Friday, February 29, 2008

Reflections on my cold

The ancient physician and medical writer Hippocrates wrote that diseases had a "course," a course which sometimes had to be allowed to run itself out. Certain medical interventions had to be staged at the "right time" in order to be effective. (The word in Greek for "right time" is kairos, a very interesting word. The idea of a "right time" is a very different idea from linear time (chronos) when you think about it. The word shows up famously in the New Testament in the phrase en kairo -- usually translated, "in the fullness of time.")

In any case, I wholeheartedly reject the logic of Hippocrates. I refuse to let this cold run its course through my body. I refuse to derogate my body to the status of a pipe where passing microbes may sound the stops they please. The frailty of the body is annealed only through the industry of the mind and the accumulation of scientific knowledge. Sickness should not be endured, but combated through the thousand strategems and counter-measures at our disposal. I just bought a box of orange juice, for instance.

No matter how gruesome the facade of disease, no matter how hopelessly complex the human body and its disorders may seem, behind them always we find the same mechanism, the same familiar predictable principles of mechanism -- be they biological, mechanical, or psychological. As such, the task is the easiest in the world -- master the mechanism, defeat the disease. The contest between man and nature cannot even be called a contest because our victory is assured. It is only a matter of time.

If today finds us unable to set the body right, the new sun will rise on the victory of mankind.

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