Who is the human being?
In recent years, more and more people are realising that it might make sense to ask less about the symptoms of disease and more about the genesis of individual health .
A person who gets caught up in the mills of medicine may be sent from one specialist to the next for years without their health problem really being solved. Why?
Probably because none of the doctors treating him has yet had the idea of asking who is the person who is being treated.
To call Friedrich Schiller a prophet of salutogenesis may sound crazy. Schiller himself suffered from a catastrophic health condition. Schiller was constantly ill, believed dead several times and he died an early death.
Perhaps that is why he is predestined to bring us closer to a different understanding of health. Are we healthy when we are free from suffering? Or are we healthy when we make our mark on the world and perhaps even - like Schiller - shape an entire epoch with our life's work?
Maybe that is why we are predestined to understand health in a different way.
Life as a sacred game
Let us turn to Schiller's 'aesthetic letters', which Schiller wrote to the Prince of Denmark out of gratitude after the latter had once again saved him from economic ruin.
In my opinion, the aesthetic letters are among the most beautiful blossoms of Western culture. In them, Schiller develops an image of man that has hardly been understood up to the present day and which can nevertheless be used as a basis for salutogenesis:
The aesthetic letters are, in my opinion, among the most beautiful blossoms of Western culture.
"Man plays only where he is man in the full meaning of the word, and he is only fully man where he plays." (Friedrich Schiller)
These are the famous words to which letters are often reduced. One must realise how existentially this playing is meant. What Schiller calls 'play' has nothing to do with our conventional, everyday and trivial understanding of play.
We often think of play as something meaningless, a waste of time, something children do. With Schiller, play is something sacred, perhaps even something healing, we might say about it today.
According to Schiller, the playing human being, homo ludens, always lives in a field of tension between two poles: our biology, our flesh, our everyday human being, our Gewordensein, which fixes us. And our potential freedom, our spirit, our individuality, which has nothing to do with the barriers that the flesh imposes on us.
Man is both. An animal and a god. A worm and a creator. A become and a becoming. The playing human being is constantly balancing on the thin tightrope between his animality and his potential, his fixed past and his still open future. And for this tightrope act we need the 'Sense of Coherence'!
Was Schiller a harbinger of salutogenesis?
What does Aaron Antonovsky mean by coherence, the key concept of salutogenesis? If Antonovsky stated that coherence results in health, then that is hard to deny. But what is coherence?
Is it what we keep producing when we regularly playfully practice being an Other, one we could be? When we grow towards our own design and on the way there unwavering and unbreakable in the sense of resilience or even antifragility - keep raising ourselves anew? Are we then Schiller's playing man?
Playing, practising being another than who we have become and thus the increase of true beauty in our lives through the realisation of sacred play. This would be a contemporary way of salutogenesis!