A while back I was sitting in a hospital waiting room, surrounded by all sorts of invalids. 
The man to my right, probably in his early fifties, was clearly in back pain. When called, he gingerly rose in such a manner it was excruciating just to watch. The elderly woman behind him somehow held her shoulder in her arms… the young man across the room slouched agonizingly, turning various colors of green. 
Meanwhile the TVs blared… mocking them all. 
The first screen had some sort of reality love show, with bouncing nubile couples, twerking health and fertility…. The second screen was some comedy show, locally produced clearly. Hip 20 somethings in an unaffordable cool loft swapping punch lines without a care in the world. 
And the third housed a collection of the most fit, athletic and capable men the country could produce… running at top speed, the envy of boys around the world, the national football (soccer) team. 
My fellow inhabitants looked up, bleary eyed, at a world obsessed with youth and health. What cruelty! 
Look at all that ABLE-NESS
Soccer Football – 2018 World Cup Qualifiers – Uruguay v Argentina – Centenario stadium, Montevideo, Uruguay – August 31, 2017. Argentina’s Lionel Messi in action against Uruguay’s Alvaro Gonzalez (R) and Gaston Silva. REUTERS/Andres Stapff
Of course my remembering this small vignette is not entirely out of the blue… I’ve been battling a head cold all week, and just today the cough has begun. I’ve lived in the UK long enough to know how to exist while being sick (just a matter of fact there), but I’ll be honest, since living in warmer climes, I’m out of practice. 
Nonetheless, the whole endeavor has got me thinking of ‘sickness’ in society. 

For Thomas Mann fans out there, there’s a whole book dedicated to the subject, The Magic Mountain. The guests of a sanatorium high up in the Swiss Alps both escape the rigors of normal society and expectations, but through the illness (or not?) they achieve new perspectives… enough for one of the characters to say that illness is a virtue. 
This is hotly debated, the humanist contends that the mind is dependent sadly on the body (hello dualism) and thus sickness is a malignant force, a corrupting, disgusting, crippling effect. 
But the books – history, philosophy, literature – are filled with great characters who overcome (physically or mentally) illness to great renown and greater understanding. 
Julius Caesar battled epilepsy his whole life. Marcus Aurelius was a sickly man… Epictetus walked with a painful limp…and let’s not get started on poor Philoctetes’ awful rotting limb…
Philoctetes’ wound was so foul, he was abandoned on an island… only to be begged later to save the Trojan War
Did these ailments aid their greatness? Their huge accomplishments and insights? Or were they successful in spite of these difficulties? 
It is this question, surrounded by tissues no less, that I want to ask you, dear reader:
Can Sickness be a Virtue? Can it bring enlightenment? Or is it merely illness and pain… and nothing to romanticize at all…?    
And how does this all fit in our current society which appears to idolize the young and the beautiful? 
As always, you can write to me directly at [email protected] or comment below. 
Before your start penning your response… A quick announcement: 
We have two exciting events coming up. The first is taking place tomorrow – it’s a debate on whether or not we need ancient Greek and Latin as requirements… both for Classics students and the general public. 
Make sure to register here to join in the conversation:
I’ll try not to cough too much ;-) 
The second, is actually very related to this week’s topic at hand. I’ll be discussing specifically Stoicism and health with an amazing panel.
Former beauty queen, MTV personality and Chronic pain survivor, Karen Duffy, is joined by renowned Stoics Donald Robertson (How to Think Like a Roman Emperor) and Nancy Sherman (Stoic Wisdom) to delve into how Stoicism Can Help, Finding a Philosophy for Life. 
Heads up: She’s hilarious – so this panel is going to be dropping some wisdom in the most enjoyable way… It’s philosophy with a smile… 
Sign up and you can also win Duff’s new book, described by Bill Murray, comedian, actor, and sage of Hollywood:
“Reading Wise Up put a smile on my face. This book will change lives. Duffy writes seriously important books that she doesn’t take too seriously. I guess that’s the secret. Read this book or you will miss it.”