Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Imagine - Overtreated?
Imagine, for a moment, that you have not yet been born. How you imagine life to be. What and how would you imagine “a life” if you did not already have some basis of relationship to what “a physical life” is. Without memory, as experience, how do we “know what we know”?
In her book, Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine is Making Us Sicker and Poorer, Shannon Brownlee shares this “thought experiment” from philosopher Norman Daniels, author of Just Health Care. Her thought experiment relates to how we might imagine our health care system, and referentially to the whole of life and the kind of life we may live. This bit is from the next to last chapter in her book, so she has already told the story she intends to tell about “why too much medicine is making us sicker and poorer.” What system would we create if we had the luxury of starting from scratch? Imagine, instead, if we know we can use what we are designed to use. We know a lot about what we don’t like and don’t want, what doesn’t work. When we see no prospect of change, or are daunted by the energy and effort, and usually money, required to change, we feel helpless and frustrated by “the way things are.”
As I’m reading Brownlee’s book, flashes of insight from reading Kathy Oddenino’s book, Healing Ourself: Growing Beyond the True Cause of Disease (1994) come to me. “Our goal is not to understand each and every nuance of our physical function but to understand the relationship of our physical nature to our divine nature. Our focus of examination has been directed into our physical body as our fascination and intrigue with the unknown, so we ponder and explore our external approach to disease.” (426) Oddenino explains why we can learn more by studying our behavior, senses, and emotions with an open mind than we can learn from the mechanics of our physical matter.
As I think about Brownlee’s examples of doctors who began their careers with the kindness of their intention and desire to help people, and for whom the care of patients was satisfying and essential to the overall health and quality of life, and I read Oddenino’s book which explains the pattern of our evolution as thinking energy, I recognize ever more why it is essential for us to see the trees and the forest before us as One. Oddenino explains why we can never unravel the complexities of our human body until we can learn to accept ourselves as energy AND matter. Brownlee explains the great paradox that while managed care was a colossal failure in so many respects, it may also be the best thing to happen to American medicine, because it has made many Americans realize that they want and must make a change. She offers that old joke about how many psychiatrists it takes to change a lightbulb: just one, but the lightbulb has to want to change. We’re showing ourselves more and more clearly and emphatically what it truly means to have an external focus: to focus on “things” rather than people; on the busyness of life rather than the quality of life; on survival as only physical, rather than the integrity, beauty, and immortality of love (ourselves as evolving energy beings) and the memories of life that we cherish.
These are some of the ways I am showing my own mind the pictures, the images, of how we depend upon our own beliefs to guide us in our life, so often without even knowing what we truly believe and why. The reality of “hidden memories” proves itself to us all the time, once we begin to examine our behaviors, senses, and emotions, and also the dynamics of our interactive lives beyond the “visible.” This is what explains to us what it means to be “reflective beings.” My thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and sensory responses to life show me the energy of “me” at this moment in time. Why has that been such a challenge for me, for so many, to accept? I’ve learned to understand that it’s only a challenge because the beliefs I have lived for eons of time as a mind (as energy and matter), in my quest and urge to understand “physical life,” have changed very slowly or have simply been reinforced along with the need to continue living and experiencing change as the gift of life and learning. I understand now, at last, that wanting to change, being open to the energy of change, is how the mind frees itself from the prison of beliefs that have been reinforced and supported just as though they were as physical as the steel reinforcements of a straining bridge which carries more and more cars.
Starting from scratch doesn’t mean not knowing anything! It means feeling the power of creating “as I want it.” As with any recipe, it means beginning with the basics and creating your own variation. With this thought, and opening my mind to recognize, remember, the true pattern of life and the human body, I feel the warmth and excitement, the peaceful thrill, of remembering what it means to nurture ourself as living beings. All of our acts and images of tilling the ground, planting seeds, in the soil as Earth, in our bodies as creative beings, of birthing ideas and babies, of building computers and skyscrapers, of mapping the land masses of Earth and oceans from the dragons we imagined may be there, to mapping the human and Earth genomes as we harvest and examine the lifeforms we find there in our present moment in time- all are the same pattern and motivation when we remember that always the need to search for love is the mystery of life that we must solve and our body is the tool given to be used in that search. Nurturing, caring is the energy of us as loving beings, just as the Earth knows its own energy of growth and change through the nurturing that happens in its constantly creating process of balance and change.
Yesterday I attended a wedding, the second wedding of a close friend’s daughter. While there, celebrating the energy of this union, enjoying the energy of her family (she and her two young sons) creating a larger family with this new friend as husband and father, and each of their families expanding as the love between them is declared and their energies of life joined, I imagined again what it could be like to imagine not having been born. It is almost impossible (I never think “impossible” anymore – that is not a reality to my thinking mind as energy…!). When an acquaintance whom I had not seen in a long time told me, Whatever you’re doing, keep it up, you look great!, I laughed and thought about what happiness I saw in the faces and people around me. I thought about those in whom the life energy was suppressed and depressed. One person mentioned the bitterness of life, and this showed as a sadness, though not hopelessness. Another was “barely there” – sitting near motionless in her chair, not engaged in this energy of life that was so vibrant all around. A cousin of the groom, with Downs Syndrome, was totally full of life, expressed her love via microphone to her cousin and his new bride, and stayed on the dance floor for a few hours, whether or not others joined her. She was in constant motion as the life in her moved and changed. How did I feel? I felt the flux of life energy within me, too, swaying with a strong pulse, quietened at others. I was happy to be sharing the moment in physical time. At the wedding I was in a church for the first time in a long while. The beautiful stained glass windows glowed, the organ pipes vibrated and sent their sound into the air as only such pipes can. The cushions on the pews were comfortable. The air of it all was familiar, yet also placed in a time in my mind different from my current moment. I felt honored to know how and why we created the structures we have for ourselves, as we learn to honor ourselves, and the joy of being invited to share in celebrations as human beings. I felt less the sense of sadness and loss of my changing internal images of myself, born again and again, and more of the love that such knowing brings. Each image of sharing as families reminds me now of what this means to us as a human family.