Saturday, August 12, 2017
The Opposite of a Miracle
My horse died of idiopathic eosinophilic meningoencephalitis.
That's right. You've heard of eosinophilic meningoencephalitis, of course; but have you heard of the idiopathic variation?
You haven't. It doesn't exist.
I exaggerate slightly; one horse had it in 2012, a Dutch warmblood gelding in Vienna, Austria.
He's the only horse in the entire world ever reported to have had idiopathic eosinophilic meningoencephalitis.
So it exists, but barely.
Belle was only the second horse to ever get it.
How can they possibly be sure that this extremely unlikely disease was what she had?
Empirical evidence. Lab tests. Process of elimination. They are sure.
"Idiopathic" means that they could find no evidence that she had contracted EME (eosinophilic meningoencephalitis) in any of the usual ways. No parasites. No virus. No bacteria. No smoking gun.
It just happened. For the second time. Anywhere. Ever.
Now, you know this speaks to something profound.
I mean, this metaphor, which of course it must be, is a whopping big metaphor.
I just have no fucking idea what it means.
I mean, horses who have been starved and rehabilitated on Twinkies and Hostess cupcakes have never contracted this disease.
Race horses that were overstrained and overmedicated have never contracted this disease.
Neither have any of the most ill-used, abused, and neglected horses in the world ever contracted this disease. (Needless to say, no well-cared for horses have ever contracted it, either.)
So...Where does that leave us?
I will say this: I worried about everything. Except this. This one disease, off all diseases, had escaped my notice. I never gave it a thought.
I worried about laminitis and colic. I worried about her left fetlock, which she had injured in January falling on the ice. I worried about thrush, skin infections, hives, abscesses....
I never once worried about eosinophilic meningoencephalitis. And if I had worried about it, since no one knows what causes it, what point would there be in worrying about it? What would I do to avoid her getting it?
This disease exists well beyond the reach of ordinary concerns.
So that gets me thinking about karma...
But the meanest cowboys' horses never contracted this disease.
The horses of murderers who buried their victims in their pasture never contracted this disease.
If I am morally culpable--if this is my karma--then I must be the worst person ever, second only to that other poor bastard in Austria.
And, while it's true, I may be sub-par, I am definitely not the second worst person in the world who owns horses.
The image that has been entering my mind lately is that of Jacob wrestling with the angel. My brain doesn't usually usually evoke Old Testament stories, so, when it does, I pay attention. I looked it up online.
So, Jacob, who not particularly likable, finds himself unexpectedly wrestling with this angel person. It starts in the evening and it goes on all night. The angel (depending, variously: Michael, Jesus, God, or some random angel) manages to dislocate Jacob's hip. But by morning, the angel is over the whole thing and blesses him. Jacob goes on to do great things, but his hip is never the same.
I know what the Urban Dictionary would say...And there may be something to that. But let's put a pin in that and go in a different direction.
I read online that it's about God giving Jacob a taste of reality. Bitter, bitter reality.
Maybe Jacob was always going around thinking his own groovy thoughts and not paying much attention to the business at hand.
Maybe Jacob was arrogant and demanding. Nothing was ever good enough for him. Maybe he needed to be put in his place.
Ugh! I'm tired of wrestling with the angel. I want it to be over. I want to get to the blessing part now. I don't even want to have to figure out the meaning of this stupid fucking metaphor.
I'm thinking about going to church tomorrow, which galls me, but I am idly curious to know whether it would make the slightest bit of difference. Maybe it would. Maybe I need to make amends with my uptight Presbyterian God.
Or could I do it right here? Could I say right here, right now, that I am humbled by the awesome power that the universe has over my life?
Maybe climate change is going to seem as shocking to most of us as idiopathic eosinophilic meningoencephalitis was to me.
Maybe we'll all be deeply shocked to be the incredibly unlucky generation that witnessed something so unimaginably terrible that few of us dared to imagine it. And we'll find ourselves amazed and kind of pissed that none of our ancestors had to go through this shit.
Of course, they had their own problems.World War I certainly smacked a generation upside the head. No one had imagined that the world would be at war in entirety--that so many countries would topple like dominoes into living hell.
And then not learn from it, and do it twice.
What I couldn't have imagined or possibly predicted in fact posed the greatest threat.
I'm not saying I'm not comforted; I'm glad that Fire and Tanner, the other two horses in my care, have no chance (or very very close to no chance) of contracting Belle's disease. Of course, there's still a whole host of other diseases they could get.
Nothing I did or didn't do contributed to Belle's demise. Unless it did.
But consider: every other horse in the world, under ever conceivable set of circumstances, did not contract this disease.
What could I have possibly done that was SO different, SO slightly off, and SO detrimental that no one ever did it before, except that one poor bastard in Vienna?
Practically speaking, I'm off the hook.
I may have an account to settle with my god, but I did take good care of my horse. I should get some few points for that.