Intimations Of Mortality


John Waters

‘For more than a hundred days I have been ill with a condition called Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, a rare and unpleasant viral thing—dormant chicken pox that reactivates in a hapless few, years after being forgotten.’

This opens an article [in full at link below] on the First Things website by John Waters about recently falling ill with a life-threatening neurological  condition.

Awaiting the results of a CAT scan, he writes:

[my] symptoms seemed to be a physiological dimension of the condition itself. My body was rebelling against my being, and I was cast between the two, unable to stand, speak, hear, or see properly. The dizziness was a kind of disintegration of my self, and the result seemed to be that no previously existing principle, conviction, theory, value, or belief had stability within me.

I could not help feeling that these reactions bespoke a diminution of faith, which had seemed strong when I was strong, but now was dissolving with my strength. The substance of my beliefs remained but, with my reason shot to pieces, could no longer find traction. In this new and unfamiliar place,

I felt spiritually alone; marooned, without an external source of support. I had lost my spiritual equilibrium. My illness made it clear that something had shifted in me, without my knowing, to render my steps on the spiritual path less sure-footed. Sometimes, doubt and unease can remain as undetected as a latent virus.

For a long time (to take an example in a different category), I had held that Catholics who claimed to have lost their faith because of clerical sex abuse were hiding behind an alibi with little basis in reason. Why should the sinfulness of others weaken one’s faith in God?

But more recently, I have felt sympathy with such people, realizing that such a fundamental breach of trust by someone who has spent years studying the vital questions of faith is not an incidental matter, but affects the core of belief.

By the same token—and this may have been a factor in my own case—when we see the elders of Christ’s Church engaging in behavior that denigrates the Church’s most fundamental teachings, can we be surprised if we find ourselves doubting first of all their faith and, perhaps, the reliability of our own?

This had not occurred to me before my Ramsay Hunt nightmare, but I have since come to believe there may be something in it. {more below]

The Terror Of Goodbye (John Waters, First Things)

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31 thoughts on “Intimations Of Mortality

  1. some old quare

    Not much I would agree with Waters on but still- I wish you a speedy recovery to full health John.

  2. B9Com From No

    He’s a good writer in fairness
    Shame about what he actually writes/all the other stuff

    1. Gabby

      A good writer is more than a stylist with a sharp pen. A writer who thinks for himself can also prompt readers to think – even if they reach different conclusions.

      1. B9Com From No

        Well his first book – the Crossroads one – did make me do that a little, the other stuff since … less so

  3. Pat

    Ah that’s terrible to be afflicted by a condition that’s not only rare but also cockney rhyming slang.

  4. millie st murderlark

    Again, I’ll refrain. Wishing John all the best as he recovers.

    Once he’s well, however, it’s open warfare.

    1. newsjustin

      I’m kinda familiar with him. But not really his back story. What has he done to them that people are a little reluctant to wish him a speedy recovery?

  5. Kevin Higgins

    First became conscious of him guts of 40 years ago when he emerged like an altar boy who had discovered Darwin’s Theory and was so excited that he wanted to share. Deja Vu. We apparently get to share another bang on the head moment. I dread what’s coming when puberty kicks in.

  6. Liam Deliverance

    Get well soon John and maybe consider becoming an agnostic, life is much easier.

  7. Paulus

    John is one a few who espouse a particular point of view, (hey that rhymes).
    Then they undergo a conversion of sorts. Nothing wrong with that except they now berate the rest of us and point out our lack of wisdom for not joining them in this new nirvana.

    THEN, they revert (kinda – hard to know exactly what he’s saying here), and come back to a point where many of us have been at all along.
    So good health John, but maybe keep shtum until you really know where you’re at.

  8. Ian-O

    Hope it clears up soon.

    Also hope they sort out the Ramsay Hunt Syndrome thing as well. Sounds like a pain in the cojones.

  9. Lilly

    That sounds dreadful, poor guy. I thought people got more religious, not less, on becoming ill. Some would argue that every physical ailment has a spiritual component – eg, a broken ankle manifests feeling unsupported. Maybe it’s time for John to do some soul searching. Say what you like, he’s a nice writer.

    And on the off chance that he reads this – forget prayer, meditate!

      1. Lilly

        Ah now Bisted, don’t be mean.

        I love this, in the comments on JW’s piece from Nothing_Burger:

        ‘Peace of mind is no substitute for life. Buddhism and stoicism only play pretend – they’re just… more of the same.’

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