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Gregory White examines some of the afflictions to be caught this season while wading a little too recklessly into deep thought.
Philosophical Diseases are here and they are very much in fashion. Many celebrities have been caught in the media headlights in the grip of some particularly chic philosophical ailments. And of course, because you want to be famous and loved like them, you’ll want to go get yourself a philosophical disease too. Before you rush off to acquire one, here’s a quick guide to which diseases are in this season, and which are very definitely out, because the last thing you want, darling, is to turn up for dinner with the same disease as someone else.
The first of our fabulously desirable afflictions is Wonderrhea. This disease is very much a Summer favourite, and has been spotted in Prague and Milan. Its first victim was Socrates, who, bless his shiny domed bonce, simply could not stop wondering; and look where it got him. He’s so famous, people in Heaven mistake him for God. Everybody knows of Socrates; and let’s face it lads, everybody wants to be Socrates.
But you can’t be Socrates, because he was a unique individual, and re-animating his brain tissue would not re-ignite the sparkling, clattering sum-of-more-than-his-parts that he was. But you can catch the very same disease he had. “Marvellous!” I hear you say. Unfortunately, you have to go to Greece to get it. There is a specimen of the Wonderrhea toxin behind glass at the British Museum, but getting your fingers on that would be somewhat illegal – if you believe in laws. Of course, if you don’t believe in laws, then you should at least believe in prisons.
Whingococcal Disease is a lovely little number, and is everybody’s favourite party trick. Whingococcal Disease is distinguished by the sufferer’s inability to stop questioning the economic motives of Modern Society. Other common symptoms are high blood pressure, and an inability to determine exactly what Modern Society is, when pressed for specifics.
The good news is that Whingococcal Disease is a hell of a lot more common than Wonderrhea and some of its other tropical relatives. Everybody knows someone who has Whingococcal Disease, and all you have to do to catch it is to stand near them for about half an hour. Of course, as you must be wondering (because of your Wonderrhea), there is a downside to this otherwise excellent malady. With Whingococcal being as common as green peas, it doesn’t have the exclusivity that can be conferred only by such uber-nasties as Nothingness Fever and Being Pox. But you should see the attention that a garden variety case of Whingococcal can garner at an otherwise dull retirement party; and there’s no reason why you should let some sad retiree hog all the respect. That should be you out there declaiming “Modern Society this! Modern Society that!” Yes, Lords and Ladies, Whingococcal Disease is an old favourite that should remain popular for many years to come. And it goes well with blue or red.
While undergoing research for this article, I begged and pleaded with my benefactor to be allowed the glory and celebrity which comes from just one week of Nothingness Fever. Alas, no! It’s too expensive. In fact, it’s so expensive that there’s never been a single recorded case. But you don’t have to go far to find someone who wants it.
Nothingness Fever, in this doctor’s diagnosis, leads to a temporary inability to distinguish something from nothing, and finally one loses the ability to believe anything at all. But if nihilists really believed in nothing, they wouldn’t be able to say that they believed in nothing. So if anyone ever comes down with Nothingness Fever – if Nothingness does indeed exist – then that person may well be the first real nihilist.
You can see why Nothingness Fever is such an attractive look this season. The mystery of this condition is what gives it such allure. And what’s more, a case of Nothingness Fever will give you the opportunity to meet Oliver Sacks, because he is guaranteed to write a book about you.
Being Pox only turns up once every few years; but it’s definitely the new black whenever it does. Being Pox afflicts the lucky individual with the personality of a famous departed philosopher. You could be Wittgenstein for a week, or Machiavelli for a month. Hooray! But you must be careful with Being Pox; most people who get it are accused of witchcraft or sorcery or possession or some such, and are lynched within the week. On the plus side, you’ll get your photo in the paper.
What makes Being Pox so especially fashionable is that you can’t get it: it gets you. Thus, Pox-ees are often imputed to have some kind of special quality which obviously makes them so much better than regular, non-philosophical people.
Descartes Palpitations are just lovely, like New Years’ fireworks. Everybody drops what they’re doing to stare, and simply cannot turn away. A person in the soothing velvety grip of Descartes Palpitations alternately exists and then does not exist. And it’s so simple and painless. All you have to do to exist is think. Occasionally stop thinking, and the crowd stands stunned by the incredible appearing and disappearing person.
Descartes Murmurs are not quite so spectacular, but still definitely a disease worth contracting. In the case of Descartes Murmurs one merely turns translucent.
I must mention that criminal uses of the symptoms of Descartes Palpitations are sternly discouraged by a) the law b) the International Conglomerate of Philosophical Disease Researchers, and c) your grandmother, who wouldn’t want to hear of such a thing. And anyway, how can you rob a bank without thinking about it? Hmm?
© Gregory White 2006
Gregory White is the proud owner of a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, with a minor in Philosophy.