Two quotes today that sum up my current philosophy of life. The first is from Catholic blogger Cacciaguida‘s review of “Breach“, the new movie about FBI agent/Russian spy Robert Hanssen:
The world is not in fact divided between the pure and the impure (or take any other matched set of a virtue and its corresponding vice): it’s made up of impure people who acknowledge the obligations of purity and try to meet them, and impure people who don’t.
The second comes from the blog of award-winning poet and fiction writer Sally Bellerose
, talking about what she’s learned from her experience of chronic illness (her own ulcerative colitis and her father’s dementia):
People need to feel safe. I sure do. Who wants to be reminded that we are soft-skinned vulnerable creatures? For security sake we need to feel in control of our environment and our selves. All kinds of conditions threaten that control. What could be more basic than the need to feel safe in our bodies? That we are born dependent can’t be denied, but a few years after birth, control of bodily function is a given for most people. Disease, disability, any condition that takes away that baseline of corporal control is a kind of body betrayal to the person affected and an unsolicited reminder to the well and the unwell that humans are vulnerable and that (forgive the very bad pun) ‘shit happens’. But things do go wrong. All bodies refuse to work as desired at some time or other. As humans, we don’t want to be confronted with the fact that no amount of research, medical break-through, or new technology is going to keep our bodies from eventually breaking down.
We are at risk, some more than others, but not just four year-olds getting spanked for a situation beyond her control, or old folks with a confirmed diagnosis, all of us, at one time or another. Most people are not happy to be reminded of their own frailty. I think most chronic illness, but especially conditions like UC, which exposes the messiness of life, scare people because they are forced to consider their own tenuous bodies. People who are well want to believe that disease happens to other people, other people who have somehow lost control, older people or people with less access to care, people unlike themselves.
But it’s not just UC that people fear. My real life dad has Alzheimer’s. I write, sometimes, about a demented dad. People often ask, “How do you feel about exposing your father in print?” They mean, “How could you possibly disrespect your dad by portraying his dementia?” For expedience and self protection I lean on the, “I write fiction,” answer. I really “feel” that dad suffers from an extreme of a universal condition. All people in the real and imagined world are a bit doddering. Our minds, like our bodies, just don’t always do what we want them to do. This is not news to anyone with an iota of self awareness. No one escapes this human condition. If you think you are never weak-minded, you are, at the least, in jeopardy of being a bore.
Say you won a Pulitzer in Literature at 30, and died in a car crash at 32; some part of you died mentally frail. You may have been successful at keeping your fragility from your editors, publishers, and readers, but something in you was teetering and foolish. Like failures of our GI tracts, whether in a big way as happens with UC or in a more contained and only occasional way, as happens with an intestinal virus, all our systems fail all of us, in greater and lesser ways.
It’s to Sally’s credit that she can make this sound like good news. Which, in a strange sort of way, it is.