Thursday, July 28, 2011

on superheroes and villains

Sometimes I feel caught between two worlds. Stranger to both. I think I missed the memo from Madeline about how best to wrinkle between worlds. I suppose not being sucked into either vortex could be advantageous. Namely, the advantage of perspective on both.

To hear the naturopathic community and all its appendages, drugs are mostly evil. Look at how those Kryptonite laden Pharmaceutical companies are in bed with Lois Lane, MD! Existing to torment individuals on the planet, these toxic poisoning agents of some Lex Luther character in the sky, bring down the Clark Kents of this world, which conveniently happens to be an herb-toting, birkenstocked, crunchy doctor. Treat the cause, the root of the problem. We like roots and all in naturopathic medicine.

To hear the allopathic community and some of its quackwatch appendages, the naturopathic medicines I prescribe daily are either placebo or toxic agents bordering on the realm of negligence and my practice of medicine and admiration of the genius of Hahnemann harbors some similarity to following a cult leader. Hahnemann and his minions were some crusading characters insanely bent on--Like cures Like fighting the "dark aged" Regulars. 

And yet Naturopathic world misses the point. Fish the telephone pole out of your own eye. Isn't Clark Kent, ND in bed with Nutraceutical Company? How is that relevantly different from Lois and Pharma? Can't we admit that vaccines are rather naturopathic and save lives? Can't we acknowledge that Allopathic medicine does certain things like Emergency Medicine, amazingly well?

And yet Allopathic world also misses the point. Fish the telephone pole out of your own eye. Can't you see how the history of human kind is all about the history of human mistakes and the process of detecting and overcoming those errors in thinking? Isn't it possible that in waging this war against those that think differently from you, you've missed the point? If you aim to squelch the position that balances out your own, you burn the bridge to future growth and banish yourself to an island of your own idiosyncratic thinking?

Can't both worlds ingest a dose of humility? And, no I don't mean a homeopathic dose. Can't both acknowlege that extremism and polarization help no-one?

Unfortunately, all of medicine merely seems to mimic the culture at large. We live in culture of extremist sound bites. A culture that needs the boxing ring to keep the viewers interested. How will we ever get our message into the limelight without an evil villain character? Who is the foil? And so we polarize. We spin. We push the gap between two ideals wider and wider. In the name of spin or viewers or "ideals" we feature our opponent's ideal in a crossbow on a website or pronounce a democracy focused camp, a "Hitler Youth Camp." Really? Accuracy doesn't seem to matter so much as capturing that emotionally reactive content, placing our message center stage at Carnegie Hall.

In the meantime, outside polarized TV world, boys sucked into the story, show up with guns at grocery stores in Tuscon or youth camps in Norway, and blow up evil villain characters for ideals.

Taking our lessons from culture at large, maybe its time for medicine to back away from extremist-superhero-naturo-or-allo positions, acknowledging that at least some portion might be spin designed to harness emotionally reactive content. Our voice as medical moderates might not be as glamorous, might not take sweeps week, or win us roles on Jerry Springer Live, but it will be heroic nonetheless. For it will be our voice acknowledging that many of our fiercest idealistic battles are not waged in order to contend with some evil villain force outside ourselves. Rather, those battles are often waged when we can't aknowledge  the villain within who gathers strength precisely as we feed our superhero counterpart.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


I attended my first NAMI meeting tonight. I have no idea why I haven't been to a meeting until now. Per the confidentiality agreement I’m not allowed to talk about stated meeting. But I suppose I can talk about NAMI in general and my own personal response.
NAMI is a beautiful organization. The acronym stands for National Alliance on Mental Illness. They support people and families with mental illness. Aiming to reduce the stigma of mental illness, they structure support in a gazillion different ways, perhaps too many to count. Support groups, educational classes for families, community wide fund raisers to increase awareness, and more are all part of the NAMI package.
Of course, in going to such a meeting I couldn’t help but ruminate on my brother. I couldn’t help but dwell on the fact that I found a beautiful organization, six years too late. I couldn’t help but feel guilty for not finding these people--committed to plugging some of the holes in the treatment and service to the mentally ill after his death.
But that is not the point of NAMI. NAMI is not so much about wallowing in your guilt over what you should have done, or would have done, or maybe could have done to help someone. NAMI is about holding all of these should of, would of, and could ofs and deciding to walk forward anyways. Its about recognizing your own limitations, your own humanity, your own shortcomings, and still getting up in the morning to put your shoes on. And so I shall.

In case you are interested in checking NAMI out, here's the national website.

Friday, July 8, 2011

camp soul

Mt Sneffles peaks from behind the swaying evergreens. Tall and majestic, the contrast between Sneffles and our “lowly” valley camp spot on the edge of the meadow gives you the sense of a lower elevation than the known 9000 feet of the Dallas Divide. But, don’t let the weakened contrast and Sneffles less-than-impressive name fool you. Sneffles still boasts 14,000 feet and patches of snow in July.
Somehow, the aging Boss Hog (aka our embarrassingly-loud-beeper-in-reverse-circa-1993 conversion van) made it all the way up the lonely, dirt road to our ideal camp spot. We ventured all this way to strip away some of the clutter from our lives, making more space for the soul. Envisioning more soul in the everyday experience. Playing trolls on a little two logged bridge. Claiming portions of creek as six or eight or ten-year old real estate play properties. This is my house from this tree to that rock. Wading bare footed in barely melted mountain water til tiny fish startle you into racing your crocs for fun. Puffing dandelion seeds into the breezy light air. Finally getting a fire going after a long rain with wet, still-green wood. Hiking trails through a Yarnell sized botanical playground. Leading pet Llamas around Teepees and meadows yellow.
When it comes down to it, the clutter strips more readily and more drastically if you’re a kid. Fully engaging the rocks and caterpillars and matted, dreadlocked Llamas seems to become more difficult as we age.
Even so, up here among the clouds and flowers there is time to think. Time to ponder. Time to reconnect with all things natural, which few of us do enough. The machinery of life and concrete jungles begin to slip away. Stephen Harrod Buhner describes our disconnect from nature as western post-enlightenment thinkers in his book, The Lost Language of Plants:
Once the Universe becomes a machine, no longer alive, once human beings are defined as the only intelligent life-form, a unique kind of isolation enters human lives, a kind of loneliness that is unprecedented in the history of human habitation on earth. It is a source of many of the emotional pathologies people struggle with. In addition, people begin to judge themselves internally, to identify their level of value according to how much or how well they think. Any internal expressions, perceptions, or thoughts that come from older epistemologies—that are based primarily on feeling or intuition or aliveness in the Universe—they label as unscientific, irrational, unreasoning, or illogical. Such thoughts and perceptions, it is assumed, have less value, are based on improper assumptions about the nature of reality, and are therefore something to be discounted, dismissed, degraded. This dynamic has become so ingrained that people routinely monitor and censor perceptions that are contrary to universe-as-machine. And so people cut themselves off from the Universe in which they live; they become passengers on a ball of semimolten rock hurtling through the Universe. They internally denigrate and deny their most basic experiences of the livingness of the world in which they live, their connection to it, and the importance of that connection. The interior wound…
And so I sit watching, pondering and healing for a time. Struggling to reconnect as I disconnect from from the hamster wheel. Meditating on the biophilia infused words of Buhner and learning large from three small teachers that have no idea what soul is, yet live with soul so much of the time.