Some friends and I were saying we wish Margaret Edson, author of “W;t,” would write another play. Jokes about possible sequels ensued, so I imagined the following:
After witnessing and participating in the disrespectful and undignified death of Vivian Bearing, a feared and respected scholar of John Donne, Jason Posner begins to question whether biological reductionism is any more reasonable than attempts at metaphysical reductionism that John Donne paradoxically sought and repudiated. As Posner grapples with the contradiction between his desire to prolong life through medical research and his denial of the significance of suffering, he develops a yearning to create meaning out of the intersection of biological necessity, emotional fervor, and human connection.
As Posner completes his required clinical experience in the hospital and moves into the lab full time, he finds himself plagued by questions about the patients whose tissue and cells he is observing and manipulating. He begins to question the motivation of nurses, social workers, chaplains, and therapists in the hospital.
As his curiosity grows, isolated from human contact, he begins to read not only Donne’s “Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions” but patient narratives as well as caregiver narratives. He begins to realize the importance of suffering to meaning humans make of their condition.
Through the turmoil of his own imagination, he has one other realization: He realizes he will die.