I got infected by flu a couple of days ago. Since then I’ve been lethargic about almost everything. What symptoms have I had? Just mild headache, sore throat, slightly stuffy nose, very occasional cough, occasional attacks of feeling of coldness, and occasional slight fever. Yet merely these minor physical discomforts have already been enough to make me disinterested in eating, in talking, in having my regular cup of coffee with my wife at our favorite “tsar-tsan-teng” (restaurant in the HK language) every morning, in responding to my wife’s questions of concern (now, this time I have a good excuse), in meeting up with friends (partly for the reason of not to spread germs/viruses to them), in doing my freelance income-generating work, in doing my regular voluntary work, in practising the few musical instruments (Guzheng, Erhu and Dongxiao) that I’ve been learning to play, and in doing almost anything in life. I can’t imagine how I would behave if I suffer from illnesses more severe in nature to the extent like those that had tortured Lydia Shum (Fei-fei) until she passed away. Maybe I would just kill myself? Or perhaps I would even be too lethargic to do that?
In Buddhism, there is this notion of the “Four Noble Truths”. The first of these four truths is: Life is suffering. But this notion is different from the relatively naive version of “there is suffering in life”, which is a more widely accepted notion. What constitutes suffering in life? Illnesses, for one, in addition to a host of many other elements of life, which I’m too lazy to explore into at this moment. How does the notion of “there is life in suffering” link to the notion of “life is suffering”? There are people who would admit that “there is suffering in life” but reject that life itself is suffering. From a really Buddhist point of view, it’s not enough to make one a genuine Buddhist if one only accepts “there is suffering in life” but rejects “life is suffering”. Here, maybe the key issue is how the word “suffering” is being interpreted by different people. Anyway, again I’m too lethargic to elaborate on this topic now.
I would have to admit that, being a person having retired from regular full-time work and able to live a simple yet decent life by relying on income from investment and freelance work, I might be abusing the luxury of being able to stay home to allow my lethargy its full play just for this minor illness called flu. Most people, having acquired flu, would have to keep going to school or to work and staying home for a rest remains a luxury to them. I should be grateful for being given the luxury.
In Buddhism, there is another notion called “non-duality”, i.e. not to fall into either extreme of things. So acquiring flu and being lethargic for that should have its positive effects as well as the negative ones. For the past couple of days, during my flu, at least I managed to read a large portion of a science fiction that I would only read when I’m riding the MTR or waiting for a bus at a bus stop. Also, I managed to write this post for the blog.