxil, three years ago or so, the cycle vanished, or at least became much less dramatic. I still get happy, sometimes excessively so, and I still get sad, sometimes quite miserable. But the difference now is that my emotions are actually responding to the proper cues. Whereas before I'd get sad for no external reason, now if I get sad there's usually a cause, and so with happiness.
I contend that Paxil is to one's emotional response as glasses are to eyes. My emotions are still there, deep and low and light and airy at times, but now focused. And having a proper emotional response is near essential to having a worthwhile life. I don't take Paxil to escape reality or its sadness, I take it to bring reality into greater focus. Sometimes that means I'll be happier as compared to without the antidepressant--and sometimes sadder. But for the right reasons.
So make no mistake, I have no wish to rid myself of sadness, even were such a thing possible. I want to be sad when I should be sad. If a loved one dies, if a relationship ends, I want to properly respond to that event. With tears, if need be. The utilitarian cannot say such things, at least not without positing that perhaps a little sadness makes it possible for greater happiness later, and thus some sadness does increase happiness, on net. But for me the goodness of the response doesn't depend on the dubious proposition that it increases happiness later--I am saying that the pain is good in and of itself. And the joy.
Nozick speaks of this in The Examined Life, about the urge for emotions that properly map reality.