Can health also be contagious?

As we retreat from one another and the world to reduce our risk of contagion, the passing of harmful substances from one person to another, it makes me wonder about the transmission of health. Is this something that may also be passed from one person to another?

It would seem not, because health is not a substance. It would be absurd to expect to “catch” health through the air-borne saliva droplets of a healthy person, or to pick it up from a doorknob or a faucet that such a person has touched. Health is the harmonious working together of all substances and forces within a given field of energy, in such a way that that field is able to maintain its integrity while remaining in communication with the outside world. By definition, it’s a self-contained state.

A state of un-health is caused not by any particular element within the organism, but by a lack of balance. Certain necessary nutrients are toxic if taken to excess. Pathogenic organisms may be tolerated if held in check by other, beneficial organisms. Poisons can become medicines, and vice versa.

It’s always puzzling to observe how some people exposed to the same micro-organisms become outwardly sick and some do not. This suggests that the notion that those organisms “cause” illness is false. An alternative view is that a hidden state of imbalance is exposed by the illness, presenting an opportunity to re-balance a disordered organism.

Thus the opposition of “illness” and “health” is also a false one. What presents to our sensory observation as an illness actually comes out of the invisible wisdom of the healthy organism, which is trying to restore its integrity. There would be no illness without such an impulse toward health; the visible signs of sickness are simply what is to be expected at a certain stage of the healing process.

That’s why people who have survived a serious crisis, whether of a physical or psychological nature, can often find gratitude for what they have been through. Just as a candle flame only becomes visible in the darkness, their illness has stimulated their awareness of the health-bearing forces of life. Often it has inspired them to change their lives in some way for the better. It has reconnected them to a wholeness that had become obscured through the fragmented busy-ness that usually passes for normality in our diseased world.

One wholeness cannot give itself to another, but it can stand before the other as an example, as a model and an inspiration. It can seek to communicate itself, not by transferring isolated fragments, but by sharing its story. And when we behold and emulate such wholeness, feelingly taking it into our hearts, our lives, we become joined in a mysterious, greater whole, the organism of humanity.

Such examples of wholeness can be encountered anywhere — on the bus, at the hospital, through the pages of a book or the post of an acquaintance on social media. It’s in that way, for me, that health can become “contagious” — when we seek for it, recognize it, and have trust in it as our common ground, our human birthright. That is when we begin to truly live, instead of merely exist.

How are you finding sources of health these days? What gives you life, hope, and purpose? What do you want to communicate?

Rembrandt, Christ Healing a Leper
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7 thoughts on “Can health also be contagious?

  1. After reading Anti-Diet (reviewed on March 16), I’m trying hard not to fall prey to “healthism,” the idea that people who are healthy deserve more respect and resources, and I’m spending as much time outside as I can stand (it’s still pretty chilly here in Ohio).

    1. Thanks Jeanne. I appreciate going outside too. It’s lovely here, with the mild winter already over — a result of climate change, something else to worry about, but for now I’ll enjoy the daffodils.

  2. “It’s always puzzling to observe how some people exposed to the same micro-organisms become outwardly sick and some do not. This suggests that the notion that those organisms “cause” illness is false. An alternative view is that a hidden state of imbalance is exposed by the illness, presenting an opportunity to re-balance a disordered organism.”

    This has been fascinating to me as the world goes through this pandemic. When you say health is “sharing its story,” what do you mean? What is the story one person has that another doesn’t? And how does the story actually enter into the hearts and lives of the other?

    Because this fascinates me, too, in general. I have worked with energy healers and I am trained in Reiki and I read about the many alternative healing methodologies that talk about physical health starting in the mind or that having a certain attitude or belief about health can keep you well, yet it ends up feeling like blaming if people get sick.

    I truly love this blog, Lory. Health, healing, spirituality are great interests of mine outside of reading and nature and I appreciate this kind of communication.

    I am in my patio a lot these days, since the weather has been so sunny, although today it is clouding up for a week of rain on and off. I walk my dog several times a day and ride my bike every evening and read and write and think. I miss the library and visiting my mom and friends and most especially, I miss the ease of going about in the world. But in my little life, which is so simple and quiet, I appreciate the slowing down, the keeping close to home, the appreciating of my little home and the pause of life. Maybe this is renewing for some people, this stopping, giving us a chance to reevaluate our lives in a positive way without getting sick to do it!

  3. Thank you for sharing your thoughts at such length, Laurie. I am glad these questions resonate with you and I hope we can continue the conversation.

    What do I mean by health “sharing its story”? I suppose that to me, a story is the ultimate image of wholeness. Within it every part has a meaningful place and relationship to every other. So when someone shares their story, it is a way to communicate a wholeness without breaking down the integrity of the teller. It also engages the receiver in creating a space for the story to be heard. That builds a higher “wholeness” between the two. A mysterious process, I’m not even sure what I mean by it exactly!

    It’s a good point about feeling there is blame attached to getting sick. I think that is very strong in our self-help, health-obsessed culture. Illness is equated with failure.

    For me, it took living with the so-called “disabled” to realize that health is not about being free from illness. It’s about learning to live with it, to bear it, in a particular way — allowing the illness to tell its story, maybe. It’s about honesty, and trust, and the humility to admit imperfection. And above all, learning to live together with others so that we complement and support each other. Human beings are not actually complete in themselves, yet figuring out how to fit ourselves in with the whole human community is a painful and quite agonizing process. Still, I have hope that we may get there yet.

  4. Sharing our story, who we are….listening and waiting. Being patient while we listen and observe the other person so we can take in everything about them. I really like that. I think that’s how we used to be. Now there is such clamor to be heard, but not to listen. I am guilty of that, but at least I have an awareness so I can try harder!

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