Reducing Being Human to an Illness

I found very moving and most honest an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times dated April 2, 2013.  Ted Gup speaking from the place where heart and mind come together talks both about his son’s problems and death, and our society’s fixation with treating every human behavior and emotion as a disease to be cured by some drug.  It speaks directly to issues always close to my heart:  what does it mean to be human?  What is it to be a human being?  These questions are the ones that keep me tied to the Orthodox Christian faith which I have embraced and wrestled with for 40 years.

Created in the image of God

You can find the entire article at Diagnosis: Human .    Below is a portion that I felt particularly was well spoken.

Ours is an age in which the airwaves and media are one large drug emporium that claims to fix everything from sleep to sex. I fear that being human is itself fast becoming a condition. It’s as if we are trying to contain grief, and the absolute pain of a loss like mine. We have become increasingly disassociated and estranged from the patterns of life and death, uncomfortable with the messiness of our own humanity, aging and, ultimately, mortality.

Challenge and hardship have become pathologized and monetized. Instead of enhancing our coping skills, we undermine them and seek shortcuts where there are none, eroding the resilience upon which each of us, at some point in our lives, must rely. Diagnosing grief as a part of depression runs the very real risk of delegitimizing that which is most human — the bonds of our love and attachment to one another. The new entry in the D.S.M. cannot tame grief by giving it a name or a subsection, nor render it less frightening or more manageable.

The D.S.M. would do well to recognize that a broken heart is not a medical condition, and that medication is ill-suited to repair some tears. Time does not heal all wounds, closure is a fiction, and so too is the notion that God never asks of us more than we can bear. Enduring the unbearable is sometimes exactly what life asks of us.

But there is a sweetness even to the intensity of this pain I feel. It is the thing that holds me still to my son. And yes, there is a balm even in the pain. I shall let it go when it is time, without reference to the D.S.M., and without the aid of a pill.

Healing is more than taking pill.  In many of the ancient biblical languages, health and salvation are related terms.   Those who reduce human healing to taking a pill are like those who reduce sin to a violation of law that came be overcome with some juridical event which brings about retribution.

The world as we know it is a world in which there is dis-ease.  The incarnation of God – God becoming part of His own creation and suffering in this world, experiencing all we experience – is true health and salvation.

Christ healing the sick

4 thoughts on “Reducing Being Human to an Illness

  1. Pingback: Orthodox Collective

  2. Pingback: In Mid-Lent: The Cross as a Sign of Joy | Fr. Ted's Blog

  3. Pingback: When Are We Not Responsible? | terry1954

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