Modern culture exalts the value of physical and mental health, and dedicates all kinds of efforts to prevent and fight sickness. But at the same time, we’re building a society around us where it’s not easy to live healthily.
Never has life been so threatened by ecological imbalance, pollution, stress or depression. But at the same time, we go about perpetuating a style of life that lacks meaning and values and communication, one that is full of a kind of consumerism, the trivialization of sex and all kinds of frustrations – all of which keep people from growing in a healthy way.
S. Freud, in his work Civilization and Its Discontents considered the possibility that a society would be sick overall and could suffer collective neuroses of which few individuals would be conscious. It could also happen that within a sick society those would actually be considered sick who were the healthiest.
Something like this happens with Jesus, of whom his family thought that «he’s not in his right mind», while the learned people who came from Jerusalem considered him to «have Beelzebul within him».
In any case, we need to affirm that a society is healthy in so far as it favors the healthy development of the person. The reverse is true also: when it leads people to inner emptiness, fragmentation, belittlement, or invalidation as human beings, we need to say that that society is at least partly pathogenic.
That’s why we need to be sufficiently lucid to ask ourselves if we aren’t falling into collective neuroses and a scarcely healthy conduct almost without being aware of it.
What’s healthier: allow ourselves to be sucked into a life of comfort, convenience and excess that puts the spirit to sleep and lessens the creativity of the person, or live in a sober and moderate way, without falling into «the pathology of abundance»?
What’s healthier: keep functioning as «objects» that whirl through life without meaning, reducing life to a «system of desires and satisfactions», or build our existence day by day by giving it an ultimate meaning based on faith? We mustn’t forget that Carl G. Jung dared to consider neurosis as «the suffering of the soul that hasn’t found its meaning».
What’s healthier: fill life with things, fashion products, clothes, drinks, magazines and TV, or take care of the deeper and more intimate needs of the human being in relation to our spouse, the home, and social coexistence?
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf