There are times when the judgment of the universe becomes inscrutable. At best. The complex interplay among our nature, our nurture and the actual facts muddies the whys of life. Always. It is no wonder that humans seek answers, we are pattern seekers, probers, wonderers, wanderers. Yet, there may be no answers.
I know a family, a small nuclear family. A man, a woman, a daughter. Since January the full weight of heaven has fallen on their home. The man, in his fifties, a government employee, a sailor, an astronomer, a fixer. The woman, also in her fifties, a quirky domestic with an honesty and unflinchingness that marks her as unusual. The daughter, bright, also quirky, a maker of angel wings. A student of costume. A lover of the
Renaissance. Finished college early with a degree in history.
In January the man had a spell, a stroke they thought at first. Some improvement. Another spell. An MRI. Neurological. Holes appeared. Demylenation, a stripping away of the insulating layer of the nerve fibers. At first, a guarded diagnosis. After a second and third episode. MS Multiple Sclerosis.
Various treatments, but none working very well. Then, again some improvement physically. With the realization though that work had come to an end and life as he knew had vanished over night. The man has become sad, angry, depressed. He hits the dog with his cane. The dog will go to a new home this week. He wakes up at 4 in the morning and wants to argue. Considers suicide. Has gone from a detail guy, a traveler and friend to an invalid and a miserable invalid.
Then. This week. The woman had a breast lump. A biopsy. Unclear. She will have to have a lumpectomy. The daughter. A pre-cancerous condition in her cervix. Diagnosed this week. Requires surgery.
It is as if the Old Testament God sat in his council with the advocate, Satan, and devised a series of tortures for this family.
When I drive by their home, as I do from time to time, I think how normal it looks. There are no dark clouds, no forked lightning over just their home. A happy family could still live there. But doesn’t.
There, in that bungalow, the existential curse has decided to make a house call on not just one, but all three. Death has reminded each of them that none of us get permanent residency visas here. Yes, we all live, all the time, under the curse. Death sits on our shoulder and counsels us. But part of the deal, the arrangement lies in his silence for some period, a long run of years, so we can collect ourselves, get to know this life, our Self, others.
In this culture of health, exercise, vitamins illness can come as damnation, a perverse twist to the news from the AMA or the frontiers of neurology or cardiology or vitaminology, that steady call to avoid smoking, fats, carbs, indolence, sloth and avarice. By confronting us daily with new ways to improve our health we are instead, reminded with a dull drum that we are not healthy now and will have to engage in works righteousness: exercise, colonoscopy, good diet, dental hygeine. An ironic result opposite to the intentions of these well meaning puritans of science.