What is illness for? It’s one of those questions I ask to make meaning and wonder my way towards something that might resemble wisdom while doing illness and disability. Today, while walking in the bush with my super-fantastic dog, it occurred to me that any true asking of that question requires the acceptance of a deeper assumption.
Illness and disability are legitimate, meaningful and needed.
Not illusions, errors in consciousness, indulgence or excuse, optional, the result of bad judgement etc. … Legitimate, as in real, honest, authentic and valid. It is a genuine experience onto itself. It neither seeks nor requires our affirmation or understanding. It exists, regardless of our beliefs about it.
It has the capacity to teach us about what life really is and what is being asked of us. It is a bringer of humanity. If we can learn to listen to it, it can tell us much about being human. It is a mystery and a defining force. If we sit at its feet and stay open, we just might see and hear something worthy of the effort.
Necessary some how to what life is and our place within it. It serves a real purpose. Not a spiritual purpose that we discover or assign to it. That is the realm of meaning. Rather a biological, physiological, or ecological purpose. It is essential to life’s way of being itself.
Without first accepting these three fundamental assumptions, any inquiry into “what is illness for?” will be biased primarily by our personal preferences, desires and whims. It will be us declaring what it’s all about, instead of illness teaching us what it really is for.
I’m not sure these are the only three assumptions that are necessary to wonder about what illness is for, but I feel confident they make a good start. They hold a space open for imagination and a faith in life, that reaches out beyond how we want it to go.
It’s difficult enough to rely on these three assumptions and to bring them to life in my wonderings. In this culture, these are essentially unthinkable thoughts. They run counter to our beliefs in the self-actualized individual that exists beyond all limitation and is inspired to conquer over all that threatens to hold us back. Unthinkable thoughts. They ask that the heart and mind stretch, even break open. They ask that the story of Self remain quiet so that the story of Life may be told more honestly. This may be a lifetime’s worth of work, right here.
photo credit: Nick Kenrick.. I believe in angels, something good in everything I see via photopin (license)