GUC: Spiritual health should be prioritized
Opinions Column: Macro to Micro
It was early morning as I strode across campus surrounded by groggy students making their way to their 8 a.m. classes. The air was brisk and my shoes stomped upon crinkled yellow leaves indicative of the arrival of autumn. By the bus stop, a student was hunched over, her face distorted in pain. I stopped to ask her if she was feeling well and if she was in need of assistance. She was clearly sick so I advised her to go home. Appreciation flashed across her eyes but she shook her head, replying in a low tone, “I can’t. I have a chemistry lab today.” We spent a couple of minutes conversing and I tried to persuade her otherwise. She finally agreed to go and seek medical attention. We parted ways. My thoughts floated around the short interaction throughout the day.
It has only been the second week of classes and individuals are already sacrificing their health to avoid potential academic penalties. This speaks volumes about the manner in which students prioritize aspects of their life in relation to not only campus culture, but also within the collegiate atmosphere. Upon seeing an individual physically distressed and unwell, it is in our society’s impulsive nature to declare the individual sick and recommend a doctor. Such a reaction is perceived as normal and acceptable. And, of course, that is how it should be. However, the eyes cannot behold all illnesses. Some are not physical. Some do not display external symptoms alerting the individual to take steps towards a remedy. Some illnesses take captive the mind and the heart. Those who are mentally ailed often do not exhibit blatant signs of sickness. Those who are spiritually sick will often not even be aware of their own situation. By “spiritually sick,” I do not mean to imply an absence of association with a religion or even a lack of practice in the mostly pseudo-spiritual trends of current times, but rather the state of being infected by an existential disease. Individuals who hold belief in certain religious doctrines are just as prone to a spiritual and existential void — sometimes even more dangerously so, as there can be a false assurance of security and thought in being immune to it.
An existential disease will wrap its arms around one’s neck when least expected. It is the type of sickness that will dwell in a shadowy corner of one’s heart, still and silent on most days, but always ready to cause a chaotic cacophony when offered even a sliver of attention. Most choose to ignore it. This is possible through preoccupying one’s self with numerous activities, filling one’s schedule to the brim and ensuring that the only time left to think about matters of death, life, purpose and existence is perhaps at night, when the mind can wander around freely for a few minutes before falling into sweet sleep. The busyness of one’s quotidian routine is sometimes utilized as a method of forgetting and escaping one’s fears and lack of satisfaction with the given answers to the questions humans are driven to inquire after. It is much easier to run around all day to classes, clubs, meetings and two part-time jobs than to reserve an hour, let alone a minute of a day to address the existential questions that seem to perpetually lurk within. At least, for me, much easier and less courageous, for I am guilty of all of the above.
Physical sicknesses that are left untreated will only grow worse until finally escalating into a state of emergency. Likewise, if sicknesses of the soul, self or “I,” — whatever you would like to call it — are not dealt with, an eventual crisis will occur, sometimes resulting in the negation of worth of life and everything else prepackaged with it. Medical centers are provided for bodily illnesses. Resources are becoming more and more available for mental illnesses. However, spiritual sicknesses are just as existence-threatening, and arguably, even more life-impacting on a practical basis than any other type of malady. While religious counselors may exist, or philosophy classes may offer secular solutions, the real cure lies within awareness of the sickness. The existential illness that affects all humans whether they be conscious of it or not must be acknowledged, grappled with, argued with, deliberated over and given time to fully manifest itself.
Like the sick student I encountered on that fall morning, one can insist on ignoring the sickness. One can argue that attendance of class or that daily life demands take precedence. However, priorities should be realized and long-term implications should be kept in foresight. An unwell student cannot effectively learn or contribute in class. Health is mandatory.
Aysenur Guc is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in philosophy. Her column, "Macro to Micro," runs monthly on Fridays.
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