I am often puzzled by the way that people treat those who are enduring prolonged illness. What are the philosophical questions that are behind the way that we treat others. Some might say that there are no philosophical questions at all to do with this but I would beg to differ.
A fundamental part of all human beings is the need for community and companionship. When one is isolated and not able to mix and enjoy the company of others they are faced with a dilemma. How should they treat those who have forsaken them? This puts the shoe on the other foot so to speak but it is only when looking at two sides of a coin that you can see the whole picture. Those that suffer prolonged illness have on one hand have a need for privacy yet they also have a deep and unquenchable desire to know that others care. It is this lack of knowledge of caring that drives many who suffer from prolonged illness into deep mental anguish and depression. As they face each day their sense of self-worth is diminished on a daily basis and this affects all aspects of their life and impacts deeply on their confidence.
On the other hand we have those who go about life normally and become so involved in their own daily struggles that those who are out of sight seem to be forgotten. Yet despite this the conscience tells them whether or not they are doing the right thing by avoiding those who have a long-term illness. It is this very point that I wish to make here, that those who have walked away and become busy in life and forgotten those with long-term illness end up themselves suffering from mental anguish and self-doubt. It is because of our human nature that the conscience is overtaken by the mind and can suppress those thoughts that cause us mental anguish. There eventually comes a time when we can no longer hold those thoughts down by sheer determination and the power of the mind.
The mind is really a wonderful machine but it has a life of its own and it is this life that can overtake us and leave us vulnerable to the world around us. I believe there is a point somewhere in the middle where those who are suffering from long-term illness and those who cannot deal with that illness can meet. A common ground so to speak, or halfway point where those who wish for privacy must move towards openness and those who try to forget or suppress the feelings of caring begin to become more self-aware.
Too many times we see in our society where somebody has died and their body has not been discovered for several weeks. 100 years ago communities stuck together even though they had different opinions and goals in life. It was easier to remain in contact and care for each other. Should we not do the same now and is it ethically responsible for humans to deny that others exist within our frame of reference.
It is only through self understanding and knowledge that out there somewhere, there is a creator, one who cares for us and can help us to bridge the gap between those who suffer from long-term illness and their friends who have lost contact with them. It will be through the coming together of these two extremes of personal behaviour that we as humans will find a common and caring environment.