I read a book that… I thought was going to be much better than it was. It was advertised in The New Yorker: The Pain Chronicles. I really thought the writer of the book had terminal cancer or something before I started the book. It turned out she had chronic pain–and by the end of the book I wondered if that was any kind of illness at all even compared to mine: Bipolar Schizoaffective Disorder. What is worse is what some of her forays into spirituality were to deal with her “suffering”. She discovered the Babylonian god for Toothache and a strange variant of Hinduism involving running on hot coals. Personally, people think I went off the beaten track for having become a Jew, but even if I had gone to become a Hindu I might have stuck to the regular Temple and vegetarianism and skipped the hot coals. Some of it seemed downright disrespectful to God. And no she never tried to look at it from a point of view that felt sorry for anyone save herself.
However, it did inspire me in one way. If she was praying to the Babylonian god of the Teeth, I guess I can pray to my God about a recent relapse into mental illness, probably led to by the fact that the drug store won’t give me my pills. I can’t say I expect divine intervention, but perhaps praying will have the effect it sometimes has on me of dulling the pain of physical or mental illness–I have had both, and if it doesn’t always work it sometimes does. So here it goes, inspired by the story of Elisha and how he cured the leprous Naaman by having Naaman bathe in the Jordan. After Naaman was cured he converted, but he had a problem: his king was pagan and he would be there when his king prayed to his pagan god. He asked Elisha if that was allowed and Elisha said, “Go in peace.” So here it goes:
Cruel torments of the Soul,
the madwoman is torn into by a very devil,
not perhaps the literal Devil of Religion
but one causing pain like cancer on the heart.
“God,” she cries, “reach down to me:
make me whole like Naaman kneeling before
Elisha begging him to let him serve his pagan King,
to be given the enigmatic words, ‘Go in Peace,’
and I shall make no compromise with other gods.
No, I will go further than Naaman to escape my curse.
I shall worship none but You, crying no God more
than the God who freed me from my torments.
Naaman did good but I shall do better.
Just free from the inner leprosy of being insane,
the nut whom the world laughs at because
her words no longer make sense to the world,
and perhaps barely do to her God Himself.
Free me from my illness, O Holy One.
I will prostrate myself before You as Your slave.
Nothing is too good for the God Who Makes Me Whole.
Lord, I cry, I pray for my eventual soul’s resurrection:
in this world and in the next to be freed from my head’s pain.”