243. Grateful Gruesomeness

Char was ill from some breast-infection-like state but became better. I felt strung out even so and a bit on the verge of stress.

For I was trying to prepare for next week in my mind – work and baptism – while taking care of both her and Jay and all practical house-stuff.

Relieved that it did not appear to be a serious infection but for most of the day, Char hurt and had flu-like symptoms. Then Jay drank more milk and the symptoms disappeared. Also, showers and massage helped. But this is potentially quite serious, so … relief.

Now regarding serious illness – there’s an interesting thought that can chase you when you are preparing a story about a stranded 18th century real-life inspiration for Robinson Crusoe. Woodes Rogers writes of Selkirk’s exile on the Island:

The Precaution which he took against Want, in case of Sickness, was to lame Kids when very young, so as that they might recover their Health, but never be capable of Speed. These he had in great Numbers about his Hutt; and when he was himself in full Vigour, he could take at full Speed the swiftest Goat running up a Promontory, and never failed of catching them but on a Descent.

Not exactly a pretty image conjured here, but again – this is a matter of survival, and in an age where even survival in ‘civilization’ was far from assured until a ripe old age. There are no doctors here, no medicine, no other people to help, just the raw choices – break a lamb’s legs but not enough to kill it, and then keep it around so you can easily catch it if you get ill.

I assume he kept the lambs in some kind of fold, and that the point was that even in that confined space he did not have to struggle too much to get at one of them and kill it, because they were handicapped so to speak. Gruesome in one manner, if you can forget our own slaughter-houses for a moment. But on the other hand understandable, if you get a tropical fever and barely can get up, and you have dehydrated and shit all over the dried leaves that make out your bed.

There is a strange fascination and yet revulsion with this little bit of story, but at the heart of it is a lesson, about what life is if you take away any kind of help from the outside.

The price of that blessed solitude or peace of mind that we discussed yesterday … the imaginary benefits of being utterly alone for awhile, for your spirit and for your mind. I wonder what Selkirk really told Rogers and Steele about how he felt, if anything. And how much they just inferred.

Whatever the case, the harsh survival tactics were undoubtedly a part of the experience and you can gloss them over anyway you want. They are still there.

There’s the story, then. Which makes me feel revolted and grateful at the same time. I guess I should remember the gratefulness the most.