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March 9, 2007 | HARMLESS UNTRUTHS

Ailing

Sick. Ugh. I have been fighting a cold for a week, and today it really knocked me for a loop. I even went and got some medicine, something which I almost never do. And I turned down multiple invitations to go out and be social tonight, opting instead to curl up and cough the night away.

I'm sick

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(Boss Hog : Sick)

There are lots of good songs about being sick. I imagine the reason is that becoming sick is an extension of the rock and roll lifestyle, the natural aftermath of bleary evenings of booze and blow. Getting sick is totally metal and resolutely punk; it’s simultaneously hardcore and slowcore. Anything that rocks is guaranteed to be unhealthy (while on the opposite end of the spectrum, schmaltzy pop music can also be pretty nauseating).

I'm sick

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(Queens of the Stone Age : Tension Head)

Being sick is not pleasant, but it certainly has its purpose. I mean, besides the purpose of ensuring the survival of bacteria and viruses, I think illness serves a psychological purpose, and maybe in the long co-evolution of people and pathogens , the psychological aspect of sickness has been positive. Sickness is essentially a way of slowing down our human lives, warning us to pay more attention to our physical bodies. Don’t forget who’s really in charge , our bodies tell us. You think you are an independent person, acting of your own volition, but really you are a whole gooey mess of organic matter, a stew of organs run by a finely-tuned system of hormones. I mean, come on, half of what you think is “you” is miscellaneous bacteria .

Illness is a small reminder that we’re living at the mercy of our environments, both external and internal. It slices apart our best-laid plans, showing us that we just cannot control everything about our lives.

I'm sick

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(Primal Scream : Medication)

Getting sick is an unplanned interruption in ordinary life, and not a nice one, but I guess it’s like, ok, anything to break up the routine. The problem today is that our society is not structured very well to provide support for the sick. In the past, when work was not so specialized, and when whole families worked together, one person’s sickness was manageable. “Visit the sick” is one of the corporal works of mercy , a duty for everyone, not just specialized medical professionals.

Nowadays the work environment is a trillion times more efficient, but it doesn’t leave much room for redundancy, so sickness is sometimes just not allowed. We self-medicate and struggle through, and when we are truly unable to function, we head to giant bloated healthcare institutions so that we can get stronger medicine.

I'm sick

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(Smart Went Crazy : I Liked You Better When You Were Sick)

Not that I want to go back in time, and not that I reject modern medicine. I have seen old-timey medical devices at the Mütter Museum that still give me nightmares. I just think we need to sometimes set aside the Nyquil and really let the sickness have its moment. Me, I’m hoping tonight will bring some awesome fever dreams.