Health and The Inferno

January 13, 2012 § 9 Comments

By Jacqueline Austin

Paradise And Hell, by Hieronymus Bosch, 1510, via Wikipedia

Twelve years ago, I suddenly and abruptly lost my health.  Permanently, I was told–but I’ve since regained it.

Here are some things I brought back from the land of the dead.

Dante Was Right

If you find yourself at the gates of Hell, and know you must pass through, you will need to find a Virgil to guide you.  And you won’t begin your journey at all, nor will you have love and light to sustain you along the way, unless you have a Beatrice.

When I found myself at the gates, I had neither a Virgil nor a Beatrice.  So first I had to walk into the mists to find them, though all the force of the gates was tugging at me to first go through.

Hell Is Fun To Talk About

Which would you rather talk about or hear about?  Someone else’s vision of perfect peace and joy.  Or their struggles along the way?

It’s nice to feel there’s a Heaven, or talk of Hell is mere ethical pornography… But Heaven actually brings one to silence.  And Hell is good fun.  If you’re not in it.

Incremental Health Is As Miraculous As Sudden Health

One’s audience loves extremes.  One’s health loves increments.  Here one must not confound literature, with life.

Within Or Without?

Beatrice is your heart.  She can be your own heart, or another’s.  She is purity.  She is concentrated yearning.  Beatrice is the reason why you will want to launch into health, even if you’re dead.

Virgil, though, must be outside you.  He is not to be confused with an actual human being.  He is an object, an ideal, a guru, a doctor, an illuminating person from history; even a palimpsest on which you will record–and later erase, to write again–your daily hopes and fears, your actions and assessments.

Since my doctors were not Virgil, I had to create him.  My personal Virgil was an unassuming, silent white plastic binder, 8 1/2 X 11.  He first contained lists of symptoms, then symptoms broken up into separate pages.  Then he contained plans: tests, courses of actions, and finally, one course of action from which I figured out my work of health, each day.

My Beatrice was my own heart–the one I’d lost.

Addressing The Cause

Once you’ve gone through the gates, you will go downhill.  You might lose the very idea of health, even with a great Beatrice.  And on the way, damned souls will call out to you.  You will be tempted to go lose yourself in them, and so, forget your journey.

Damned souls are those who lock themselves into symptomatology.  They cannot see beyond their definitive diagnoses, quick fixes, pills and surgeries.  They do not concern themselves with cause, nor light beyond the problem.  And so they damn you, to verify their closely held course of action, along with themselves and their doctors.

All science is hypothesis, even if proven.

If you lose yourself in pity and compassion, either for yourself or for another sick soul, you will not be able to see beyond your (their) symptoms.

But if you lose yourself in science or even in God, you will be losing your path, which winds narrowly from illness to health, along the knife edge of daily balance.

If you address the cause, you will go uphill.  People will come to help.  Your body will cry with joy, because it is going home.  Your spirit will find a place to rest, even when your legs are moving.

It’s A Party

You will see the greatest men and women of our time, in hell with you.  Nobody is exempt.  Everyone is interested.

Go up to the ones who are traveling with Beatrice and Virgil, and introduce yourself.  Good things will happen–unpredictable good things.

Normal Life Will Never Be The Same

Whether cured or not, you will be marked forever.

You will put up with fewer bad things.

You will gain new hope.

You will find your life, along with your path and your heart.

Copyright 2012 by Jacqueline Austin.  All rights reserved.


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