Zen and the Art of Influenza

I hardly EVER get the flu. Not even once a year. Or so I used to tell people. Bad idea. I instinctively knew that bragging about my health could have negative consequences, but felt compelled to boast about my allegedly superior immune system.

“I’ve got a virus.” This is a misnomer. There are many viruses, or viri, potentially at work. And the virus has me, not the other way around.

Viri are now having a party in my body, multiplying, moving and taking new ground. I can feel them. They muddle my brain and settle in my joints, sending zinging little pains up and down the length of my body. The viri keep me up nights. They are a rowdy bunch, having keggers and raves.

But there seem to be advantages to being sick. To wit:

Regular worries and phobias seem to take a back seat. A person lives completely in the now, becoming directly and intuitively meditative, groggily symptom-surfing away the days and nights. Influenzal Zen may manifest.

Illness can be a lesson in submission and tolerance.

Illness may provide one with attention and service from others. Or not.

Illness may provide a conversational incentive:

“Hey! You look terrible!”

“Hey! Why are you puking?”

“Wow. You should have seen me when I had the flu. My case was really baaaaaad.” Hint: When people begin to compulsively compare symptoms, and attempt to outdo one another on the Symptom Severity Scale, it’s probably time for them to broaden their interests and/or get out more.

zen and the art of contagion
It’s all relative.

The body is a wet, pink factory with lots of traffic. It can be a host to many, many different forms of viri and bacteria. Microbes don’t discriminate. They don’t care who you are: they simply seek shelter and food in the form of a warm body. (Read Richard Preston’s The Hot Zone. Wait. Don’t.)

Consider that a person is lucky to not have a much more serious health problem, than flu or colds. We can’t choose to live in a protective plastic bubble (unless one is into that). But it couldn’t hurt to occasionally wash our hands and practice safe human interaction.

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