Rivista per le Medical Humanities

Duilio F. Manara
rMH 45, 2020, 11-18

Is there happiness in care?

The essay aims to tackle the question of whether – and if so, under what conditions – happiness in care exists: the happiness of the patient or of his family members for the care received; the happiness of the caregiver for the care provided. Happiness was born a twin, as Lord Byron poetically teaches us, but in the treatment only the caregiver’s side is investigated thoroughly, using a phenomenological approach applied to the framework of care, and in particular of nursing care. The first part is dedicated to the contextualization of the issue, followed by some stories told by nursing students that are useful for the sake of the analysis, in search of the sources of happiness in care, consisting of three steps, namely a) the different levels of depth of feeling in care situations; b) care as eudaimonia, full self-realisation; c) the functions of epistemic/moral emotions in care decisions. The argument put forward herein is that happiness in care does not exist only in some exceptional situations, but originates from a deeper feeling, which is the reward of those who have been able to cultivate themselves until achieving with their work what they perceive as the right thing for the other and for themselves.

Corrado Garbazza
rMH 45, 2020, 19-23

Sleep and well-being

Disease does not respect any timetable or schedule whatsoever. Parents are often woken up at any hour of the night by their sick children, staying up even for 24 hours in a row. Medical emergencies occur at any time of day or night: there are doctors, nurses and health workers – always ready to provide qualified assistance – in the so-called “24/7 society”. This work ethic has long been part of the doctor’s idealised image. Media and mass culture provide plenty of representations of family doctors who provide the necessary medical care in small towns, constantly available midwives, and surgeons willing to provide life-saving care at all hours. These people are often worn out and yet able to reactivate immediately whenever called upon to intervene. A “good” doctor gives up and sacrifices sleep with the purpose of providing patients the care they are expected to receive from him. Sleep deprivation is considered a matter of honour, rather than an alarm bell that should alert patients and society as a whole about the potential dangers from arising there. Only recently have the risks related to long shifts in medicine been discussed and studied; however, the poor interest aroused by the topic has not had a significant impact on care services. The caregivers’ sleep should instead be protected to safeguard their health and that of their patients.

Graziano Martignoni
rMH 45, 2020, 24-31

Happiness, the hidden object of care

Happiness does not seem to be fully part of the scientific lexicon: this word, so much cherished by poets, lovers or wise people, inhabits the public space as well as the private sphere of mental intimacy. Humanities and cultural sciences, as well as Medical Humanities, must somehow tame happiness, declining it into the general categories of well-being, healthy/sick and rich/ poor polarity or into those of empowerment, sense of coherence, and resilience. The category of happiness remains an almost exiled concept. It can be found in the sense of ancient and radical words such as hope, healing, salvation, and love. These are strong and fragile words, which need infinite care so as to prevent them from falling ill. In its being above all a state of mind, happiness shares a dual status: being an idea and at the same time being a feeling. Being happy is too often confused with being free from pain, without suffering, without fatigue, and without poverty. But what remains after all these cancellations? What is left of happiness when the unexpected, when amazement, wonder and miracle have turned into a mere object of consumption? “Even the unhappiest cities have a happy heart”, wrote Italo Calvino in his book The invisible cities. How then can we be builders of happy corners that inhabit the heart of man and his city, alongside affective deserts, loneliness, the fragilities of his body and mind, and the social poverty of daily experience? In the end, a happy heart may perhaps be stronger than disease and pain.

Ornella Manzocchi
rMH 45, 2020, 32-41

From vocation to motivation

The port of departure is the well-known painting by Domenico Ghirlandaio, The Birth of St. John the Baptist, in the Church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence: it introduces us to the exploration of the meaning that happiness can have within our innermost being as caregivers. This painting reminds us that even in the severity of life’s events, when faced with responsibilities and more or less pleasant tasks, lightness, sharing, joy and happiness are always present. It is up to us to pay attention to and respect them by offering, under these conditions, the right space according to the ups and downs and moods experienced. A biographical event of the author acts as a second landing, offering the link with the thoughts that in the caregivers’ world help to give meaning and sense to this feeling. The navigation continues penetrating the etymology of the term happiness, and then meets some mythological figures of ancient Greece that become a port from which to set sail bound for the islands of psychological and philosophical thought. From the latter we then land on the islands inhabited by the clinic and thought of two doctors and psychoanalysts: Donald Winnicott and Wilfred Bion. The reflection ends with a fairy tale, The wonderful Wizard of Oz, which is lends itself well to summarise the discussion on hand.

Riccardo Blumer
rMH 45, 2020, 42-43

Beauty as a machine for life

A video shot by Alberto Canepa on the performance “Nudità” (“Nakedness”) staged by Sieni-Cuticchio – and presented at the auditorium of the Theatre of Architecture, located in the Mendrisio Campus of the usi Academy of Architecture – stimulates reflections on beauty, movement, and the role played by a dancer compared to a puppet of the Sicilian opera. Who is carrying and who is being carried? Sieni is the dancer, Cuticchio one of the last historical “puppeteers” of the Sicilian tradition; and then there is the puppet. The question gives rise to others: is it a dance for two? Or for three? Who are the protagonists? Sieni and Cuticchio? Or Sieni and the puppet? Or Sieni, Cuticchio and the puppet? Or just the puppet? Dancing teaches us that, after all, the body is not enough if we untie it from an aesthetic architecture of sequences, tensions, and small gestures. Our body, with its arms, neck and legs, allows us to move with enormous limitations interposed by elbows, knees, bones, muscles and tendons, which all together deprive us of free articulations. The question is about the limits. The puppet does not only represent these limits, but highlights and stages them the wonderful relationship of the movements of the limbs thanks to the strings and iron that support it. Now, what dance stages is precisely this: the relationship of movements and gestures that make us men and women, because they are done uselessly, built on the beauty of empathically wonderful positions.