I was reading a little of Zhuangzi last night and his chapter on "Mastering Life" (達生) struck me as an oblique echo of the "healthcaritis" worries had by my friend. The title of this post is 悲夫！ (beifu2), which means, "A pity, no?" or "Alas!" or "Isn't it sad?" (夫 is read as fu2 in 文言文 and is akin to 岂 qi3 or 吧 ba, all of which signal a rhetorical question or an implicit affirmation.) I will cite the Chinese Text Project's (CTP) edition of Zhuangzi (which translates 達生 as "The Full Understanding of Life"):
He who understands the conditions of Life does not strive after what is of no use to life; and he who understands the conditions of Destiny does not strive after what is beyond the reach of knowledge. In nourishing the body it is necessary to have beforehand the things (appropriate to its support); but there are cases where there is a superabundance of such things, and yet the body is not nourished.
"物有餘而形不養者有之矣 (There are cases where there is a superabundance of such things, and yet the body is not nourished)。" The most medically well groomed people can sometimes be the least healthy. A strange truth, but there it is. If "visiting the doctor" and "taking medicine" were enough for "good health," then medicine should have put itself out of business long ago. 悲夫！ To continue citing Zhuangzi:
In order to have life it is necessary that it do not have left the body; but there are cases when the body has not been left by it, and yet the life has perished. When life comes, it cannot be declined; when it goes, it cannot be detained. Alas! the men of the world think that to nourish the body is sufficient to preserve life; and when such nourishment is not sufficient to preserve the life, what can be done in the world that will be sufficient? Though (all that men can do) will be insufficient, yet there are things which they feel they ought to do, and they do not try to avoid doing them.
Reading further, what catches my eye most are words following the above citation:
Here is a translation of this excerpt by Burton Watson (c/o terebess.com):
How pitiful the men of the world, who think that simply nourishing the body is enough to preserve life! But if nourishing the body is in the end not enough to preserve life, then why is what the world does worth doing? It may not be worth doing, and yet it cannot be left undone - this is unavoidable. He who wants to avoid doing anything for his body had best abandon the world. By abandoning the world, he can be without entanglements. Being without entanglements, he can be upright and calm. Being upright and calm, he can be born again with others. Being born again, he can come close [to the Way].
Here it is from the CTP:
Alas! the men of the world think that to nourish the body is sufficient to preserve life; and when such nourishment is not sufficient to preserve the life, what can be done in the world that will be sufficient? Though (all that men can do) will be insufficient, yet there are things which they feel they ought to do, and they do not try to avoid doing them. For those who wish to avoid caring for the body, their best plan is to abandon the world. Abandoning the world, they are free from its entanglements. Free from its entanglements, their (minds) are correct and their (temperament) is equable. Thus correct and equable, they succeed in securing a renewal of life, as some have done. In securing a renewal of life, they are not far from the True (Secret of their being).
Feeling old? Feeling tired? That's your body saying, "What have you done for me lately?" But as Zhuangzi reminds us, it is equally important to ask oneself if one is feeling cynical, or beset with anxiety. That's your soul saying, "What have you done for the Good One lately?" To touch the Way, the very Secret of one's own Being. Is there anything more noble, and yet more challening? Readers of FCA may have noticed that one of the quotations at the top of the page is from St. Irenaeus, "For the glory of God is a living man; and the life of man consists in beholding God." I suspect Zhuangzi would agree.