Health.

Fall                                            Waxing Harvest Moon

At the Woolly meeting at Paul’s this Monday night, Mark talked about a woodworking group to which a friend (nephew?) belongs.  They get together, teach other how to do woodworking, chip in on special tools and have a good time learning together.  Sounds fun.  If you want to learn woodworking.  What got my attention was a moment in the evening they have called the organ recital.  A new term to me.  Each guy reports on his organs are doing.  It reminded me of  friend Morry Rothstein who often starts conversations amongst the geriatric docent crowd with the question, “Any new parts?”

The Woolly evening had the ritual obeisance to the nostrum, “You don’t have anything if you don’t have your health.”  This in the context of the wealth discussion we had.  At the time I burned my sacrifice on the altar of health as we all nodded sagely, wise old men agreeing that wealth doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have your health.

When I got home, though, I got to thinking.  We may be setting ourselves up for incredible unhappiness in the not so far distant future.  Or in the here and now if you’re, say, Mark, recovered from prostate cancer, but now battling a bum knee.  Or if you’re, say, Frank with his bum ticker, a widow maker artery that could take him out anytime.  Or Paul, whose hemoglobin count mysteriously dropped to worrying levels, but has now rebounded.  Or, even me, with high blood pressure (under control) and kidney functions that haven’t looked the best of late.

(the nine Greek Muses along with Hygeia, goddess of health, and a very young Apollo, the god of medicine)

What’s my point?  Soon or late, the body decompensates, succumbs to the inexorability of the 2nd law of thermodynamics.  Entropy always wins against life, a losing bet from the very beginning.  Between good health and that final reckoning with the laws of nature we may, and probably will, become ill with one of several now manageable conditions:  certain cancers, congestive heart failure, declining kidneys or any of several non-lethal, at least not right away, conditions.

What do we say then?  Oh, no.  My life is over, turn on the gas, or do we discover, as so many have, that health is not in fact everything.  Everything includes love which transcends disease, enjoyment of literature, the arts, travel,  sex, friendship, family.  None of these come to an end because of a diagnosis or a condition.  Might COPD or chronic pain limit the type and kind of things you do?  Of course.  But look at your life now.  Travel has its limits, if not by funds, then by time.  How much time can you be gone?  Work has its limits now.  Already you work so many hours, then rest.  You could certainly change the ratio.

This is not a plea to cast healthy living to the wind just so we can transcend suffering, far from it.  In fact, living healthfully as long you can makes total sense.  The key words there are, as long as you can.  When you cannot, learn a new way of living.  We’ll all have to do it, unless we just drop dead.  And that doesn’t seem so desirable to me right now.

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