With all due respect to the brilliance and allure of Gregory House and his diagnostic prowess, something must be missing from his catalogue of known diseases. There is an especially rare condition I’ve come to realize recently. I think, in all seriousness, that being alive is a disease that only infects a few of us on this earth. It’s a condition that can be acquired by anyone, but it’s a condition that must be allowed to inhabit the body. It’s usually right in front of us, waiting to penetrate our bodies, but I think many people simply combat all the symptoms that pull them towards acquiring the condition. That many people may mis-diagnose themselves, that they know well enough how to go through the motions of functioning in this sometimes chaotic and complex world to present all the symptoms of life, without feeling any of them and without letting them grow into the disease. But the world isn’t always chaotic and complex, and, likewise, being alive doesn’t have to be a difficult condition to acquire.
The symptoms are the “every day,” what is in each moment of each day. And when you think about it, don’t we all seem to ignore the everyday in order to focus on the future and setting long-term goals that may or may not be reached, looking so far past what is going on around us that we completely miss what’s in every day? Long-term goals are (for those of you who know me well, you know what I’m going to say) crucial to achievement, necessary to cultivating an intense drive and motivation to succeed and follow one’s dreams. But how you get there is through the every day, right? So what does it mean if we can’t pay enough attention to what’s in every day? How will we get where we are trying to go? How will we really be alive?
The symptoms, as best I can understand them, seem to take the following shape: cooking a meal and inviting people to enjoy it with you, then sitting with those people for hours, eating and talking, pausing to laugh, engaging in conversation, listening. Taking a walk alone through a park, smiling at a beautiful child. Catching someone’s eye and speaking to them, without saying a word. Standing in the rain, feeling it, instead of rushing to shelter in order to avoid its caress on your skin. Ignoring the clock because time is not what you will allow to govern your day today. Sipping coffee in a café while watching people walk by, wondering what they’re thinking and listening to your own thoughts. Doing something every day that scares you or challenges you. Tripping over nothing on the sidewalk, and laughing at yourself because of it. Taking the most winding path home instead of the direct and easy subway or bus route. Stopping on that walk to read the posted signs on the sides of your favorite architectural landmarks in the city. Looking up at the sky when you’re walking, instead of at the ground in front of you.
I’m beginning to exhibit these symptoms, and what I’m trying to do now is convince myself to let the disease just completely take over. I have role models in this arena, people I look up to immensely and who I believe already have this disease. I will continue to rely on them to help me let go. If I can just turn my immune system off to this one disease.
It is profoundly encouraging to me that there is a condition in the world that is unaffected by time, impervious to prejudice, unsusceptible to barriers, both physical and intangible, invisible to those who aren’t brave enough, willing, or strong enough to see it, preserved in its own existence. I think it’s just waiting to be found, and there is enough of it to go around. It’s a condition that will never run out. For any person who wants to let it happen, it’s right around the corner. If we just get up, go for a walk, and go breathe it in, we’ll find it.