Wizzo has a close friend
whose doctor told him he has cancer.
Wizzo wrote him a note and the friend responded with a question about
one of the statements Wizzo had made. You know how the wizard’s language can be. Anyway, I thought I’d share a glimpse of Wizzo’s second email to his friend because there’s a chance it could be useful to other people, too.
You mentioned that you weren’t quite certain what I meant by “It will not define you.”
Persons who find themselves facing a disease all too often allow it to enter their self-definition.
“I am a cancer patient. I am a cancer victim. I have cancer.” These people form a symbiotic relationship with the disease. I know you will not do this.
You don’t “have” cancer.
It, for the moment, has you.
Your obligation is to escape it.
You don’t accept delivery. You don’t own it. This package has been mis-delivered to your address but you won’t bring it into your house. You will leave it outside. You have notified the proper authorities.
This phenomenon of identifying oneself by one’s momentary misfortune is often seen in persons convicted of a crime or persons who have become addicted to alcohol. “I am an ex-convict. I am an alcoholic.” A person who hasn’t had a drink of alcohol in 30 years will often be quick to tell you, “I’m an alcoholic.” They bond with this identity and wear it like a badge. It is their scarlet letter.
I would like to believe that if ever I were to become entangled with a disease or with the law, I would not allow my self-image to become bonded to it.
You won’t do this, I’m certain, because you know exactly who you are.
It is one of my favorite things about you.
PS – Adam Gopnick, in the current issue of The New Yorker, (Jan. 6, 2014, p. 17) made a statement that helps me understand this weird tendency
people have to identify with the disease that has attacked them:
“Our imagination of disaster is dangerously more fertile than our imagination of the ordinary… We have a fatal attraction to fatality.”