As a popular proverb says, it's better to be wealthy and healthy rather than poor and sick. However, any pun is but a flashing abstraction, and it is not so easy to find whether there is at least something sensical behind it.
The first question is, as usual, why. What is it that makes an electron better than a photon, the derivatives of carbon superior to those of silicon, mathematics smarter than poetry, or life preferable to death? Everything is good when properly placed; and everything can, in principle, be misplaced. Pretty often, a failure to take this simple rule onto account is to spoil our daily humaneness. For instance, President Charles de Gaulle had a spot in his heart for painter Marc Chagall, and it was utterly beyond him that the paintings like that would be more appropriate on the wall of a bank in Chicago, or a parliament house in Jerusalem, but they show up as a sheer nightmare at Palais Garnier in Paris. The compatriots of de Gaulle who, in the XXI century, destroyed the ceremonial court of the Palace of Versailles and defiled the portal of the Sainte-Chapelle temple in the castle of Vincennes had, most probably, their medical certificates in full order and did not ever need to live from hand to mouth. But they must certainly have had something to the sanity of their heads. Of the same kind that has happened to the moral sanity of the nation that allows itself such an attitude towards the works of art. This was like drawing mustaches on the face of Mona Lisa, or graffiti all over the frescos of Michelangelo.
It may seem that physical and economic health should be always welcome. But what if this is the health of a monster keen on blotting out any human quality in the humanity? Do we have the moral right to stubbornly keep to the biblical principle of no killing?
This logically brings us to the second question: better to whom? The strength of a few paid by the sufferings of millions can hardly be taken for a truly sublime ideal. Just subjectively, there are situations, when it’s a shame and disgrace to be rich and healthy. Sometimes it can even be dangerous, as a blooming money-bag is the first target for the miserable wrecks when they are angry and armed. In this way, physical health can turn out a mental sickness, while economic well-being may be a herald of ruin.
The moralists of all epochs preach at us that one should always take care of one’s health. Who needs that, and why? Is it a matter of one’s personal satisfaction? Not necessarily. A kind of a universal value belonging to the mankind as a whole? Even less. Why should a slave look after the earthly body? Just to get an extra decade of servitude? And with how many robust skunks the humanity would rather have dispensed!
On the other hand, what do we really mean by "poverty", or "malady"? Health is a very-very loose concept. Where is the line between prosperity and misery? Can it be estimated by one’s ability to buy a loaf of bread, a super-high-end computer, or yet another private airplane? Further, there are different ways of being healthy. Everything depends on what we need to do. For instance, if I can lift a piece of rock with bare hands, I am certainly robust enough for that. However, if I am not so strong, but I can lift the same rock using a system of levers, or pressing the buttons on a remote control unit, or just clicking the computer screen with the mouse, I am relatively healthy too, but this is obviously not exactly the same idea of health. There is a hierarchy of health, which can be unfolded in any direction, depending on the specific goals.
Consequently, instead of considering the capital and physiology, we’d rather turn to the sense of any individual existence. This is the only sound reason to decide on the necessity of caring for one’s health or neglecting it. The sense of an animal life coincides with life itself; for an animal, the only vital necessity is to maintain a stable level of metabolism, on the level of a specimen, a genus, or a biotic community. A conscious being is a horse of a different color. Its dedicated role in the Universe and primary mission is to reconstruct the whole world, redesign it on the basis of reason, and make it well-cultivated. Every carrier of reason (an individual, a group, or the whole society) will cope with an appropriate portion of this immense work. But everybody is needed for the overall success. Of course, as long as one acts in a reasonable way.
There is an objective need, necessity and imminence. People may sometimes be aware of this call, but may also resist to it, or be mistaken about the true reason of their being and activity. In any case, a judicious attitude to one’s health suggests keeping it on the level of reasonable sufficiency, but not much higher. This would automatically cast aside the marasmus of body-building, the general obsession with "healthy" living, the futile pursuit of a "wholesome" diet, the mystification of the physical agility... One thus would acquire a sound skepticism towards any fashions and standards: who rouses all that noise and why? Isn’t it just for feeding quirky moneymakers (including commercial medicine)? If so, then it rather means concern of somebody else’s prosperity, a kind of philanthropy and charity. Which is not always good either.
The world is infinite; not only in its spatial or temporal dimension, but primarily in the qualitative sense, the innumerable multitude of its different levels and facets. A conscious person, an element and image of the world, is as infinite. In particular, the person’s health is to match this inner richness and inner integrity, comprising both contradictions and harmony. An exaggerated bias towards one aspect, is necessarily an infringement in another. This is how they come to life, degenerate bulls and imbecile beauties, the common nouns like the anecdotic blondies, hollow puppets (my apologies to all the live blondes who, of course, do not deserve being viewed exclusively from the angle of carnal palatability). Quite often, such a monstrosity is a mere instantiation of a cultural deformity, a symptom of an economic and social disease. Then, should we as categorically keep up those substitutes of vitality, the pus in the wound? As a late poet (my former acquaintance) said,
There are those who’d better
never come into the world.
I perfectly realize that these words could as well apply to me and my erratic notes. Still, both I and these writings are not entirely for their own sake. Even if nobody will ever guess why.