This week a particularly nasty stomach bug has infiltrated our home. I will spare you the details, but it has not been a pleasant experience. I spent most of yesterday trying to summon the energy to get out of bed, which I managed to do a couple of times, immediately regretting the decision each time.
The illness that I am experiencing this week is annoying but not life-threatening. Unfortunately, not all illness is so easily recovered from, and some diseases have no recovery.
While we are healthy we don’t think about sickness. We sometimes pause to reflect on our wellness when we see others suffer, but for the most part sickness seems alien to us. Something is wrong. We know it happens, and it could happen to us, but when it strikes, it seems so unfair.
Sickness brings with it a sense of vulnerability, powerlessness, and a wonder of when it will end. We know that sickness have natural causes, even though there are many of them that medical science still does not understand. We try to gain power over disease by scientific discoveries, and while amazing strides have been made, there are still so many diseases for which we don’t have a cure.
It is natural to feel pain and discomfort. Even animals do that. But we go further, we experience the conscious or physical pain of thinking that this is not the natural order of things. We believe we are meant to be whole, physically-functioning. As we get older, we mourn the loss of previous capacities.
In sickness we feel powerless where we think we should be powerful. Why do we have this sense that we should be pain free and whole and that we should not decay as we grow older?
We live in a world where sickness is so common, yet it is strange that our ancient ancestors, who had little of the medical knowledge we enjoy today, could imagine a world without it – a heaven.
You might argue that it was their longing for a pain-free existence. But what from their physical world inspired them to dream this up? For them sickness and death were so much a part of life that imagining a world without them would have been like imagining a world without sound. Perhaps then their inspiration was not solely drawn from the physical, material world.