After being rushed to Emergency, I have just spent an unpleasant week in a hospital. Patients presume that people possess the patience to listen to the details of their illness and its treatment, and the totally insignificant, boring anecdotes of their sojourn in sick bay. I will spare you all that. But spending five days and nights fasting on your back, with intravenous feeding supplied from a tube in your arm and the evacuation of a foul-looking fluid from your stomach effected by a tube inserted therein via the nose and throat, gives one time to reflect on our vulnerability and mortality. Luckily I had no visits from a well-meaning “chaplain” (in fact a volunteer laywoman – priests are becoming extinct in France) who inevitably would have dished out the Christian illusion, not to say hogwash, about the sunny side of suffering and the merits of mortification.
It is, I suppose, salutary to be reminded of our fragility and of the inevitability of our death. There are more pleasant ways of being reminded that our time is limited and that certain things should be taken care of before we croak. But a week in hospital does the job very effectively (it is also a neat way of losing weight). Apart from that and the exemplary selfless dedication of (most of …) the staff, everything else about it is downside. There is no way I could ever again pardon a “God” for making me and others suffer like this (many of the others far more than I), or accept the claptrap about “salvific suffering” and the like. The human condition is inseparable from all sorts of pain, and sooner or later ends in death. There is no “meaning” to be found in either. The lucky ones are those who got to understand this early enough to practise stoic acceptance of suffering and death and enjoy life as long as they can. The false hopes and promises of religion provide comfort for the credulous, not for realists who know that suffering is a fact of life and death its inevitable end.