humour, music, life, sociology. friendly agnostic.

Blessed Are The Sick (Your Voice)

Posted by spritzophrenia on September 30, 2010

Welcome to the first in an occasional series where I specifically seek your feedback. I want to learn, you can guide my thoughts in ways I haven’t considered. Please respond in the comments and tell me what you think, even if it’s “I don’t know”.

[Edit: A good friend told me she wants to comment, but is “not a philosopher or theologian”. That tells me I’ve pitched this too high- I’m sorry. As with all comments here, I don’t expect you to be profound. I’m just happy to hear from you, even if it’s “Hi, what a crappy post. You suck, but I can’t think of anything to say.”

So if you like, just read the first bit and skip the rest.]

Today, I’m sick. Nothing serious, but our topic will lead into a short series about pain, suffering and spirituality; surely a challenge for any path. (Here’s number two in the series.) Atheists have it easy of course, they can just say, “The world sucks, it proves there’s no benevolence in the universe, and that’s all there is to it”. Or do you atheists have something more to offer when we suffer?

What does sickness tell you– if anything– about the transcendent world? How does it affect you: Your meditation, your prayer life, your practice? What is the meaning of life for those who cannot function at the same level as others?

To get your thoughts going, read on. Or just ignore, and go straight to the comments.




Consider Mental illness,

What we call schizophrenic is, as Joseph Campbell has discussed, called (positively) visionary or mystical in shamanic cultures, hence is valued, not feared or sedated with chemicals.

Shamanic illnesses are no different or ‘special’ than the illnesses of ‘normal’ people. Disease all comes from the same source, shamanic or not. Shamanic healers don’t piece by piece heal, they heal as a whole.

~from mental illness and spirituality

I’m mentally disabled myself, I’ve struggled with depression at times for most of my adult life. Or consider the last time you were laid under by a severe cold:

Psalm 41:3-4
The LORD will sustain him on his sick-bed and restore him from his bed of illness.
I said, O LORD, have mercy on me; heal me, for I have sinned against you.

What can we learn about the meaning of life from permanent disability?

The criteria of transcendence and transfiguration also apply to the spiritual development of disabled people, in each case relative to the characteristics of the body which is disabled, transcended, and transfigured. This enables us to conceive of a multiplicity of known and lived human worlds.

This has two advantages. First, the plurality of the human worlds enables us to construct a spirituality of disability which is not based upon a theory of deficiency. As long as disabilities are mainly understood as lacking something, their intrinsic character will be overlooked, and they will be understood as mere exclusions from the big world.

~ from A Spirituality of Disability



Please Respond

What is the meaning of life for those who cannot function at the same level as others? Do you know someone who’s suffered from chronic illness? Where is g0d in all of this?

Please leave your feedback in the comments. This is YOUR chance to share 🙂

Morbid Angel | Blessed Are The Sick

33 Responses to “Blessed Are The Sick (Your Voice)”

  1. Nicole said

    Well, I am sort of an athiest, in the sense of not believing in a higher power.

    I think the body is just a machine and machines break down. Fortunately ours tends to be self healing. To maintain it we have to feed it right, and that could include the right spiritual input. Being sperated from your faith can make you sick, or running on the wrong faith can clog the system. We all need our injectors cleaned out now and then.

    I suffer from mental illness too, and I’m a transexual. That has brought me a shit load of pain. I guess I see our minds being a tuned balance of compromises. Some of us are balanced a bit differently than other people. But there are trade off’s. ‘normal’ people, if such a thing exisits, are dull. They are good for keeping the human race ticking along but not much else. Now brilliant people are another matter, and I mean brilliant in a broad sense from physical to spiritual brilliance. A lot of mentally ill people are very intelegent in some way, whether it be emotionaly, intellectually or spiritually (of course some are the opposite, it is a trade off). It is as if by pushing the limits of human intellegence we are more likely to unbalance the system. But this can lead to creativity, advancement, enlightenment, spiritual connection. My conclusion is that we have people that are mentally ill because it benefits the human race.

    Another thought I have is that pain is not in itself a bad thing. It tells us when something is wrong, keeps us safe to an extent. It is a handy thing to have. It can help focus our efforts. I like the pain of getting a tattoo, it is like meditation. If nothing else it can trigger the compassion in other people.

    • Nicole said

      oh just to add to this, blessed are the sick too, as we are an ongoing experiment for the body to find out how to combat external influences.

    • Nikki, wonderful to hear from you again 🙂 We must catch up.

      You’ve raised some really profound and (i think) useful points about the body, and mental illness. I hadn’t thought of transsexualism as being a “thing” that causes difficulty, but of course it would.

      I really like your statement: “My conclusion is that we have people that are mentally ill because it benefits the human race.”

  2. Taimoor said

    When you visit an invalid tell him to make a supplication for you, for his supplication is like of the angels.

  3. According to many people sickness in the body is a direct result of mental stress. What has been stressful in your life?

    Your analysis of ‘disability’ is intriguing. While I feel smarter, more spiritual and much more self-actualized; I am most often made to feel invisible by many people. Working on how I relate to that.

    To be crystal clear, disability is not an illness. The body might have altered but it is not sick.

    • Good point about stress. In this case, I don’t think it was stress as I’ve been pretty happy and relaxed recently, it was being in close proximity to someone else who had a nasssty cold.

      That link to the disability stuff is very interesting, unfortunately is pitched in very academic language- which won’t be a problem for YOU, Dr Shiller 🙂 There’s some really interesting stuff on disability and spirituality out there.

      You are right, disability is not an illness, but I wanted to bring that realm into the discussion 🙂

  4. For me, this current cold has affected my (non)spirituality by making me totally brain-dead and tired. So i haven’t been able to “connect” on any meaningful level. I guess that’s a spritual outcome?

  5. SugarPop said

    Interesting… Stand out points for me are the postive and mystical nature of mental illness in some cultures; and how in our own culture disability has a deficit discourse. I believe both (mental and physical difference) can be perceived as gifts, because both result in unique and often profound abilities, perspectives and insights.

    As for the more transient phyical illnesses of colds and flu – they can bring the gift of stillness, and a requirement to be more present in the now, especially if it is healing and recovery that you are after!

    Thank you also for your updated invitation to comment – it does sometimes get quite *noisey* in here and there many quite erudite exchanges that leave me thinking twice before commenting, so I often refrain.


    • Good points.

      If I may say so, your reply uses lots of “erudite” concepts too.

      I shall now resolve only 2 use small wordz.


      • SugarPop said

        Yes indeed – I love words and enjoy expanding my vocabulary. I’m also a bit of an academic myself (on the PhD journey).

        Although those two things are true about me, it doesn’t mean I’m immune from finding some of the commentaries and langauge used intimidating at times. And while I’m at it, I will also fess up to being periodically irrational and occassionally hypocritical!

        It’s great to be human – to think and to feel and to be imperfect 🙂

  6. Tammy said

    I’m a psychiatric nurse.

    I think a lot of our mental illnesses are a result of living in a modern world with bodies and minds that are meant to be hunters and gatherers, and have only partially adjusted to the settled farming lifestyle, evolutionarily speaking.

    the modern world is a shock to our systems.

    I also think that some mental illness is completely biologically based, with neurotransmitter imbalances. But I don’t think that is the majority of what we see in psychiatry.

    And then its complicated by the use of mind altering chemicals as an attempt to cope with the emotions and thoughts that we can’t handle. that list includes legal and illegal, socially acceptable and not.

    religion complicates it further, as so many religions place blame on the person for the mental illness.

    so its not a clear picture.

    and I’m not sure that I answered your question!

    • What question? 😀

      “religion complicates it further, as so many religions place blame on the person for the mental illness.”

      You are so right about that, I think. Well, maybe… hmm *thinks*

      How long have you been a psych nurse?

      Thanks for stopping by, Tammy 🙂

  7. […] Blessed Are The Sick (Your Voice) […]

  8. […] Blessed Are The Sick (Your Voice) […]

  9. Cristine said

    Our society in general is set up for stress and to make us sick. We have to work so hard to just get by and when you start combining work with children, the stress goes up to an unmanageable about. But what can you do? What is the alternative? We need to work to survive and we need to take care of our children.

    • I’m hearing you on the stress of parenthood and work in modern life, Cristine. This is where we as a society need more compassion on each other, I think. I know it’s tough, be kind to yourself.

      Do you think we need time out to actually take stock, and think about what we (as individuals) and as society can do different here?



  10. The Agnostic Pentecostal said

    This is very interesting indeed. Something I’ve thought about quite a bit. I don’t have time to give my full treatise here, but… Rightly or wrongly, I see disabilities and sickness separately in a way. Like a cold is different than paralysis. Maybe this is not a consistent/stable line of thought, but I’m inspired by those living with permanent disabilities. Not quite inspired with someone with a cold. But it does bring up a good point. Anyway, I have a couple friends with permanent disabilities and they simply inspire me to not get too selfish in my spirituality. To be grateful. The scripture comes to mind, (paraphrased) “He clothes the flowers, he takes care of the birds, don’t you think God will take care of you?..So why worry?”

    • In my book ‘Who Knew?’ I say;

      I am not living with pain, I do not have cancer, I do
      not have a debilitating terminal disease. I may not
      have the same body as you, but I am LUCKY.

    • Yeah. Sometimes I write intending to provoke thought, knowing that I haven’t told “the whole story” – as was the case with disability here.

      Perhaps if there is a God, she allows disability in the world so that those who are open to learn will actually learn something from their giftedness?

      Thanks for commenting Dave 🙂

  11. Jenna said

    I’m a big believer in the mind-body connection, so I tend to believe if my body is sick in some way, it is effecting my mind. I don’t necessarily mean a cold or the flu, but if my body is out of sorts somehow. For example, several variables in my life led me away from my yoga practice and, as a result, I’ve not been able to keep my depression at bay. As I ease back in to practice and meditation, my mood lifts. I’ve heard there are happy chemical consequences to a continual meditative practice and I truly believe it. I actually took to yoga and meditation on a doctor’s advice because I loathe taking antidepressants. (That’s why I like Campbell’s take on mental illness. Big fan of his, the other JC, as I call him.)

    As for what I think of the meaning of life for those who are disabled, I don’t really know. I may feel sad if I see someone disabled because I think “wow, that has got to be so difficult,” but really they may be living a grand life from a different angle. They may pity my inability to see the bigger picture and appreciate life.

    Just my two cents, again. Absolutely brilliant post, Jon! Keep them coming.

    • Hi Jenna!
      In my book ‘You Never Know: A Memoir’ I say, “To me, living on the fringe is truly comfortable. I am now on the border of most everything. In a very lucky way, I can intellectualize my situation. I definitely have issues – everyone does. When people feel sorry for me, my feeling is they probably don’t understand where I am coming from. Pity does not work for me; compassion on the other hand is totally acceptable.

      • Jenna said

        Romy- I am a fountain of compassion, to my detriment sometimes. My good friend and former boss has Cerebral Palsy, so I learned from him not to pity those I do not know. That was a hard lesson, but I’m better for it. I keep telling Jon I need to buy your book, the first, so I believe I’ll do that now. 😉

      • I like your distinction between “pity” and “compassion”. This seems right on the mark to me.

    • thankyou 🙂

      That mind-body connection is important. imho science is currently telling us we are “body-minds”, not mere minds. Ironically, some theologies have been telling us this for thousands of years. (I’m not going to bore you here with Greek philosophy versus Hebrew philosophy.)

      I wonder if the disabled or chronically sick can find meaning, then we can learn something of meaning from this?

  12. […] Blessed Are The Sick (Your Voice) […]

  13. […] to <a href=" (Those of you who react with unfairness/god is evil might want to go back to my short series on sickness and pain.)>my short series on sickness and pain.) Strangely, in the last week I’ve become very […]

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

%d bloggers like this: