"Considering how common illness is, how tremendous the spiritual change that it brings, how astonishing, when the lights of health go down, the undiscovered countries that are then disclosed, what wastes and desert of the soul a slight attack of influenza brings to view, what precipices and lawns sprinkled with bright flowers a rise of temperature reveals, what ancient and obdurate oaks are uprooted in us by the act of sickness, how we go down into the pit of death and feel the waters of annihilation close above our heads and wake thinking to find ourselves in the presence of the angels and the harpers when we have a tooth out and come to the surface in the dentists' arm-chair and confuse his "Rinse the mouth - rinse the mouth" with the greeting of the Deity stooping from the floor of Heaven to welcome us - when we think of this, as we are so frequently forced to think of it, it becomes strange indeed that illness has not taken its place with love and battle and jealousy among the prime themes of literature."
Indeed. The spiritual change part is perhaps why it is not in included in the literary canon. The spirit seemingly has been left to clutches of the religious canon, with its heavy dogma and big sticks, and generally, it seems to me humans are assigned to Heaven or Hell depending on their acts or repentance for such acts. Even the saints really have to take one for the team to reach the Nirvana-like state of acceptance into Heaven - martyrdom. It is only touched upon, delicately, obtusely even, in literature. Also perhaps because it is not typically one of the triumvirate sources - man vs man, man vs nature, or man vs himself (sic).
The ancients believed that cancers was in fact one of the humers - the black humer that oozed throughout he body and ate things up, but clearly dared not admit this was man vs. himself. Man, and I mean MAN, believed himself to be created in God's form, and thus perfect but for those outside influences, or invading humers - they took over the body like an incubus. I am stepping way outside my realm of knowledge here. But what we know of cancer now is that it does come from within, triggered sometimes by carcinogens, but it is in there. It is the mutation of our own selves - normal cells- run amok. That is all. It is man vs himself, and proving difficult to overcome.
M favourite part of the Woolf quote is this - when the lights of health go down, the undiscovered countries that are then disclosed. This is where the journey really begins, into ourselves, to find out what it is that makes us who we are, and how we will bow to prevailing winds or prevail over them in the face of the black humer. What undiscovered countries will I find?