Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Lessons in fragility for masters of the universe

This week's INM's Irish regional newspapers' column

Michael Commane
Our fragile bodies.

Watching footballers play or athletes take to the track we presume they are healthy and fit.

Across the road from where I am writing this a team of builders is constructing an apartment block. 

A crane is on site, workers swarming all over the construction. They have to be healthy and fit. 

They couldn't do that hard physical work otherwise.

I'm sitting in a hospital bed across the road. Came in here in a hurry five days ago. Not an easy few days before being admitted but all will be fixed.

It has made me think about our bodies, those things we shuffle about in, and something, most of us take for granted.

And at the flip of a coin it can all go so wrong.

My own little hiccup mixed with my job as a hospital chaplain certainly has made me stop and think about the mechanism that is the human body.

How do people who spend their lives in pain and suffering keep going?

People who are left paralysed after accidents? And yet people carry on.

Had I been in the Syrian city of Aleppo last week when I needed hospital attention what at all would have happened? Every day we see young and old, men and women being pulled out of bombed Syrian buildings.

The pain and suffering with which some people are afflicted is indescribable. And it is only when we experience it first hand that we can really get any idea of what it is about.

How we take our health, our properly working bodies, for granted is mesmerising.

One day we are masters/mistresses of the human race, the next day we can be on the flat of our backs, depending on others to help us in every move we make.

So is it a matter of making the best of it when we can and are able? But that too is never the full story. Surely it's always good when we look out for the other person.

It's never just a world of individuals looking after themselves.

It's in community we thrive.

It seems we soar when we help the other person, especially the weak and less fortunate.

A visit to a hospital is a good lesson in realising how fragile we are.

There can be something remarkably noble in fragility.

Looking at the builders across the road it's probably true to say they are healthy and well. The same too with the people below in their cars and travelling in buses. But maybe some of them are about to discover they have a nasty illness.

We never have a clue what people might be suffering.

What must it have been like in former times before modern medicine supplied us with drugs to kill the pain?

It seems people have an ability to get on with it no matter how bad things are.

I have just finished reading Leo Tolstoy's 'The Death of Ivan Ilyich'.  It's a great read on what life is about or better said, what it's not about. But it also gives an insight into pain and suffering in a time before modern medicine helped make it 'easier' to endure. Ilyich's pain is so severe that "one could not hear it through closed doors two rooms away without horror".

We can never completely rid ourselves of physical or mental pain and suffering. But we can always make it our business to help ameliorate the pain and suffering of others.

And when fit and well do we ever appreciate our good fortune?

What at all is life about? Love?

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