Many years ago a co-worker of mine was suffering from symptoms of a cold. We were about to have our weekly meeting and he was in my office sniffling and sneezing. He kept apologizing and said he hoped I wouldn’t catch it. I told him he could catch health from me instead and the look on his face was priceless. The somber expression turned into a huge smile and he said he had never thought of health that way before. After that we were able to proceed with our meeting since he seemed to be a bit more comfortable. This article by my colleague, Bob Cummings, was very similar to this experience and gives a different view on how to think about health. It is stronger than we may think.
Is it reasonable to consider a good thing as contagious? Isn’t it widely accepted, for example, that laughter can be infectious?
What would be the beneficial implications of viewing health as catching?
For one thing, instead of viewing health as fragile, we could find a sturdier sense of health – that is, health that is not just the absence of disease or infirmity, as the World Health Organization’s definition of health points out.
This, in turn, could help us confront fear in the face of extensive news reports of the flu and other forms of contagion. Such reports, in this newspaper and others, can help us be informed, alert and wise. They can also make us fearful. Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the W.H.O., referring to the Ebola outbreak, said that fear is spreading faster than the virus.
Tackling fear is important.
Health reformer Mary Baker Eddy said, “People believe in infectious and contagious diseases, and that any one is liable to have them under certain predisposing or exciting causes. This mental state prepares one to have any disease whenever there appear the circumstances which he believes produce it. If he believed as sincerely that health is catching when exposed to contact with healthy people, he would catch their state of feeling quite as surely and with better effect than he does the sick man’s.”
All of this makes me think of an example from the Bible in which Jesus touched a leper. Instead of Jesus catching leprosy, the leper was cured.
Could that touch have been an assertion of a different view of what health is and where it comes from – an assertion that the source of health is superior to the source of disease?