Sunday, May 18, 2008

History Repeating

The History Channel had a show on about the plague this afternoon. Half the population of Europe died because of it, and the surviving population was devastated psychologically as a result, questioning the meaning of life. I get this. Families watched one another die tortured, agonzing, senseless deaths. Talk about misery.

Not surprisingly, they all thought God was punishing their evil ways, but in watching this show with the wisdom of hindsight, it's clear that it was just a tragic thing that, well, happened. It wasn't God; it was a pathogen that half the people couldn't fight off. It spread from England to China, and some Christian Europeans began flagellating themselves, thinking that maybe inflicting more suffering on their bodies would somehow stop the insanity.

In my own case, I sometimes think God is punishing me, too, for some evil deed committed in maybe a previous life, or that he's trying to teach me a lesson that I somehow refuse to learn.

But if I'm going to learn anything from history, sometimes things just, well, happen. There's nothing inherently good or bad to the event. As humans, we're simply organisms prone to infection, like bugs, or dogs, or even the dinosaurs, who could actually get cancer.

Many desperately want to believe that things like disease happen to us because of stress, unresolved rage, because we're not spiritual enough, or because we're not understanding the mind/body connection. While there may be some truth to this, another truth is that bad things do indeed happen to good people for no reason at all. Accidents happen, disease happens, as does death. There's no escaping it. Believing there's reasons for it is simply a vain attempt to control it. If we can blame the patient somehow, then we think it won't happen to us.

The History Channel ended on a positive note, saying that the plague ushered in a new era of thinking. People began questioning the Church's authority, now defining God for themselves, and because of the loss of the work force, labor-saving machines were invented that were the very beginnings of the industrial age.

The most positive thing that developed was the beginning of the Renaissance--a rebirth of art, culture and science.

Like the plague survivors, I don't know about this God thing either. But I'm certainly not going to flagellate myself, nor blame anyone else for my misery. (The Christian flagellators actually blamed the Jews for the catastrophe.) The best I can hope for is some kind of rebirth of my own...a new person that will rise from the wreckage.

That's hard to fathom at the moment, as I'm still swirling in a haze of pain and addiction. The plague had to run its course, and perhaps my own dark days have to run theirs, as well. This has been going on for an awful long time, though. Years now.

I'm exhausted.

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