“I said to her, ‘Are you worried about what’s going to happen today?’ Because she was meeting our clinicians to have a skin biopsy and do quantitative sensory testing—pain-threshold tests. She said, ‘No. I’m never worried about anything.’ ”She is also friendly, charming, sweet, and never has any troubles, leaving the scientists studying her genes to wonder how much is her mutations and how much is just her:
One complicating question is how much of Cameron’s Cameronness is really a consequence of her FAAH mutation and FAAH OUT deletion. She has plenty of other genes, after all, and her upbringing and her early environment also played a role in making her who she is. Since the paper was published, Matthew Hill has heard from half a dozen people with pain insensitivity, and he told me that many of them seemed nuts. “If you had this phenotype and weren’t a generally pleasant person like Jo—maybe you’re, like, a douche-y frat boy—the way that you would process this might be entirely different. Our whole perception of this phenotype is explicitly based on the fact that it was Jo who presented it.”
Srivastava is intent on solving the scientific riddles that Cameron poses. But, in a wistful moment, he suggested that the work also raised profound social questions. “Spending time with her, you realize that if we only had more people like Jo—who are genuinely nice, pleasant, do not give in to anger . . . well,” he said, “you know.”
Misery may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Paul Bloom, who is writing a book about suffering, told me, “There’s a big movement in psychology to say, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ People talk about ‘post-traumatic growth.’ I think a lot of it is bullshit. Look at the data: bad things are bad.” You aren’t healthier after you have cancer or fall down a flight of steps. And it’s only in the movies that getting hit by a bolt of lightning turns you into a superhero; in life, it turns you into a fritter.