Following is a deeply reflective piece conveying a message of hope and resistance to other Covid 19 patients from Dr Hassan Nadhem, UNESCO Chair on the Development of Inter-religious Dialogue Studies in the Islamic World, based at the University of Kufa.
Dr Nadhem was infected in June 2020 and in this article, shares his experience in highly literary language full of positivism and his own experience with the virus.
On June 26, 2020, I tested positive. I was infected with COVID-19. I quarantined and armed myself with all preventative measures in the face of the coronavirus.
On April 5th, I wrote an article on the virus entitled “The Fourth Humiliation of Human Narcissism,” in which I discussed the arrogance of humans and the great narcissistic wounds that philosophers and thinkers accent with the theories of Copernicus, Darwin, Freud, and about the fourth wound, coronavirus, that restricted and changed normal human activity, and made us go through the biggest economic and social challenge we have ever experienced in our lives. In the article, I proposed that we reconcile with the virus so we can recover from it.
Today, June 26, I suffered and recovered from COVID-19. The virus entered my body. I felt fatigued. I had an acute headache. I lost my appetite. The fourth narcissistic wound began to appear in my entire body. Wearing the mask and covering both my nose and mouth, constantly, did not prevent me from contracting the virus as the promise must be fulfilled, the promise of humiliation. Washing my hands, sanitizing them, and wearing protective gloves did not prevent me from contracting the virus as the promise must be fulfilled, the promise of the wound. Maintaining social distancing, and staying in isolated spaces, regularly, did not prevent me from contracting the virus as the promise must be fulfilled, the promise of experience.
The physician told me, in addition to the important vitamins of C, D, and zinc, you have to have the more important vitamin of courage. Therefore, I observed my courageousness in the battlefield as the attack was persistent, from dawn to dusk, and continued for four days and nights. Covid was fighting me and I was confronting it. We were conscious of one another, so we reached an agreement. It was a daytime truce. I rested during the day and fought back during the night. I remembered al-Mutanabbi’s line of poetry, in classical Arabic, when he describes fever as a shy guest visiting him only during the night.
Both the virus and I were exhausted. Both of us witnessed metamorphoses. While the virus witnessed the metamorphoses of Covid and I witnessed the metamorphoses of Ovid, we reconsidered our own myths and symbols. We, both, went through a kind of false tranquility, we rose against each other, we raged, rebelled, persisted, and felt desperate. I could hear it and feel it in me, Covid and Ovid. We played together, close and rough. But finally, after a few days, it fell asleep and was quiet ever since. The visible and invisible struggles have come to an end.
Since the Birth of the Clinic, Foucault taught us that the quarantined patient is not separated, during his treatment, from his personal identity. The authority of the physician is no longer absolute over him because the patient no longer tolerates the atmosphere of medical riddles that physicians surround themselves with. Therefore, we started witnessing throughout the outbreak of the virus the dissolution of those riddles, and the emergence of personal identities. We observed sick individuals choosing their homes for quarantine, and their religious beliefs as a cure, in a mixed atmosphere of prescriptions and supplications, medicine and prayers. That was a distance other than the social distance that was required due to the pandemic. It was the distance between the patient and his physician this time, the distance that establishes the metamorphoses of Covid in this obsessed time. It is the distance that appeals to Ovid to rethink his foundational myths, and to redefine his superciliousness and arrogance.
Diseases are symptoms, symptoms are signs, and signs do not always say the same thing. They become visible to us. We see them with different eyes. One time, we see them as a terrifying threat. Another time, we see them as a trial that strengthens us. The first weakens and kills us. The second restores our rifts to revive us. Personally, I read these signs with an Ovidian vision, so Ovid could read Covid, and decipher its codes without a secret medical vision, nor a spiritual dream, because there is no cure to Covid except that you read it, digest it, and absorb it, and this is what happened.
Ultimately, the appetite has returned, the headache has disappeared, the extreme weakness was gone, and the fatigue was no more present. However, and as a result, Covid was imprinted in Ovid’s memory as a wound, and in his cells as a code, and in his history as a guest. He was known after ignorance, exposed after latency, and the lesson in it was that the human being is stronger than his wounds, and that his weakness is the base of his strength, and his fall is the foundation of his resurrection.