Below is my translation of a letter that Alberto Flores Galindo, the Peruvian Marxist historian philosopher, dictated for circulation amongst his friends after unsuccessful treatment for cancer. In December of 1989, Tito Flores wrote down the text and gave it to Eduardo Caceres Valdivia. According to Marxists.org, where you can find the original Spanish text, the letter has been in circulation for a while and experienced a burst in popularity on the internet on the 20th anniversary of his passing in 2019.
A note on the translation: I have produced it for personal use. The translation is unlicensed and unauthorized. Therefore, it is not accompanied by or protected by any rights. If you would like to contact me to take this translation down, or for any suggested edits, use the contact info here on my website to send me an email.
Similar to what Deleuze notes about difference with regard to identity, pain has often been treated as the minor concept relative to pleasure. When pleasure and pain aren’t treated as a relation of presence and absence, it is pleasure that tends to get the focus as in jouissance, or Dionysian Rausch. When Bataille writes of ecstatic experiences, is it the case that pain can really be comparable to the pleasures of violence and sex? What of being the victim of pain and violence that, far from taking you away from yourself or putting a tortured smile on your face, is catastrophic and destructive?
The consideration of coloniality with regard to philosophy represents a particular challenge to the universalizing aspirations of the tradition. Coloniality, along with the traditions of Marx, feminism, philosophy of race, challenge any fundamentalist claims philosophy is fond of.
It is against this horizon that I am struck by certain universal aspects of ourselves that continue to occupy me, especially with regard to how they are unfurled or even conceived of from my vantage point. They include the need for others, the need for food, the necessity of sleep, aging, and death.
Sleeping, eating, aging. (These are notes to self).
In the first essay to The Enigma of Health, Gadamer opines that the distinction between machines and living beings is the ability to remember. Remembering requires forgetting, for we do not remember the detail of every moment we experience, but specific scents, moments, and sounds. In contrast, the machine simply records all as it happens: the camera captures everything that it is pointed at, and the computer logs every keystroke.
* I am returning to this post months after I originally wrote the first paragraph and closed my draft planning to revise it later that evening. I have since been struck by the phenomenon of abandoning a post I was writing about “machines that remember,” as the title stared out at me from the drafts every time I opened my site.
My friend Stefania, a graduate student in Latin American studies at UT Austin, asked me why she kept encountering citations of Deleuze & Guattari (D&G) in her work, which focuses on Latin America, Anzaldúa, aesthetics, and colonialism. My path to D&G was through Nietzsche, and I came to research colonialism only after training in Continental philosophy; this is to say I cannot account for my own colonialism studies appreciation for D&G. But, I have some guesses.
Determining the origin of health, suffering, and pain as concepts may be futile, but death is prehistoric. Whether we have always thought that that we died of this or that is a different question. The causal logic of disease is not necessarily a universal given.
Key old texts reference disease, whether it’s Revelations 6:8, the Chester Beatty Medical Papyrus, or Babylonian pathology Even the epic of Gilgamesh: “Fate, destiny in its evil aspect; pictured as a demon of the underworld, also a messenger and chief minister of Ereshkigal; a bringer of disease and pestilence.” What currently holds and eludes my attention is the Western division of health by way of the body/mind distinction.
I’m in the midst of reading Georges Canguilhem’s The Normal and the Pathological, and thus far the book is a fascinating reading of the history of pathology and physiology. Canguilhem cites copiously from the French physiologist René Leriche as he traces the understanding of pathology as informing physiology, rather than physiology determining pathology by way of establishing the normal function of something and thereafter deriving pathology from the lack of normal functioning. Leriche writes: “At every moment there lie within us many more physiological possibilities than physiology tells us about. But it takes disease to reveal them to us” (107).¹