Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Poetry & Prose on How To Cope With Illness

In terms of dealing with illness, which I wrote about yesterday, I wanted to share a favorite passage from Jane Austen's Persuasion regarding the value of a flexible mind. I certainly related to Mrs. Smith. And I relished that this passage was written 2 centuries ago:
In the course of a second visit she talked with great openness, and Anne's astonishment increased. She could scarcely imagine a more cheerless situation in itself than Mrs. Smith's. She had been very fond of her husband,--she had buried him. She had been used to affluence,--it was gone. She had no child to connect her with life and happiness again, no relations to assist in the arrangement of perplexed affairs, no health to make all the rest supportable. Her accommodations were limited to a noisy parlour, and a dark bed-room behind, with no possibility of moving from one to the other without assistance, which there was only one servant in the house to afford, and she never quitted the house but to be conveyed into the warm bath.--Yet, in spite of all this, Anne had reason to believe that she had moments only of languor and depression, to hours of occupation and enjoyment. How could it be?-- She watched -- observed -- reflected-- and finally determined that this was not a case of fortitude or of resignation only.--A submissive spirit might be patient, a strong understanding would supply resolution, but here was something more; here was that elasticity of mind, that disposition to be comforted, that power of turning readily from evil to good, and of finding employment which carried her out of herself, which was from Nature alone. It was the choicest gift of Heaven; and Anne viewed her friend as one of those instances in which, by a merciful appointment, it seems designed to counterbalance almost every other want.
This passage is from chapter 17, and depict Anne's perception of her friend Mrs. Smith.

I also like these two poems by Emily Dickinson:

Pain — expands the Time —
Ages coil within
The minute Circumference
Of a single Brain —

Pain contracts — the Time —
Occupied with Shot
Gamuts of Eternities
Are as they were not —

Pain has an element of blank;
It cannot recollect
When it began, or if there were
A day when it was not.

It has no future but itself,
Its infinite realms contain
Its past, enlightened to perceive
New periods of pain.

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