Growth Begins with Disease
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Every great fortune begins with a crime.  -–Honore de Balzac (1799 – 1850)

The crime in our case is being violated by multiple sclerosis. The great fortune it yields is an ever-expanding empathy.

MS has an upside?

I know that’s a provocative thing to say. You might be offended by any suggestion that MS has an upside. There are still moments when it offends me, but that’s usually if somebody says it that doesn’t have MS. At least I arrived at that judgment through first-hand experience. Maybe you want to punch me in the neck anyway. I’m okay with that. As long as it remains a wish.

Still, as debilitating as MS can be, it’s hard for me to see it as being a nihilistic disease. We are not diminished by it, not even to a fraction. Most of us cannot be reduced to our simplest terms by having MS. Those who come the closest we say a silent prayer for and hope their caregivers can hold it together long enough to push their boats away from the dock in the gentlest, most loving way when the end looms.

We’re still here

Few things will reduce us to rubble. The threat of apocalypse, whether personal or global, is enough to remind us that we are highly evolved animals with large brains, free will, and a conscience that clings to survival. Nihilism has never been achieved. Ethnic cleansing has been attempted but has not prevailed. Viruses and bacteria race up the food chain and drop us like flies from time to time. Yet we’re still here. Horror is relative. I grew up during the Cold War and the possibility of ducking for cover during 3rd grade Language Arts class. I lived to develop MS and fear an early demise. I lived through that, too. I’m tough to kill. That’s a real confidence-builder.

Nihilism is for Type A personalities. Bullies. Inferior communicators. Dullards that lack imagination. Sheep just following orders (autoimmune diseased cells fit nicely into that category). Old Testament gods that send a wall of water to annihilate those that don’t follow instructions very well. Rebels are SO exasperating in their contrariness. Ya just want to slap them. Or kill them.

We keep fighting

Yes, it’s positively biblical. The good fight we’re fighting as we live with MS pits our humanity against our basest nature. It follows the same script and with the same transitions found between the Old and New Testaments. Punishment in the Old, forgiveness in the New. Yahweh and Jesus. Bad cop, good cop. Scripture reads just like a procedural drama. LAW & ORDER: THE PREQUEL. Where the law triumphs, will justice be served? Stay tuned.

Arriving at peace and wisdom

And stay alerted to the channels in your head that govern your moods and life views. You might love MSNBC or FOX & Friends, but they tend to suppress our better angels. HALLMARK is kinder and gentler. PBS takes you to nature documentaries and folk concerts. You forgot that you could actually feel what you’re feeling. Once again, your heart opens up. You coo and your eyes tear up at the sight of a baby Orca being born. Laugh at a time-lapse video of a starfish stuffing its pie hole with clams. It is in those moments that we’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. Give a bear hug to the Orion Nebulae and thank it for being so sparkly in the winter night sky. That’s growth. When we regress to infancy and see the world for the first time, we’ve arrived at peace and wisdom.

So let’s buy the world a Coke and keep it company. It’s the only real thing worth doing.

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