If the two main things that keep us alive — breath and touch — make us part of something beyond the limits of our skin could we ever be whole without an other?
The word ‘health’ comes from roots that mean ‘whole’.
‘Health’ isn’t just about healthcare. Health services, hospitals, medical facilities exist to help us recover our health as we know it, rather than ensure it in the first place.
All our systems (educational, industrial, familial…) reflect neither health nor care, in my opinion.
They might work together to determine the order of our society, which, as we can see around us, is far from ‘health’. But these systems could relate with each other in their day-to-day functioning to provide us with another perception of ‘health’. One that exists beyond the lens of disease.
What if it wasn’t only up to each individual to navigate the various sections of their life separately — work, home, interests, etc.? If we need to create a ‘work-life balance’ it’s because that balance doesn’t exist to begin with. But what if there were factors in the foundational design of all these areas that allowed them to be aligned with our biological needs more than the needs of a market?
When I think about the word ‘whole’ I think about something that is entirely there. Present. I say ‘health’ is not part of any system we live with because I think none of them allow us to be ‘entirely there’. And by that I mean none of them allow us to make free choices for ourselves in each present moment.
Imagine if you could go late to work simply because you wanted to fuck your partner one morning. Or because you were watching a bird make its nest. It might sound ridiculous or utopian but we forget that desire and curiosity like many other physical or emotional reactions come from a live relationship that is not going to be the same if you return to it in another moment. So I don’t think the proposition is impossible or even impractical. You could still get work done — probably do it better even! What if teachers could ask students ‘what are you interested in knowing about today?’ and make that a part of the curriculum without worrying about wasting time or not covering the syllabus for examinations or finishing the school year in time? We are so used to adhering to arbitrary timeframes and schedules and basing our decisions on them.
It is difficult to look for ‘health’ within our current systems because they function through limiting our ability to make our own choices. As long as there are a few people making decisions for billions — which is the case with our social structures, governments, markets, development, research, entertainment, environment, food…everything — I think we will always have a ‘health’ issue. A health issue through the lens of illness — as we see now with patent laws and multi-billion dollar individuals and companies making life-determining decisions for people they will never meet or know — but also through the lens of ‘wholeness’, which I think is a question of agency. And how can that agency exist without the live relationships of what we’re acting with? Because we think having agency is to do with being independent but according to the Oxford Dictionary ‘agency’ is an ‘action or intervention producing a particular effect’. Doesn’t that mean that agency is fundamentally relational?
Today, in the midst of a crisis, we mobilise and donate and amplify and support each other in times of distress. But what happens when we surpass this? What will a ‘regular’ day look like? Maybe we can start asking ourselves what or who influences our actions. I think here is where we could start looking for ‘health’ so we do not end up merely surviving from one disaster to the next.