April 5th, 2009


Estonian! Chalkboard! Antisymptoms!

I went to visit an old college roommate this weekend, and when I got there the door was open and he was busy inside, standing in front of an old green chalkboard, scribbling madly. He kind of grunted a distracted welcome, which was good enough that I knew that he knew that I wasn't a robber.

(I suppose that would have been a great time to rob him, but that's not how I roll. Anyway, I digress.)

He a frantic intensity to him, spinning quickly like the clock does every time you look away. It was all in Estonian, his native language, so I couldn't tell what it was writing. I took the liberty of grabbing some Dr. Pepper from the fridge, pouring it into a novelty shot glass, and taking sugary carbonated shots while I waited for him to finish.

Then he turned to me and pointed with an accusatory finger.

"Symptoms!" he said.

"They're the things we care about quite often, but they're just the outward signs of an underlying structural problem. Symptoms. We have a word for it. Why don't we have a word for the opposite? For little things that are a sign of health?"

I quirked my head, enjoying the tone of his rant as much as the content.

He ranted on.

"Health isn't just a lack of symptoms. Why isn't there a word for signs of positive health? Underlying structural strength and glory? What things does my body do when I'm thriving? What kind of behaviors do I have? How can I tell when things are going well? I'm listing all the signs I can."

He pointed at the chalkboard again.

"The top one is making lists. How about you?"

How about you?