Thursday, June 08, 2006

Born to Trouble

In a typically powerful post, Robert M. Jeffers addresses some popular misconceptions:

"Progress" is now what will save us from ourselves or our "human condition." "Reason" will sweep up all the niggling problems that have beset us since our ancestors first left the trees. "Science" will lead us to a paradisial age which will raise us above ourselves and our limitations, our weaknesses and our venalities, our appetites and desires.
This ties in nicely, I think, with what Cervantes has to say:
Just as healing may sometimes involve coercion, force or fraud, disease may consist in part of subjective distress, and in part of social disability or deviance. After all, we are social beings; our status in society is a part of what we are. But whose job is it to define deviance, to ordain that it be corrected, and to carry out corrective action? Where does the authority come from?

And so a final dichotomy, between medical and social problems. Is there something wrong with this patient, or is there something wrong with the world in which this patient lives?
(Photo by Sarah Pickering.)


Rmj said...

This will drive Cervantes nuts (I suspect), but precisely what he identifies is the basis for the explanation of the "healings" of Jesus of Nazareth among the New Testament scholars who taught me.

I.e., the healings were not necessarily miracles reversals of natural process, but the acceptance of the diseased person by a person of status in the community (a rabbi, as Jesus was). Lepers, women with menstrual flow, tax collectors, prostitutes, lame, blind or deaf beggars: all fall into the category of "diseased" as defined by the community, just as Cervantes said (and said it so well I'll just refer back to that by reference).

Isn't it ironic?

Phila said...


Thanks. I read 'em one after another on my appointed rounds, and I felt it was a striking juxtaposition.

I should add that Cervantes' series on mental illness - from which the quote is taken - has been brilliant. And RMJ is on a roll himself. So the main impetus for this post was sheer starstruck fandom.


So the "miracle" is basically reconciliation: bringing an individual into the community, or widening it to accept people of that type. That's fascinating...a very congenial idea, to my mind.

Rmj said...

Phila--well, one could easily sum up the proclamation of the basiliea tou theou as a declaration that "there's something wrong with the world in which this patient lives."

And the healings were supposed to signs of the kingdom, so....