On Health and Care

G K Chesterton as Bacchus
Originally uploaded by seadipper
I’ve been re-reading G.K. Chesterton’s “Heretics” – a collection of essays in philosophical, literary, and theological criticisms. In a chapter on H.G. Wells, Chesterton takes a moment to talk about Health and Care. The context is different but the way he uses the words we have so frequently tossed about of late is fun and interesting. It caught my attention in light of our current brouhahas on the subject we have termed “Health Care:”

”The mistake of all that medical talk lies in the very fact that it connects the idea of health with the idea of care. What has health to do with care? Health has to do with carelessness. In special and abnormal cases it is necessary to have care. When we are peculiarly unhealthy it may be necessary to be careful in order to be healthy. But even then we are only trying to be healthy in order to be careless. If we are doctors we are speaking to exceptionally sick men, and they ought to be told to be careful. But when we are sociologists we are addressing the normal man, we are addressing humanity. And humanity ought to be told to be recklessness itself. For all the fundamental functions of a healthy man ought emphatically to be performed with pleasure and for pleasure; they emphatically ought not to be performed with precaution or for precaution... It is the first law of health that our necessities should not be accepted as necessities; they should be accepted as luxuries. Let us, then, be careful about the small things, such as a scratch or a slight illness, or anything that can be managed with care. But in the name of all sanity, let us be careless about the important things, such as marriage, or the fountain of our very life will fail.”

This was written in 1905 – over a hundred years ago. Yet, it might have been in yesterday’s Time’s column, even if not said so eloquently. After all, the past was just a moment ago.

Kendall RComment