No one likes having a cold. If one is immuno-suppressant, a cold can turn into something really nasty depressingly quickly, so one makes one’s misery plain to keep others at bay. In any case, a cold seems to justify being just a teeny-weeny bit cantankerous, doesn’t it? I myself take full advantage of the privilege thus afforded. I gloomily admit I am too tired to do what I ought and try not to think of all that is mounting up on the to-do list. Bro Dyfrig BFdeB’s share of a mid-morning biscuit is reduced in size from a companionable half to a mean morsel no bigger than a thumbnail. Meals are ‘simplified’ to dullness. The Divine Office is muttered in private. Bed-time comes early.
The trouble is, the world goes on as it always has; and while one weeps for the sufferings of those affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia or the acutely painful Senate hearing in the U.S.A., one’s overwhelming desire is to avoid trouble, confrontation, anything that detracts from concentration on one’s own woe. With a cold one’s whole existence shrinks to present pain and exhaustion and poor, poor me. Which may possibly be why most of us get colds, at least occasionally. It is only when one has plumbed the depths of one’s own preoccupation with self that one can recognize how easy it is to pass from being a kind, generous person, genuinely interested in others, to a selfish, crotchety so-and-so that no one (apart from God and the dog) wishes to spend time with.
Let’s pause there for a moment. The two exceptions I mention, God and the dog, are worth thinking about. What do they see in us when we are at our least attractive that makes them brave our churlishness and irritability? Clearly, they accept us as we are. I think they must see something we tend to overlook, both in ourselves and in other people: the mystery of grace, our being ‘immortal diamond’, someone infinitely loveable. That is humbling in the best sense — and something to remember when we have a cold.*
*My own cold seems to be getting better so I should be able to have my delayed chemotherapy on Thursday, 4 October, D.V..