Skip to main content

Illness and Wisdom



He who has known only grace cannot understand the anxiety of the sick. Only sickness gives birth to serious and deep feelings. Whatever is not born out of sickness has only an esthetic value. To be ill means to live, willingly or not, on the heights of despair. But such heights presupposes deep chasms, fearful precipices--to live on the heights means to live near the abyss. One must fall in order to reach the heights.
CIORAN



Is it any coincidence that our profoundest thoughts arise out from the ashes of hearts set on fire? Unlikely. Tormented souls, like darkness, give birth to dancing stars and liberate our highest hopes. It is necessary that hope first dance with despair in order for it to secure its essence, otherwise we shall live, as we all our lives do, never knowing if we despair or hope, befriending a nervous anxiety with no name because without a decision. Cancer patients speak of the blessings of knowing they shall soon die of their illness. In this one tragic but amazing instance, the sickness is the cure. There is nothing like the inevitability and imminence of death to set your whole life straight, or at least whatever little shall be left of it. Tragedy requires the hero to be unconscious, unaware of his fate even as it slowly crumbles before him. But alas he still hoped in a dialectic which he hopes would favor him in the end; and so he struggles and fights, believing that fate is won by one's own hands, trusting in a universe that he still imagined to have divine laws and justice and reason. In effect, it is those old beliefs that killed him, and never the actual death or fall into despair. The terrible moment of death, the free fall into despair--this is what liberates us as they crystallize what had long been empty certainties without reality and consequence. The very first philosophers had it right when they said with a sigh that to learn how to die is to learn how to live. 




Those who have come back from illness and despair, they are the lucky ones. They stared at death's lovely countenance, were cast into its spell and soothed by its songs, and were told of life's secret--the secret that there is no secret to happiness. It is true that one may never recover from that conscious moment. Most will walk away blind, remain silent for the rest of their lives; we see this most in the old and dying with their wet eyes without tears, and empty but focused gazes. But if you are young still, whether in heart or spirit, recovery is never impossible, resurrection not implausible. To resurrect from despair does not however mean suddenly knowing how to pray and kneeling before all gods; or "seeing the light," finding life's true meaning, beginning to truly love. No, that would be replacing old idols with new ones no more empty and hollow than the first. To be revived, or to recover from physical or spiritual illness, is to secure before one's eyes the possibility of being in despair again, never forgetting and forever mourning for that part of you that is lost forever. All thoughts that come after, all your philosophy, and even the rest of your life will be one long eulogy to your first and irrevocable death.  And as with all eulogies, which have the sole advantage of having seen a whole, complete life through, your thoughts cannot be but wise. 







             
                         
  

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Fields of Amorsolo

The first National Artist in Philippine history, referred to warmly as the “Grand Old Man of Philippine Art,” Fernando Amorsolo (1892–1972) still stands today as a looming figure in Philippine art responsible for being one of the artists who helped define what we up to now visually imagine as essentially Filipino. The images of rural life, of golden fields below clear blue, blue skies; the smiles of farmers which diminish their weariness as they plant, harvest, and winnow rice;most especially the iconic figure of the Filipina maiden working in the fields—the beloved dalagang bukid--; these, I believe, even after generations of Filipino painters since Amorsolo, have remained in our hearts and memory. Amorsolo did what great masters do for their country: bestow upon it its own icons, represent its native beauty, that is, to give its people and lands an identity and a face. There are, however, as many intentions for art as there are works of art. And these intentions will always remain in…

[Payapang Daigdig]

Written by Pat Nogoy, S.J.

Payapang Daigdig Felipe de Leon, Sr. 
Ang gabi'y payapa Lahat ay tahimik  Pati mga tala      Sa bughaw na langit 

Kay hinhin ng hangin Waring umiibig          Sa kapayapaan          Ng buong daigdig     
Payapang panahon    Ay diwa ng buhay Biyaya ng Diyos       Sa sangkatauhan
Ang gabi'y payapa Lahat ay tahimik Pati mga tala Sa bughaw na langit  
Pati mga tala           Sa bughaw na langit


The gift delivers Being/being Jean Luc Marion

There is something about the night.
The blanket of darkness hovering the other half of the day sparks ambivalence. Everything is the same in darkness—fear, joy, pain, triumph, doubt, glory, sorrow. Identities recede unto the vast anonymity. There is a pervading anxiety where existence slips into nothingness. One is never certain what to make out of darkness; maybe that is why the night shakes us because we never know. One cannot avoid imagining a something that is greater, higher, mightier, (even sinister) that lurks (hence the power of ghos…

Without Why (The Rose) II

Lifetime is a child at play; moving pieces in a game.
Kingship belongs to the child.

Heraclitus, Fragment 52


The child at play never asks itself why it plays. The child just plays; and if it could, it will play as long as possible, it will play throughout its life. See its delight and witness its smile.

If it would never go hungry or if the sun would never set it too will never leave its playmates and playthings. Time flies at play because it stops or suspends time. Time -- as we grownups only know too well -- is the culprit for order, schedules and priorities; yet for the child, there is no time, there is only bottomless play. It is we who impose that this or that should be done at this or that time. We stop the absurd and supposedly endless play ("He does nothing but play") because we insist that discipline, order and priorities be instilled in the child at an early age ("He needs to learn other things beside playing"). So that the child will become like us one da…