Tuesday, April 18, 2006

And yet, being "phlegmatic" is suppose to be a good thing

I have uber-antibodies. I really do. I hardly ever get sick, and usually sail through cold and flu season with nary a sniffle. And when I do get sick, I usually kick it within a day or so. It makes a lot of people annoyed.

But then there's always one viral equivalent of Andre the Giant that gets me in a bearhug every year, usually at the most inconvenient time, and doesn't let go. That's where I've been for about the last week or so -- true to form, this one hit just in time for the final marking putsch. It started with a fever too, which was the first I'd had in a long time -- I had a really weird fever dream in which my body was an airport.

Well, I think I finally kicked it today, but it didn't leave wilingly. I woke up with a massive sinus headache, which I think was this cold's final assault. It honestly felt like someone had hooked an air compressor up to my nostrils and ears and cranked my psi up to danger levels.

And then suddenly -- it was all gone. And not in a very pleasant manner.

There's a scene in Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie where the massive-nosed main character Saleem Sinai, after years of blocked sinuses, finally managed to, um, void his passages (I just realized that my copy of the book is at home. Damn. I'd have quoted the passage.) Not a very pretty scene.

Anyway, that's sort of what it was like for me at around eleven o'clock this morning.

So HERE's the question I'm puzzling over today ... way back in the day, around 400 BC, this Greek doctor Hippocrates theorized that our health and personality was governed by four substances that existed in an equilibrium in our body: blood, choler (yellow bile), melancholy (black bile), and phlegm. Each corresponded to certain traits and qualities. Hence, someone with an overbalance of blood is courageous, ebulient, cheerful (sanguine); yellow bile, quick-tempered and irascible (choleric); black bile, depressive and despondent (melancholy); and phlegm, calm, stoic and undemonstrative (phlegmatic).

There were also various diseases and ailments associated with each of these humours ... and this was the height of medical science until they invented the iron lung, more or less.

So having had a rather phlegmmy morning, I have to wonder: what exactly was going through Hippocrates' mind when he had the flash of inspiration associating the quality of logical calm with a runny rose? Because believe me, when I was doing my Saleem Sinai impersonation this morning, I was anything bt calm and undemonstrative. I was a lot like the character of Deja Vu in Top Secret, who opines that "Each of us in his own way must learn to deal with adversity in a mature and adult fashion," and then sneezes massively into his hands, and, seeing the mucal mess he made, screams hysterically and jumps out a window.

It's a good thing I live on the first floor.


queen B said...

I don't think words can help you solve this one. I suggest you turn to the world of dance instead. George Balanchine's "The Four Temperaments" will explain it all without words. It's a leotard ballet--meaning there are no sets or fancy tutus to distract you.

But it's got speed, style, a blend of classical and modern movement and feeling. A dancer really has to have the speed and flawless technique to get through the Four Ts. It's absolutely divine and I promise you'll be left breathless.

It's a ballet that never fails to make me cry (in a most undignified, phlegmmy way, I might add) every time.

Take care and be well.

Jay said...

I think Hippocrates only developed this theory in the hope that in the future, every university student would be required to write at least 4 truly disgusting answers on every exam. It's not the finest legacy, but it's persistent.