One Good Thing About the ‘Flu

I have been down with the ‘flu for the last few days. It has been quite a while since I’ve been sick enough that I’ve had to mostly stay in bed, and I am writing this in the couple of hours of Advil-created non-feverish semi-coherent lucidity the Viral Gods have granted me today. So after catching up with emergency work emails and deferring/rescheduling everything else, I thought I’d dash off a quick post sharing an interesting thought that occurred to me.

Here’s the thought: I feel almost guilty admitting this, but there is an aspect of flu-like mild-to-moderate short-term illnesses (knock on wood) that I actually enjoy. I don’t know if others experience ‘flu the same way, but in my case, I usually suffer through a few cycles of alternating fever/body pain and cool clamminess. For most of the fever part of the cycle, your body is rebelling enough that both thought and sleep are nearly impossible.  Your head and eyes ache too much to allow reading or TV watching. Thoughts are feverish and half-hallucinatory. If you do manage to fall asleep for an hour or so, the dreams are hallucinatory. But then comes the reward: during the second half of the cycle, when you sweat and your skin turns cool and moist and the body pain recedes for a while, you are too exhausted to think, but cool and pain free enough that you feel utterly relaxed.

It is a kind of deep relaxation that is becoming increasingly hard to find for most people. It takes a virus to slow us down enough that the million anxieties that routinely bother us are held at bay for a while.

On an unrelated note, I had nearly finished the sequel to the Gervais Principle post when the ‘flu struck. I’ll get to it when I recover, but in the meantime, enjoy this Chekov short story, one  of my favorites: A Defenceless Creature.  It is actually relevant.  Anyone in the story remind you of Michael?

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About Venkatesh Rao

Venkat is the founder and editor-in-chief of ribbonfarm. Follow him on Twitter


  1. I am also down with the flu and I know exactly what you mean. The other time I feel that same feeling is when I am traveling alone and, despite all attempts at structuring my time, I end up with odd gaps of half an hour at a time where there’s utterly nothing for me to do but sit and watch the world go by.

  2. I feel 100% the same way. It’s a perfect excuse to check out of your life for a few days and just sit still and think. You’ve no other choice really.

    And as you point out, you get to do this thinking in an altered state of consciousness.

  3. I feel the same way about illness and forced slowing down. Get better soon… I’m waiting in anticipation for the sequel to the Gervais Principle. Buying you a virtual coffee now which I hope you’ll actually use for chicken soup.

  4. You ever been in a floatation tank or isolation chamber? I get that sensation in there when i find the time to go (not much). Great way to meditate, plus you don’t need to wait for your health to decline to get there ;)

    With the flu season coming I’m once again in that seasonal conflict…to get the shot or not get the shot.

  5. thedancingmachine says

    My favorite thing on earth to do is…nothing. The only time I can enjoy doing nothing is when I have a good excuse like sickness or being snowed in. Only then can I turn my brain off and really enjoy it. Perhaps you are somewhat afflicted with this malady. Probably not, I’m probably the only one.

  6. David Bofinger says

    Actually this is one of the things I hate about the flu. I’ve got all this time off work, but I feel too ill to do anything creative or useful since my brain is fully occupied by remembering to drink enough water.