God and the common cold
I have a cold.
I have a snorting, hacking, eye-weeping, sore-throat, pounding-head, hard to sleep kind of a cold, despite all the herbal and chemical remedies in the world. I got it in Hawaii (which just seems wrong) and it’s now reached the pinnacle of disgusting awfulness. I’ve lost five days of writing time because my thoughts have to struggle their way through damp cotton wool to reach the surface.
When my kids were young, sending them to school with so much as a sniffle would bring a phone call from the office firmly requesting that you come and fetch this object of contagion, and not bring it back until it stopped blowing its nose in, oh, about six weeks. (This method was enthusiastically supported by the teachers, whose class sizes became almost manageable for a few weeks at the height of the season.)
Now, I understand, at least in some enlightened private schools, kids with colds are not only permitted, but encouraged to show up.
Seems they’ve realized that colds have a purpose, and anyway there’s only 140 of them to develop immunity to.
I’ve suspected for years that stamping out the common cold might be a short-sighted goal, because I’m a theologian (of the recovering variety, but that too may be appropriate here.) Theologically speaking, God doesn’t tend to dump stuff on us without a purpose. This theory rams into a wall of common sense when one confronts some of the truly despicable behavior humans are capable of, but since my brain is too filled with cotton wool to deal with complex thoughts, I’m not even going to try on that one.
But in general, leaving aside the human ability to self-mutilate, life is a machine that functions well as it is. You can call this Mother Nature, evolutionary inevitability, or God, as you prefer.
God gave us colds, because the machinery of our bodies needs them. Without the yearly challenge to the immune system, the body doesn’t know what to do when it’s faced with a more demanding disease. Just like they’re beginning to find that allergies and asthma are linked to too sterile a childhood, and that even peanut allergies can be tackled straight on.
So it comforts me, to know that I am currently being blessed by God and/or the demands of millions of years of evolutionary design, and working my way through a cold.
Now if you’ll pardon me, I have to go cough up a lung.