|Last Sunday, on my rehab walk. I used to need Keith to help me down steps without rails. On most steps, I don't need to go sideways anymore, but these were kind of steep.|
I can't presume to speak for believers, but from the outside, they seem to react first with prayer. I know the idea that God will save them from whatever terrible battle they face, or at least give them the strength to cope with it, is immensely comforting to them. But they're more likely to wonder if God is punishing them for something, as well. The things believers say to each other in times of trial tend to reinforce this way of thinking. God is trying to teach you something. God doesn't give you any burdens you can't handle. Or, the ever popular, it's all in God's plan. And even if they don't worry that it's a punishment, God is still doing this to them. Everything happens for a reason, as people so often say. I would take that kind of personally, myself.
One thing I've always wondered about prayer is, why is it even necessary? Surely the all-knowing God is aware that you don't want this cancer, autoimmune disease, or whatever. Will he only heal you if you beg? And if it's just that he needs to ensure that you're sufficiently devout, then isn't the affliction a form of blackmail?
Atheists and skeptics, on the other hand, are more likely to research their conditions to better understand what's going on, acting to improve their odds in some way. For example, the first thing I did when it looked like I almost certainly had dermatomyositis was schedule cancer screenings due the increased cancer risk associated with DM. I received my first abdominal ultrasound on the same day I got the official diagnosis from my rheumatologist. I've been getting the tests on a regular basis because I'm still in the 2-3 year period of elevated risk. It's quite unpleasant, but not compared to ovarian cancer detected too late. I won't even go into the colonoscopy (hint: the preparation was the worst part).
Nonbelievers also don't waste much time wondering why this is happening to them. Why? Because the universe doesn't care a whit about your existence. You're not even a pimple on the ass of the universe. And, at any rate, the universe can't do anything but expand endlessly, or eventually contract into the Big Crunch. Sounds like a candy bar, doesn't it?
This philosophy can be strangely comforting, actually. You haven't done anything to deserve this; it has nothing to do with you. As a great philosopher once said, "Shit happens." Unshitty things happens too. The nice thing about randomness is that any time things can turn around again. To the extent you can control things, your fate is in your own hands. And the only lessons you'll receive are the ones you choose to take from your experience. I've learned a great deal from my strokes and coma, but it all comes from nearly dying and my struggle to recover. In truth, I'm teaching the lesson to myself. My experiences were simply the coursework.
But at least the religious believe that if they die they're going to heaven, crossing that rainbow bridge to meet their lost pets and their dead loved ones in their exclusive heavenly Club Med. Yup, you've got me there. I think I'm going into the ground and the only thing I'll see are the worms eating my flesh. Only I won't be seeing them because I will be dead as a coffin nail.
And that's my point. I have no choice but to soldier on, accept what's happened, and do the best to conquer my obstacles. No one was going to make me walk again, just as nothing can save me from my ultimate doom. That's why I want to do whatever I can to make that eventuality as far off as possible. Shit happens, so watch your step.