Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Curing the Incurable

This evening, I got into a small text conversation on a board that brought to mind one of my short stories for the Static-Lands, posted below on this blog. 

For those that have not read it, Incurable is about an aging woman and her adult son and the idea of "forcing a cure" on someone.  The old woman has contracted a mysterious disease that enables her to see visions and to perceive the world in a way that normal people do not.  Her society does have a religion, but one that's very materialistic and aside from a central creator-goddess, holds everything supernatural or off-kilter to be silly and/or dangerous and so visions are contrary to it.  The woman's new way of perceiving the world leads her to start leaning toward a personal mysticism that is contrary to the dominant "normal" view.  The disease she has contracted is also slowly killing her physically. 

Her son, a rather self-important person and person of importance in their society, is dismayed at his mother's state and speaks to her of a new cure that's been discovered for her disease.  She tells him admantly that she does not want this cure, as rather enjoys her newfound eccentricities.  During a trip into the capitol city, which she thinks is innocent enough, he takes her to a clinic where she is "jumped" and processed - this lifesaving cure she did not want forced upon her.  To know of the aftermath, read the story. 

The point of the story wasn't whether or not the characters visions were actually real or true in any way at all. The point was about her wishes, her attitude about her own perceptions (even if they were skewed) and whether or not it was right to force another view or even her previous way of perception back onto her.

I wrote it to deal with both the "religion/faith/beliefs are a virus" idea that's going around in "rationalist" and evolutionary biology circles (as far as I've read), and with the idea of how society approaches mental illness. I, myself, am bipolar. It's an interesting ride, to say the least.  I cannot say that the condition does not make me suffer, but I honestly don't know if I would want a complete and total cure for it if one were found. I see being "non-neurotypical" as being a part of me. It also helps that it's a "disease" shared by a lot of creative people. I find that it helps my creativity (for example, some of more interesting things I write, I don't think I could if I didn't suffer once in a while from crippling depression, and some of what gets done, gets done becuase I have racing thoughts/ideas and manic writing sessions).  The medication I take to regulate it/balance myself helps me to focus, but is not a cure.

Both my (ever shifting but somehow central) beliefs and my strangeness/insanity really are a part of who I am and I get tired of seeing who I am as needing a cure. (I almost want to say "You might as well send me to the gas chamber" sometimes). 

Anyway, I got into a conversation with one of those people who are adamant that all religion is a virus.  I asked him (or her) about that.  I asked specifically about, because of his/her tone on the general topic... about how it really seems to me that a lot of people who are quick to say "religion is a virus, religion is a disease" don't treat people like they have a disease. 

Instead, they seem to be the quickest to treat it as a moral failing - while calling it a naturally-occuring disease. 

This has always puzzled me.  While people *have* judged and looked down upon people with AIDS (becausee they think they "did bad things" to get it), most of the time, we don't treat diseased people like moral failures.  Modern society considers it cruel to treat someone with cancer like they are unintelligent or someone with the flu like they are a failure at life.  Moral judgements and condmenations are typically reserved (in current times) for people who've done some "wrong" action or made "bad choices," not for hospital wards. 

This person inadvertenly gave me some insight as to why people like him (her) *do* treat the "disease" as moral failure.  When I asked this question, their response was that Reason was the cure. (And, yes, they capitalized "Reason").  

Now I know why people who are quick to label people who dissagree with them as "diseased" or "infected" as if by the flu are also quick to see it as moral failing and treat it like a choice:  They are offering the "cure." To them, the "cure" is obvious and seeing the diseased fail to take the cure constitutes "choice."  ---

---Enough to make people both diseased and moral failures at the same time. 

In other words, now I know why this particular "disease" is apparently a disease that does not warrant compassion.

Of course, maybe my connecting these patterns is just a function of my insanity.


  1. Speaking as someone with a pain disorder who just needs to "toughen up" and "get over it", I can relate.

    Would I want to be cured? I dunno, honestly. I am who I am today because of the pain. It has shaped me, changed me, crumpled me up, but has also allowed me greater empathy and care for my fellow people who suffer. (I also think that if I were to wake up one morning entirely free of pain, I'd probably start screaming and never stop.)

    As for religion-as-virus . . . that's a metaphor. Or it's supposed to be. I am an atheist, and I tend to agree, in general, with that statement, but I don't see moral failing in it. Nor do I see moral failing in any sort of disease.

    Religion-as-virus is supposed to mean that, much like the common cold, everyone is exposed to it, you don't realize it when it's happening, and everyone tends to have the virus of the people around them. Religion is like that.

    This is not to say that religious people are stupid or evil any more than people spreading around rhinoviruses are stupid or evil.

    Oooh! Hey, I can even extend the metaphor! Religion occasionally inspires people to do terrible things, although the vast majority of the religious aren't affected that way. So is the person who spreads religion to them culpable? Well, my husband has MS, and a simple rhinovirus can cause him to go into an active disease state with the potential for greater disability or possibly even death (very remote). Would you prosecute or even blame the person who sneezed within 5' of him? I wouldn't.

    Anyway, that's my take on it, as an atheist and a great admirer of that particular story of yours.

  2. I don't like how this system doesn't seem to have a direct reply feature.

    I actually had this flash of an idea - probably one of the many I have that will never get written - about a great city (probably futuristic, not a Static-Lands story at all) where there are people who are in thrall to something called Virus, there are normal people, and there are Vaccines.

    The "vaccine" people are a "part of the virus" but serve to quell disasterous effects. It's a metaphor for idelology in general (religion, politics... fandom. Whatever). (You have the really virulent people, like those who scare everyone with tales of the end of the world happening on certain dates and a "send me money!" attitude, and people who bomb buildings, but you also have the moderate, progressive and genuinely kind people, who are motivated to helping humanity).

    One may be a "virus," one may be a "vaccine" and work in a similar way. Real vaccines (from what I know) are made from viruses, weakened form, and help the body to fight when the real things show up - mitigating the sickness if all goes well. I know I've had all my shots.

    If the "normals" in this fictional city decide to destroy the (ideological) Virus, and become so overzealous they destroy the Vaccines as well "just to be safe," - sooner or later, a new Virus will arise and they'll have no "Vaccines" to stop it or ease its effects.

    Er. Yeah. Insane idea that I'll probably never write. But, this is my blog, I can say whatever insane thing I want. Maybe someone will think it's a good story idea?