Illness is never welcome. No one ever says, “Oh! I am so glad, this was the best time to fall ill.” Illness is detested. I am not talking about fever. I am talking about some of the worst and the most crippling form of illnesses. I am talking about the illness that makes us stuck in a phase, makes it difficult for us to move. In one of the earliest written English literature, you may find a brilliant piece called ‘The Consolation of Philosophy’ written by Boethius, a prisoner who made a legendary contribution to philosophy during his trial in the jail for his alleged crime against the King. The book is about his (imaginary) conversations with him (as a prisoner who begs not guilty) and Lady Philosophy. I thought to present here the part of the text where Lady Philosophy explains him the reason of his illness- his sorrow, lack of motivation and confusions. You might resonate with some part of it:
‘Now,’ said she, ‘I know the cause, or the chief cause, of your sickness. You have forgotten what you are. Now, therefore, I have found out to the full the manner of your sickness, and how to attempt the restoring of your health. You are overwhelmed by this forgetfulness of yourself: hence you have been thus sorrowing that you are exiled and robbed of all your possessions. You do not know the aim and end of all things; hence you think that if men are worthless and wicked, they are powerful and fortunate. You have forgotten by what methods the universe is guided; hence you think that the chances of good and bad fortune are tossed about with no ruling hand. These things may lead not to disease only, but even to death as well. But let us thank the Giver of all health, that your nature has not altogether left you. We have yet the chief spark for your health’s fire, for you have a true knowledge of the hand that guides the universe: you do believe that its government is not subject to random chance but to divine reason. Therefore have no fear. From this tiny spark, the fire of life shall forthwith shine upon you. But it is not time to use severer remedies, and since we know that it is the way of all minds to clothe themselves ever in false opinions as they throw off the true, and these false ones breed a dark distraction which confuses the true insight, therefore will I try to lessen this darkness for a while with gentle applications of easy remedies, that so the shadows of deceiving passions may be dissipated, and you may have power to perceive the brightness of true light.’
The Consolation of Philosophy is a wonderful piece of text, surprisingly about 500 AD (ages back); and if you can avoid slight references to the God (while no mention of christianity), it looks like a very simple text on philosophy to read.
Boethius engages questions such as the nature of why evil men often prosper and good men fall into ruin, human nature, virtue, and justice. He speaks about the nature of free will when he asks, “Does God knows and sees all, or does man have free will?” On human nature, Boethius says that “Humans are essentially good and only when they give in to “wickedness” do they “sink to the level of being an animal.” On justice, he says criminals are not to be abused, rather treated with sympathy and respect, using the analogy of doctor and patient to illustrate the ideal relationship between prosecutor and criminal.
It is so lucid and simple that you wonder where did we go wrong on the way, and made philosophy so complex. This book can be called the Philosophy for the Layman!