Taking the bad with the good

Friday, October 1, 2010

2 AM. The course of things tonight has been an alternation of lungs and sinuses – an interaction I have noticed before but never really understood – nor do I understand it now. But I can get my lungs more or less quiet, and sleep, only to be awakened by inability to breathe through my nose.

Well, I was going to try to analyze it, but what’s the point? What I want to know is – why? Is it as simple as that sinuses and lung areas are my fuses, my weak spots that go before other things would? Or what?

The underlying question is, why the weakness, why the vulnerability, given that it cannot be one thing or the other when it comes to causes. That is, a weakness that extends over more than 60 years cannot be an emotional problem or a dietary problem or a problem of too much exercise or lack of exercise, or any other variable unless that same pattern extends over the span of years, childhood, adolescence, adulthood in its several stages. But a combination of factors, any of which can precipitate the problem, could.

You understand? If six factors are each potentially able to bring the onset of problems, and five are eliminated by choice or circumstance, the sixth remains. Or, if six are potential causes some may be inactivated at any given time and others active. The result is the same. And perhaps not all of the factors are under the potential control of the person-group. Perhaps fate requires either the illness or the possibility of the illness, and one can do no more than reduce the probability of onset, and the severity.

That makes a good deal of sense to me, more than the ways I have thought about it.

You have begun from certain assumptions and have drawn conclusions. But perhaps the assumptions are correct and the reasoning from them is not. You assume no accidents; you assume that a person’s external condition reflects the internal condition; you assume that increased consciousness implies increased control over life’s circumstances. Nothing wrong with any of these assumptions, or others you hold to, such as the theoretical perfectibility of the body and its health, and the malleability of circumstance to consciousness – meaning, magical interventions, or what you call stacking the deck.

All true enough, in theory and practice. But not the whole story when considered out of context. If the purpose of life were to be health at all costs, that is how life would be, but it isn’t, any more than it is wealth, or happiness, or achievement, or pleasures, or anything else at all costs. And it is in losing sight of trade-offs that people lose understanding that they otherwise have, for is it not a saying that you have to take the bad with the good?

Now, give us some patient listening here, and don’t jump to conclusions. We can’t spell out every erroneous conclusion people could come to by what we are saying; we can only try to make ourselves speak plainly. If you read our words in impatience, or dismissive “nothing-but”-ery or, worse, in anger, how likely is it that you will learn anything? This is aimed less at Frank than at his friends who mean well and would wish him to be well. Not everything in life can be as you would wish it, but that is not tragedy. It’s just the unavoidable mixture of conditions that is life.

So, consider. We have said more than once that a given person will have preference for one or another form of necessary suffering. Some will find it easier, more profitable, to bear physical suffering than mental or emotional or circumstantial (seemingly accidental or meaningless) suffering. Others, constructed differently, will draw themselves toward other forms. It is not exactly a matter of taste; more a matter of suitability, of greater compatibility for one kind of suffering than another.

Look at life around you (we are tempted to add, as Frank would, “for crying out loud”), to see this in action anywhere and everywhere. You know of the parable of the woman in ungovernable sorrow, whose anguish would be extinguished if she could bring back a fire lit in the house of anyone who had never known sorrow? It was impossible to find such a house, of course, and that realization restored her to balance about her situation. Sorrow is a part of life. So is suffering, and joy, and health, and all the other manifestations of polarity. There is a reason why these things are universal, and there are reasons why any one of them may be apportioned in what may seem unfair amounts. This is one more example of what we have said often: Do not try to judge that for which you can never have the data. You cannot judge another’s life, nor your own. You can judge tendencies and seeming connections between cause and effect – note the word “seeming” – and that is about all you can judge. You can know more than that, but intuitive knowing cannot come complete with reasons, and tacking reasons on after the fact may be more misleading than explanatory.

But regardless what you know about life and about the inscrutability of life, compassion tempts you to try to find the magic answer that will produce a house that has never known sorrow. In its exaggerated enthusiastic form, this is called “the healer out of control,” and although the intent is to do good, the intent is to substitute the healer’s will for the person’s life-pattern.

Now, often enough the person would love to have the pattern altered! And sometimes people are willing enough, able enough, to change on a dime, and a miraculous healing takes place. But often enough such a healing is not sustained, nor sustainable. It is one thing to produce a particular mental state; a different thing to stabilize the health in a condition that is led to temporarily by that unusual mental state. And often enough a healing of one thing is followed by a different problem not at all obviously connected to the problem that had just been fixed.

There are reasons for all this, as you could perhaps more easily see if you considered not something you wanted to change, but something you wanted to preserve. Life moves; life is change. You move with it or are moved by it (or, usually, both), and the movement is not a tragedy or a blessing necessarily – is just whatever it is. Would you stay a child forever? Yet some would stay in middle-age forever if they could – in their 40s, or 30s, or 50s, or 20s or whatever their ideal age is. And as they are moved through life they perhaps see that no age is ideal as a permanent resting place, and every age is ideal as a stage, a rest stop, or a launching pad. Any age will have its difficulties and attractions but any age, held forever, would become obviously a prison, even if the cage were gilded. Similarly every part of life. Difficulties enhance the moments that are not difficult. Storms enhance the enjoyment of sunshine, and drought brings appreciation of the rain.

So when your life is clouded by a systemic difficulty – and it will be – resist the temptation to think of it as a blot on the paper. Life is what happens. It is good and bad, easy and hard, satisfactions and regrets. It will be over soon enough and then it will be over. You as spirit and soul will not be over, but your life – the time of the soul embedded in the body – will be. With the passing of that life will pass certain opportunities. Taking advantage of these opportunities while you are in life may look like suffering. May be suffering, from your point of experience. But it is not meaningless.

In the 1960s, a certain number of children were born with serious deformities of the limbs because their mothers had used thalidomide. Should those babies have been killed rather than live with their experience? A certain number are born with defects every year, from various causes and often seemingly from no cause. Is this all an unfortunate mistake, and the resulting experience worthless to the soul living it? Accidents cripple people; illnesses debilitate them. Traumas of various kinds immerse them in emotional and other kinds of suffering, perhaps for their entire lifetime. People are mentally retarded, or become monsters as a result of mistreatment, or choose to do evil and deform themselves. Can all of this be a defect in the planning or execution of the life experiment? Can the results of so much suffering be useless to those who experienced them?

You think that life should manifest health, and so it should. You think that people have more control potentially than they exert, and so they do. You think that is always right to want to help, and so it is.

However. Only the gods, so to speak, rightly judge life. Leave it to Anubis.

We have wandered far from the simple statement we intended to make, which is that health may be out of your conscious control because it is dependent upon to many factors. From there we lured ourselves step by step, pointing out that neither health nor any other quality of life is an absolute, and that to seek perfect health is not only an unattainable goal but perhaps an undesirable one from some viewpoints. (We said this mostly by implication, but we said it.) This is not to say, don’t study your health and try to improve it. It is to say, rather, don’t fret over not reaching an impossible theoretical perfection. Your life will be right for you. You are far more likely to handicap yourselves by bemoaning your fate than by living it.

It is 3:30. Thanks for helping me pass the time. And I don’t mean that sarcastically.

We’re aware of that. Live your life in patience, and don’t think that you know failure from success.

No, I hear you. Till next time.



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