Friday, July 12, 2013


The bee gees said it right: you’re staying alive. Generally speaking, I’m doing better since my last post, and staying alive has, luckily, become much more bearable. Which is not to say that it comes automatically. As with most of us, when you’re down in the dumps, you won’t get through it on strength of character alone. In these instances it’s necessary and vital to have some remedy or formula to get you back on your feet. My remedies seemed a bit lacking, but since then I’ve been working on them, and I feel, at least, a little more balanced and secure, knowing that there are some things I can fall back on when times get hard.  
     ‘Panacea’ is defined as ‘a solution or remedy for all difficulties or diseases’. Its origins lie in Ancient Greek, where the word ‘panakeia’ - a contraction of ‘pan’ (‘all’) and ‘akos’ (‘cure’) was used in much the same way as we use it today. In the middle ages the word took on a new connotation, as it was used by alchemists to denote a remedy believed to cure all disease and to prolong life. 
     Some rather delicious synonyms which I can’t help sharing are ‘catholicon’, from the Greek ‘dia katholikon’, denoting ‘made of general ingredients’; and secondly the well-known ‘elixir’, which arrived in English via medieval Latin from the Arabic (finally! something unexpected!) ‘al-iksir’, which was in turn a contraction of the Arabic article ‘al’ and a derivation of the Greek word ‘xerion’, which is defined as ‘a powder for drying wounds’. There. I bet you didn’t know that.  
     Bibliophile as I am, it will come as a surprise to no-one that a favored panacea of mine is reading. As well as offering a temporary escape from the harsh reality, reading gives me an opportunity to see matters (in the broadest possible sense) from a different point of view. There’s nothing like reading about other people’s drama to put your own into perspective. Though, given the circumstances, I’ll admit that reading Anna Karenina was probably not the smartest move, I was definitely proud to have conquered this gargantuan of world literature. Though my self-esteem isn’t immediately boosted by my reading habits, I sometimes feel at least a little proud that, when it comes to books, I can set out to read something and actually finish it, even if it gets hard. 
     Another panacea which never fails me is pets. I have a cat who, though she has a will of her own and will never do what you want her to when you want her to, will exactly for that reason surprise me once and a while. When I came home recently after weeks of absence, she curled up on my lap immediately when I sat down on the sofa (a place she had deemed worthy to rest her royal fur on). Though I know that she hardly had my interests in mind when she did that, my heart melted just a little bit. There’s something strangely peaceful about stroking a cat asleep on your lap. And even if that’s all she has to offer me, it’ll be more than enough to offer me a happy retreat from the world. (On an unrelated note, I’ve been training her to become a Cheshire cat. She still has some difficulty with the floating and the disappearing, but I’m nearly as far as to get her to smile. I call this progress.)
     In addition, I recently made good on my promise to clean out my room. It was a shitload of work, but I’m happy that I did it. A couple of buckets of dust water later, and after the chucking out of various doohickeys which were really only taking up space, the place looks as good as new. I’m making good intentions to avoid the purchase of more stuff  which will only gather dust, thus making the work of dusting even more arduous (apart from books, even though after a rearranging of my bookcase, I don’t really have any room left for more - will have to think up some new space for that).
     Lastly, I would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to all those who have supported me the last few weeks. For all those who have sent cards, been to visit me, have emailed or phoned me: thank you. (In particular, I’d like to thank a friend of mine who has been to visit me no less than four times. Dude, you rock.) It may be a cliché, but family and friends are the best panacea you can possibly ask for. I sometimes think that I should be able to handle the world on my own, but I found out the hard way that this conviction is very, very specious. So thank you, folks. I hope you know that I deeply appreciate your efforts, and that I won’t take it for granted. One doesn’t get used to love.  

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