Sunday, August 03, 2008

Time Out

I came down with a cold this week, which means it's time for reflection. For a time I considered trying to finish a post I had started, but looked at through feverish eyes there didn't seem to be any point in pursuing the stringing together of words. This is what illness does: causes a change in priorities. All those things that normally drive us to action in our lives suddenly seem less urgent in the face of survival. Simple existence becomes the important thing.

One of the first signs I notice when coming down with something is a kind of dejected loss of importance, a lack of satisfaction and a loss of energy to attack the tasks of the day. Interestingly enough, this feeling actually lifts once the symptoms are upon me. Coughing and sneezing become the principle features of experience, and medication and rest come to be the only important tasks of life.

There is a poem by John Updike called "Fever" which begins, if memory serves me, "I bring good news from the land of 104 degrees: God exists." The key word there is not God but existence. Since most of us are fortunate enough not to be confronted by mortal disease except at rare (and often terminal) points in our lives, it is probably good for our perspective that we get these periodic reminders of mortality in the form of transient illnesses. Existence is the main thing, life itself, not so much what we do about it.

No doubt next week I'll be feeling like waxing lyrical about something that has caught my attention, something that seems to deserve our notice. But for now it is enough to be able to take a full breath without going into a coughing fit, to be able to rest my head on a pillow without too much of a headache. Life is simple. And how often can I say that?

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