Earlier this week I wrote a post on the history of physiotherapy in times of pandemic for the history.physio site (link here). I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently and wanted to add a couple of more philosophical reflections that I hoped might be therapeutic for readers.
The first thought ties in nicely with the history piece, and it is that we should remember that for almost the entire span of human history, humans have lived with the threat of illness and death, and it is only in the last half-century that some have enjoyed stable economies and secure employment, access to immediate, low-cost, advanced healthcare, good food and safe living conditions.
I say ‘some’ because, of course, these things are unevenly spread around the globe, but anxiety and precarity, for all of us, has been our default for almost the entire span of human history.
Being thankful for our good fortune, and comfortable with the ephemeral nature of health is hard, particularly when so much changes so fast, but there are philosophical ideas that can really help.
One of the most important philosophers on suffering, and perhaps the person who’s influenced my philosophy on life most, is Friedrick Nietzsche (normally pronounced “Nee-cher”).
Nietzsche has this idea of The Eternal Return.
One day walking in the Swiss Alps where he was recovering from overwork, he imagined a demon telling him that everything he had experienced in his life would be relived over and over again for eternity.
What would life be like then, Nietzsche thought. Rather than working towards the afterlife of Christian doctrine (Neitzsche was no fan!), we would come to realise that everything in life, good and bad, should be embraced as important in shaping us.
Rather than regretting our mistakes, feeling miserable about our failings, being angry with others, or cursing malign gods, we could make peace with ourselves and come to love the world for what it truly is, not what we wished it would be.
Nietzsche saw the idea of The Eternal Return as a way to think differently about the meaning of life and find peace in turmoil. I hope it helps you and yours over the coming weeks.
Kia kaha e hoa mā (a Māori saying meaning ‘stay strong friends’). Nietzsche would want you to.
Some nice resources: