The following discussion questions were created to help readers think through and apply ideas found in Pursuing Health in an Anxious Age and were written by the author, Bob Cutillo, MD.
The Hope for Health
- The author claims that health is one of our highest goods and most important societal values. How important is health to you? How much do you think you can control it?
- Current fears over the COVID-19 pandemic suggest we are living in a very anxious age. Do you agree? How worried are you right now?
- The author uses the illustration of Gulliver’s voyage to the island of Laputa to suggest that the more we gain control of our circumstances, the more we fret over what remains outside our control, eventually causing us to fear the exceedingly unlikely. How much do you think we are like the people of Laputa today?
- How can you spend more time focusing on the concrete “what nows” of the present rather than the uncertain “what ifs” of tomorrow?
- In chapter three the author describes our limitations as a part of who we are as created beings. How comfortable are you with the limitations of your body? Of your mind? Of your ability to know what is good and bad? Of our ability as a global community to respond to a life-threatening virus?
- How hard is it for you to trust instead of know? Can there be times when trusting is better than knowing?
What You See Depends on How You Look
- In chapter four the author describes his training in medical school as lessons learned in how to see people as functioning parts rather than whole persons. In what way has your education and cultural upbringing trained you to see abstractly and from a distance rather than up close and personal?
- When you need health care, do you feel like the world of medicine treats you as a whole person or only as a bunch of problems to fix?
- The danger of being infected with the COVID-19 virus is affecting how we look at other people. How difficult is it for you to see the people you meet each day as precious persons made in the image of God rather dangerous vectors who can give you a disease?
- Everyday there are new “facts” about the coronavirus pandemic. How much do you depend on statistics like this to guide your understanding? Does reading these things make you better informed or more anxious? How surprised are you when life turns out differently than it was supposed to according to the facts?
- In chapter six, the author offers the idea that God taking on a human body in the incarnation, besides being a new form of conception, also offered new ways of perception. How might it change the way you see your own body? How you see others?
- How might you nurture the fragile presence of the incarnation in your life so that it does not get drowned out by harsher noises?
The Greatest Fear
- The author believes that the fear of death casts a large shadow over our society. Do you agree? How does it affect your everyday life?
- Have you ever thought about how you want to die? Do you think our culture helps us prepare for death in meaningful ways? Compared to Jacob in the Old Testament (Gen. 49: 29-33), Peter and Paul in the New Testament (2 Peter 1:13; 2 Tim. 4:6,7), or the saints of old in previous generations, do you think there are still signs of the times when death approaches and, more to the point, are we still capable of reading them?
- Do you see any ways that the paradoxical spirit of the martyr, with a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die, can have application for people in more average and every day circumstances?
- How might our deliverance from the fear of death help us to respond more lovingly and faithfully in the time of a pandemic like COVID-19?
Reimagining the Good of Health
- What is your initial reaction when you see or hear about suffering and tragedy in the world? When you see the spread of a virus like COVID-19 affecting everyone on the face of the earth? What helps you move beyond your own fears to see the needs of your neighbor?
- In chapter nine, the author compares the myth of scarcity to the mystery of abundance. How is the myth of scarcity affecting our response to the current epidemic of COVID-19? As you look at the great needs of the world and the limited resources for caring, how can we let the mystery of abundance more fully guide our actions?
- How much do you see your health as related to the health of others?
- The author claims that a primal theme of biblical faith is that God has cast his lot with the least, the lost, and the left out. Do you agree? In what ways might this theme influence our pursuit of health as a society? Our response to this worldwide pandemic?
- How much do you depend on medicine, and all its alternatives, to stay healthy and face sickness? How much do you depend on the church? How can your faith inform a more balanced use of health care and medicine for you personally? Or for a world that will continue to face the dangers of contagious disease?
- What causes you to wonder? What is a near and next step you can take to marvel more and demand less? What can you do to remain thankful even in the time of an epidemic?