February 2012

Health & Dis-Ease


This week I have learned about 3 people being diagnosed with cancer, bringing to 6 the number I myself know with this mysterious disease. And it is not the only disease I’m hearing about, as there are many people with other ailments, some serious and some less so.

An old family story reports that I was maybe 6 years old when I learned that one of my Uncles had the title “Dr.” because of a degree in Economics. “Does this mean the economy is sick?” I asked, probably not really knowing what “the economy” was.

Childhood naiveté aside, I do wonder about sickness in both physical and non-physical realms. It is far beyond the purpose of this column and my expertise to explain cancer (or any disease) and why it seems to be so much more common than in the past. It clearly isn’t restricted to any particular age group, geographic region, or set of individual behaviors. Yes, there can be contributing factors, but there is so much more to it than that.

As such, I am reflecting on what it means at a more abstract level, i.e. both physical and social dis-ease, and what might be the remedies available to us.

Whether we are talking about a person’s health, a community’s well-being, or an ailing social institution, the principles through which a cure is sought may be the same. And lacking a cure, well — what can we learn about managing dis-ease?

Abdul-Baha wrote, “The world is like the body of man — it hath become sick, feeble and infirm”. Far from being hopeless about this, he goes on to say “It may perchance gain health . . . its lost powers may be restored . . . and may find health, freshness and purity “.

The Baha’i Writings offer rich advice about seeking healing, both through spiritual and material means. The spiritual means include actions such as connecting with Higher Powers through prayer and meditation, surrounding oneself with positive influences, and striving for equilibrium or balance.

The material means include seeking competent medical advice and using our own intellect to engage in the conversation about our care. There is great emphasis on healthy foods, clean water, physical activity, and abstinence from non-prescribed drugs and intoxicants. There are also writings about the regenerative influence of being in nature, music and the arts, uplifting social connections, and service to others.

Combining these two areas of advice at a social level, this suggests strategies such as seeking input from experts; citizen engagement in evaluating policy and coordinating action; seeking positive inputs; engaging a wide range of means of expression; including diverse peoples; thinking in terms of the greater good; and believing in the future.

I realize that physical and mental diseases are extremely complex, and so are social ills. However keeping in mind what contributes to physical health and managing disease can guide us in our collective work toward building a healthier future for all people and for our planet.


© Jaellayna Palmer 2012