I have been sick for nigh on a week now. Since first thing this work-week. I went to work Monday, stayed home Tuesday, went to work Wednesday, stayed home Thursday, and went to week Friday. This is probably not atypical for me. Or this little piggie, come to think of it.

I wasn’t really being piggy on Wednesday – I had three crucial meetings scheduled and just couldn’t see how the week would work out without me going. The first meeting was no-show de facto cancelled and the third meeting was cancelled as a statement to me about coming into work when sick. So it goes.

Lesson learned: stay home when sick, no matter the circumstances.

Of course I probably should’ve stayed home Friday, too, with the weather outside being frightful, but my costume (gecko) was too delightful to bung away for a full year. At least the suit was warm, the crazy gecko-head especially, functioning like an all-weather fabric helmet. Lots of people dressed up at work, somewhat surprising and at least partly attributable (maybe) to my clamoring for everyone to join me in the effort. Lots of people no-showed to work, too, or left early. So it goes.

Regardless, I think I’ve made another stride in detecting the purposeful fabric of the universe. By having a cold. Neat, huh?

The problem of evil is always put out there as the major counterargument to belief in God. Even calling it the “problem of evil” is, well, problematic, because I think it automatically gives it a weight the argument doesn’t deserve. It would be like calling the recent attempted scandal the “Bill Ayers Setback”. Who says it’s a setback? Isn’t the whole thing kind of silly? Can’t we move on already?

But, to humor the uncanny number of people who really do think it’s a problem, the problem of evil asks how a benevolent God can stand idly by while bad things happen. As though the point of life were somehow to have all good outcomes at all times because people learn so much when they are fat and happy. But there I go not giving the argument any weight again. This is a problem.

(Incidentally, it’s downright shocking to me how frequently this problem is depicted as the turning point on the plunge into atheism or desertion from various faiths in people’s lives. Depicted mostly in fictitious accounts, though also a fair bit in history. And it’s normally exacerbated by being an individual’s first direct encounter with a particular form of evil that prior they understood very well happened to other people. I just guess it’s hard to understand how narrow-minded, self-centered, and myopic people are depicted as being and/or are. Wow, am I in an adversarial mindset tonight.)

For some reason, most people tend to be most bothered by the evil that is controlled by the free will decisions of other people. This honestly accounts for something like 80-90% of “problem of evil” claims, which again demonstrates short-sightedness. Without going into the whole rigmarole, free will = meaning. With no free will, no one actually has any decisions, thus their lives, thoughts, and existence have no meaning, thus there are no theological underpinnings that matter anyway. The only way to prevent people from doing harm to each other is to abridge their free will, thus undermining any possible meaning to morality, thus undermining any semblance of meaning. Get it? Got it? Good.

But the stickier (and less utilized) aspect of the problem of evil, almost warranting its label, consists of natural disasters, ranging from weather events (colloquially called “acts of God” – we’ve really got it in for God, don’t we?) to illnesses, plagues, and the like. And frankly, my responses on this one aren’t as crisply satisfying as the need for free will to make the whole “sentient beings experiment” viable.

Mostly, my arguments have boiled down to the need for collective action and societal structure. People do worst in the face of natural disasters alone and the best in well prepared and coordinated groups. Our first clue that life was meant to be lived communally was not being born on our own individual planet, but natural disasters and disease give a good second clue. They also, conveniently, require social banding that has absolutely no violent aspects (and, in fact, requires healing instead). They also ensure that life will remain challenging (and thus provide learning) even when humans have learned to use their free will only for good (and not to commit violence). Eventually, we will get over our baser natures, but there still needs to be struggle and progress.

But this illness, this time around I’ve (re?-)discovered a key reason for illness specifically. And it’s not just the “fragility of life” mortality-awareness mumbo-jumbo, though it is related to that and that’s at least a tolerable argument anyway.

Anyway.

One of the points is that we are meant to realize just how much control and time we do have. This seems more obviously relevant in 2008 than it might’ve in 2008 BC, though we actually have a lot more free time than our ancestors 4,016 years prior – we just appreciate it and understand it less.

Most everyone these days goes around assuming they have no time for just a minute extra of anything – they may have some structured recreational time built in, but their schedule is packed to the gills just as they need it to be. There’s no possible room for variation or alleviation.

And then they get sick and – wham – there has to be time. Unless they’re one of these people who goes around trying to pretend they’re not sick and they can just fight through it… in which case, they get a pre-lesson about humility and how much more suffering they’re causing themselves via this route. (I know, there are also people who, by the economic laws governing this society hopefully not much longer, are forced to choose between toughing it out and facing economic disaster… this is why I support universal healthcare.) Anyway, in the end, one may be frustrated and suffering and discombobulated by the illness that removed one from one’s routine, but one also can suddenly see the cracks in the schedule and rejoin the routine fully understanding exactly how the component time is constructed.

So, next time you’re sick, appreciate the time off you’re being given and use it to evaluate whether your life might not be better structured another way.

Hey, if I preach doom and disaster in so many other walks of my life, why can’t I package theological understandings in chintzy greeting card-sounding lines?

I miss October already.