Words are magical. They are like musical notes, which when strung together, create a symphony of meaning and feeling. As the speaker, we are the composer, arranger, conductor, and musician. So it's up to us to choose our words carefully and to present them clearly and concisely. Sadly, some people don't pay enough attention to their words, and as a result, they and their words are often ignored. Let's remember that words are the building blocks of language, communication, and relationships.
ABCs OF WRITING
There are four kinds of writing: prose, poetry (verse), prose poetry, and aphorisms. Prose is information formatted in sentences and paragraphs. Poetry is imagery formatted in lines and stanzas. Prose poetry is imagery formatted like prose. And aphorisms are concise bits of wisdom formatted in sentences. Good writing is a smooth flow of lucid, logical, linguistic linkages. In short, writing is a link between think and ink.
A PLAGUE ON BOTH YOUR HOUSES (ROMEO AND JULIET)
Engaging but enraging, and poignant but pointless, political debate reflects the fallacy of false choices. Both sides put on a good show, but neither side addresses pervasive public corruption, thus incriminating both sides and exonerating neither. So political debates are amateurish charades and grotesque burlesque with pseudo-duos, faux foes, stagey stares, mock madness, puny punches, choreographed cliffhangers, orchestrated outcomes, and inflated incomes. In short, political debates involve reprobates who owe us rebates.
A TASTE OF HONEY
Life is like our taste buds. Our tongue has taste buds for sweetness, saltiness, sourness, and bitterness. Likewise, life has the sweetness of success, the saltiness of humor, the sourness of disappointment, and the bitterness of failure. In order to curb our craving for the addictive pleasure of sweetness (success) and saltiness (humor), we must accept the counterbalancing displeasure of sourness (disappointment) and bitterness (failure). But a balanced palate is a rare talent.
ADDICTION & AMBIVALENCE
Addicts are frustrating and maddening. They ask for help but then reject it. After a while, we get frustrated and angry with them and tell them to leave us alone. How can we help addicts without getting angry and rejecting them? We must recognize that addicts are ambivalent about their addiction, in that they love the euphoria, but hate the sickness. So we must help them to understand their ambivalence and the dual nature of addiction with its euphoria and sickness, which are inextricably linked. Likewise, we must cope with our ambivalence towards addicts, in that we love them, but hate their addiction.
ADDICTION IN PHYSICIANS AND NURSES
Physicians and nurses are prone to addiction, because they both have knowledge of and access to addictive drugs, and therefore a false sense of security with these drugs. Unfortunately, they forget that addictive drugs are a deadly paradox: the more you know them, the more they fool you; the more you use them, the more they control you; and the more you enjoy them, the more they hurt you. It is wise for physicians and nurses to be proactively on guard against becoming addicted to addictive drugs.
The climatologists and epidemiologists at the Henny Penny Institute of Pseudo-Science and Scare-Care have inadvertently performed a public service. Climate-gate, flu-gate, ebola-gate, and zika-gate have immunized the public against media-spread alarmism, opportunism, and medicalism.
ALL FINE ARCHITECTURAL VALUES ARE HUMAN VALUES, ELSE NOT VALUABLE (FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT)
Architects are unsung heroes. Working quietly behind the scenes, they design our homes, hospitals, schools, stores, theaters, churches, museums, and skyscrapers. With creativity and precision, architects convert empty space into rooms, ergonomic furniture, artwork, atria, cathedral ceilings, clerestory windows, stained glass, skylights, and landscaping. So let's celebrate architectural magic by incorporating it into our lives.
ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE (AS YOU LIKE IT)
Life is a series of predictable, progressive, overlapping stages. Childhood is a time of education; adulthood is a time of dedication; and old age is a time of meditation. Each stage has meaning, dignity, and purpose. The purpose of life is maturation, purification, and elevation. The formula for life is cooperation, amelioration, and celebration.
AN EYE FOR AN EYE (LEX TALIONIS)
Retaliation seeks vindication and vengeance with indications of bad intentions.
AND HOMELESS NEAR A THOUSAND HOMES I STOOD (WORDSWORTH)
We're homeless hybrids. Split between the natural and spiritual worlds, we wander and wonder, vacillating between fact and faith, ever searching for a home. Weak and needy, but proud and petulant, we have no ecological niche and rely on wits and luck. Like forlorn orphans, we fight to be the favorite, hoping that God will have pity and take us home, even if only for a visit.
ARS LONGA, VITA BREVIS (HIPPOCRATES)
Art is magic. Fusing talent with palette, and artistry with alchemy, artists creatively convert our common aversion to pain into an uncommon vision of paint. Using poignant oils, idyllic acrylics, charming charcoals, playful pastels, and stellar stencils with colored pencils, artists communicate, commemorate, contemplate, and celebrate God's animated Creation.
ART & SCIENCE
Art and science are complementary. Like our two cerebral hemispheres, they synergistically enhance our intellect. Art relies on the analogical, non-linear, backward reasoning of induction, while science relies on the logical, linear, forward reasoning of deduction. Since logic requires both induction and deduction, society requires both art and science. Just imagine if we could somehow blend the artistic genius of Rembrandt and Mozart, with the scientific genius of Einstein and Pasteur. Our problems just might be solved.
Prolific and protean, but idiopathic, autoimmune diseases are pandemic and increasing exponentially. Curiously, the exponential increase of autoimmune diseases parallels the exponential increase of vaccines. Since autoimmune diseases and vaccines both relate directly to immunity, it’s reasonable to wonder if vaccines play a causative role in the prevalence and severity of autoimmune diseases. Is autoimmune disease pharmacogenic and iatrogenic? Is autoimmune disease a synonym (euphemism) for vaccinosis?*
*Autoimmune disease, in which our immune system rejects our own body, affects every cell, tissue, organ, and system in our body. Here's a partial list of autoimmune diseases: allergy, anemia, arthritis, asthma, cancer, carditis, celiac, colitis, diabetes, encephalitis, fibromyalgia, hepatitis, ileitis, iritis, nephritis, pancreatitis, thyroiditis, and vasculitis.
BEAUTY IS MORE THAN SKIN DEEP
Linking XY with guy, but XX with sex, female beauty is a duty and a burden, whose slavish salons, perilous parlors, and rigorous regimens result in remorse, divorce, and rigor mortis due to the inanity and insanity of vanity. In short, beauty is sincere and dear, not artificial or superficial.
Bedlam is more than a medieval psychiatric hospital. It's a metaphor for chaos, confusion, and insanity. Today, when we think of Bedlam, we shake our heads and cluck our tongues at the mayhem of a medieval hospital. But someday, doctors of the future will shake their heads and cluck their tongues at the mayhem of today's hospitals. So let's temper our modern, medical hubris with humility, objectivity, and historicity. Today's modern medical center is tomorrow's Bedlam.
BEWARE OF ADDICTION
Linking addiction with affliction, and craving with raving, addiction is a poison pill that makes us ill with sinister sequelae that go right to our belly, turn our mind to jelly, and make us silly willy-nilly.*
*Craving is the hallmark of addiction, and the most common addictions are a slippery slope of sugar, honey, chocolate, vanilla, cola, coffee, tea, alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. The best way to quit alcohol, tobacco, and drugs is to quit sugar, honey, chocolate, vanilla, and cola. The sweet treats of childhood are the bedrock of deadly, adult addictions.
BEWARE OF ADDICTION & GUNS
With its craving, frustration, and anger, addiction aggravates gun violence. Incendiary but unnecessary, addiction and guns trigger a phantasmagoria of gory dysphoria. Blotto plus ammo equals blammo.
BEWARE OF ADDICTION TO PRESCRIPTION DRUGS
We have a silent epidemic of addiction to prescription drugs. Many people are hooked on analgesics, tranquilizers, antidepressants, and sleeping pills that were prescribed by their physicians. Ironically, the imprimatur of the physician’s prescription pad misleads many patients into a false sense of security and a life of addiction that the physician is often slow to diagnose or treat. It’s wise for physicians and patients to discuss the addictive potential of prescription drugs.
BEWARE OF ADVERTISING
Advertising is pervasive and invasive. No matter what we’re doing, we’re constantly barraged with ads. They permeate the media and penetrate our mind with subtle, subliminal messages that control our unconscious. So no matter how friendly and inviting ads appear to be, we must learn to recognize and resist their mesmerizing, misleading messages. Sadly, most ads don’t add to our lives.
BEWARE OF ALCOHOL
Alcohol is an addictive depressant and social lubricant that tricks and traps us by creating the fleeting euphoria of relaxation and confidence, but the sustained sickness of anxiety and despair. The euphoria of relaxation and confidence, and the sickness of anxiety and despair, are opposites that reinforce each other: the euphoria blinds us to the sickness, and the sickness makes us crave the euphoria. Perversely but predictably, alcohol creates, aggravates, and perpetuates the very sickness of anxiety and despair that it falsely seems to cure, thus placing even social drinking in a bad light.
BEWARE OF BICKERING
In contrast to relating, debating is a deflating conflation of bickering and dickering with dueling duos and dynamic dyads that make us foolish and drive us mad. So let's relate, not debate.
BEWARE OF BIG BROTHER
Lawful but awful and penal but venal, Big Brother is a crazy maze of lairs for liars and snares for snakes, with sly smiles and vile files, whose viral ultra vires and phony telephony, track and hack dossiers of do-si-dos, visages of vis-à-vis, quango fandangos, dirty hurdy-gurdies, and peek-a-boos of parlez-vous and entre nous.
BEWARE OF BIG PHARMA
Big Pharma is the preeminent force in healthcare. It controls medical schools, medical research, medical journals, medical certification, continuing medical education, health insurance, and health policy. Big Pharma indoctrinates physicians, patients, and governments with a pharmaceutical orthodoxy that excommunicates all non-believers as sinners, heretics, and lunatics. In order to liberate healthcare and promote scientific progress, Big Pharma should fund independent, ongoing research into its excessive influence over healthcare. But let's not hold our breath waiting for this to happen.
BEWARE OF BIG CITIES
Civilization balances science and technology. Cities are a case in point. All cities have basically the same science, but big cities have more people and technology than small cities. This explains why small cities, in which science and technology are more balanced, often enjoy better public health. Sometimes, bigger is not better.
BEWARE OF BIG TOBACCO
Big Tobacco’s invasive evasion and obvious obfuscation in the media come from stopped-up, nonstop operatives with eye-popping cop-outs, and propped up optics and psyops, all of which is almost as breathtaking as tobacco itself.
BEWARE OF BREAKING POINTS
No one is perfect, and we all have breaking points that occur at the worst possible times. So let's try to avoid unnecessary catastrophes, by asking about stressors. This is not a call for more psychiatric diagnoses, drugs, or hospitalizations. Rather, this is a call for more sympathetic and supportive social services that recognize our imperfections and breaking points.
BEWARE OF BUZZWORDS
Linguists seem curiously tolerant of certain buzzwords that obfuscate rather than communicate. These buzzwords comprise oxymora, redundancies, and put-downs. For example, "political correctness" is an oxymoron, because politicians are notoriously dishonest and incorrect; "climate change" is a redundancy, because climate always changes; and "let’s all come together and move forward" is a put-down, because it suggests that we are unruly children who need to be controlled. Buzzwords are noxious nonsense and newspeak that subliminally undermine our integrity, maturity, and autonomy. George Orwell’s novel 1984 is prescient and timeless.
BEWARE OF CAFFEINE
Caffeine is an addictive stimulant and social lubricant that tricks and traps us by creating the fleeting euphoria of mental energy, but the sustained sickness of mental lethargy. The euphoria of mental energy and the sickness of mental lethargy are polar opposites that reinforce each other: the euphoria blinds us to the sickness, and the sickness makes us crave the euphoria. Perversely but predictably, caffeine creates, aggravates, and perpetuates the very sickness of mental lethargy that it falsely seems to cure, thus placing coffee, tea, and energy drinks in a bad light.
BEWARE OF COLA
Cola is an addictive stimulant and social lubricant that tricks and traps us by creating the fleeting euphoria of hydration and energy, but the sustained sickness of dehydration and apathy. The euphoria of hydration and energy, and the sickness of dehydration and apathy, are opposites that reinforce each other: the euphoria blinds us to the sickness, and the sickness makes us crave the euphoria. Perversely but predictably, cola creates, aggravates, and perpetuates the very sickness of dehydration and apathy that it falsely seems to cure, thus placing some popular beverages in a bad light.
BEWARE OF CONTACT SPORTS
Contact sports (such as boxing, hockey, rugby, and American football) are parodies of manhood and atavistic, anachronistic, sadomasochistic, barbaric bacchanalia, which create the euphoria of victory, machismo, and fun, but the sickness of injury, disability, and pain.
BEWARE OF EBOLA-GATE
The fiascos of flu-gate and climate-gate suggest that the brouhaha and boola-boola about Ebola may be payola for yet another venal vaccine scheme from Big Pharma's voracious, vexatious vaccinologists, whose scare-care may cause autoimmune diseases, which are legion, often lethal, and involve our immune system rejecting our own body. In short, Ebola is a bonanza for Big Pharma, but a boondoggle for us. To quote GB Shaw, "Science never solves one problem without creating ten more."
BEWARE OF ENTERTAINMENT
Entertainment is often addictive escapism and a social lubricant that tricks and traps us with the fleeting euphoria of activity and fun, but the sustained sickness of lethargy and boredom. The euphoria of activity and fun, and the sickness of lethargy and boredom, are polar opposites that reinforce each other: the euphoria blinds us to the sickness, and the sickness makes us crave the euphoria. Ironically, entertainment often creates, aggravates, and perpetuates the very sickness of lethargy and boredom that it falsely seems to cure, thus placing most TV and movies in a bad light.
BEWARE OF FOOLISHNESS
The world is full of foolish behavior. No one is immune from being foolish. How can we prevent foolishness? The best way is to avoid addictive substances, because they impair our judgment and make us impulsive. But if we do use addictive substances, we must be on our best behavior, and on guard against faux pas, or worse. Sadly, when it comes to foolishness, society is long on notoriety, but short on sobriety.
BEWARE OF GAMBLING
Gambling is an addictive behavior and social lubricant that tricks and traps us by creating the fleeting euphoria of feeling lucky and rich, but the sustained sickness of being unlucky and poor. The euphoria of feeling lucky and rich, and the sickness of being unlucky and poor, are opposites that reinforce each other: the euphoria blinds us to the sickness; and the sickness makes us crave the euphoria. Perversely but predictably, gambling creates, aggravates, and perpetuates the very sickness of being unlucky and poor that it falsely seems to cure, thus placing lotteries and casinos, and their owners/sponsors, in a very bad light.
BEWARE OF HONEY AND SUGAR
Honey and sugar are addictive sweets that trick and trap us by creating the fleeting euphoria of sweetness and peace, but the sustained sickness of bitterness and anger. The euphoria of sweetness and peace, and the sickness of bitterness and anger, are opposites that reinforce each other: the euphoria blinds us to the sickness, and the sickness makes us crave the euphoria. Perversely but predictably, honey and sugar create, aggravate, and perpetuate the very sickness of bitterness and anger that they falsely seem to cure, thus placing many favorite sweets in a bad light.
BEWARE OF IDEOLOGIES
Ideology is a fancy term for someone’s theory. Somehow, words sound more impressive when they have more syllables. But before we subscribe to fancy theories, we should reduce them to plain, simple language, and see if they really make sense and help us. Otherwise, complexity vexes us with perplexity, and we feel very theory weary.
BEWARE OF MARIJUANA & HASHISH
Marijuana and hashish are addictive hallucinogens that trick and trap us by creating the fleeting euphoria of knowledge and wisdom, but the sustained sickness of confusion and paranoia. The euphoria of knowledge and wisdom, and the sickness of confusion and paranoia, are polar opposites that reinforce each other: the euphoria blinds us to the sickness, and the sickness makes us crave the euphoria. Perversely but predictably, marijuana and hashish create, aggravate, and perpetuate the very sickness of confusion and paranoia that they falsely seem to cure, thus placing all hallucinogens in a very bad light.
BEWARE OF NEWSPEAK
Politicians who urge us to "come together and move forward" are, in effect, herding us like cattle. Let's elect politicians who function as individuals, and encourage us to do the same. Or is it too late?
BEWARE OF OPEC & THE HORMUZ HUSTLE
The smooth dudes, who ooze sweet crude through the crucial Strait of Hormuz, monetize moods but refuse to schmooze. So let's defuse Hormuz and disabuse these dudes of their bruising ruse and bad-news views, by replacing gravitas and claptrap with rap, hype and hoopla with hip-hop, and mucho moola with hula-hula and boola-boola.
BEWARE OF OPIOIDS
Opioids are potent, addictive analgesics (pain medicine) that trick and trap us by creating the fleeting euphoria of analgesia (pain-free), but the sustained sickness of hyperalgesia (pain-sensitivity). The euphoria of analgesia and the sickness of hyperalgesia are polar opposites that reinforce each other: the euphoria blinds us to the sickness, and the sickness makes us crave the euphoria. Perversely but predictably, opioids create, aggravate, and perpetuate the very sickness of hyperalgesia that they fasely seem to cure, thus placing many potent analgesics in a bad light.
BEWARE OF PRIZES
Prizes surprise us, because they're precious but precarious. Our birth is gratis, but then we pursue status, chasing the chalice, which invariably becomes a poisoned chalice brimming with malice.
BEWARE OF PSYCHOTROPICS IN CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS
The routine use of psychotropics in children and adolescents is bad medical practice. It interferes with the normal development of sensitive, nascent nervous systems, and invites serious iatrogenic conditions. So let’s rethink this common practice, and make it a rare last resort.
BEWARE OF PUBLICITY
Publicity is duplicity. With public disclosures from private enclosures, publicity is the publication of public lives that hides the privation of private lives. Publicity is duality, not reality.
BEWARE OF SCARE-CARE
Scare-care is a poor substitute for healthcare. Healthcare experts who manufacture public hysteria about controversial issues, without acknowledging the legitimacy of opposing points of view, are not advancing public health. Healthcare is not monolithic, and there are legitimate questions about such sacred cows as vaccines, statins, antibiotics, tranquilizers, antidepressants, and global warming (climate change). Healthcare requires balance and fairness, not bias or fear.
BEWARE OF SCHOOL
Rotten with rote, and written with riffs, schools promote education and graduation via indoctrination, not individuation or innovation. Intellectual but ineffectual, and hallowed but hollow and shallow, schools are fallow followers that kowtow to puppet shows for the status quo. To quote Mark Twain, "I never let school interfere with my education."
BEWARE OF SETTLED SCIENCE
Despite its hype and hoopla, settled science is fettered and fetid, because science needs vetting, instead of fêting.
BEWARE OF TOBACCO
Tobacco is an addictive depressant that tricks and traps us by creating the fleeting euphoria of relaxation and aeration, but the sustained sickness of desperation and suffocation. The euphoria of relaxation and aeration, and the sickness of desperation and suffocation, are polar opposites that reinforce each other: the euphoria blinds us to the sickness, and the sickness makes us crave the euphoria. Perversely but predictably, tobacco creates, aggravates, and perpetuates the very sickness of desperation and suffocation that it falsely seems to cure, thus placing all tobacco products in a very bad light.
BEWARE OF VIOLENCE
We are torn between verbiage and violence. Our intelligence tells us to resolve disputes patiently and peacefully. But our anger tells us to end disputes fast and forcefully. How can we resolve this dichotomy? We must own up to our tendency to impatience, anger, and violence, and learn to express this tendency verbally, safely, and humanely, because violence is ruinous, but patience is luminous and numinous.
BEWARE OF WORLD CAPITALS
World capitals are wicked. Each one is a Potemkin village hiding Faustian bargains. Each one subverts citizens and troops to captives and dupes, dollars and cents to dolor and nonsense, and democracy and capitalism to fiefdoms of fraud and kingdoms of kleptocracy and capitulation. Bloated with presumption and loaded with corruption, world capitals cry out for exposure, disclosure, and closure.
BEYOND BIOLOGY 1
We are social mammals, and all of our activities are emotionally charged with thoughts and memories of our relationships. These thoughts and memories control much of our lives, including such physiological activities as sleeping and eating. In order to correct sleeping and eating disorders, such as insomnia, anorexia, bulimia, or obesity, we must understand their emotional associations and social context. Sleeping and eating are more than rapid eye movements and peristalsis; they are also dreams and reassurance. Both sleeping and eating revolve around our need for love and security. We are more than biological beings, and it's impossible to overestimate the significance of our emotional and social life.
BEYOND BIOLOGY 2
Even though our mind is abecedarian; even though our behavior is not egalitarian or humanitarian, but authoritarian, antiquarian, barbarian, and contrarian; and even though our society is a vivarium, our body a terrarium, our blood an aquarium, and our breath a cinerarium; our lives are still an honorarium.
BIG PHARMA AND LITTLE DOCTORS
The relationship between the drug industry and doctors is upside down and backwards. Although the drug industry is motivated primarily by profit, lacks clinical experience and judgment, and has a history of egregious dishonesty, the drug industry nonetheless dominates doctors. The drug industry's economic might, political connections, deceptive marketing, biased research, and self-serving educational functions render even experienced doctors little more than medical students who seek a passing grade and prize the prescription pad as a badge of honor and raison d'être. It's no wonder that doctors and medical journals are now half-heartedly and belatedly trying to emancipate themselves from the drug industry's hegemony and patronage, while the drug industry is hypocritically trying to maintain the status quo. And it's no wonder that healthcare is so frustrating, expensive, confusing, ineffective, and dangerous. How sad for doctors, patients, and patients' families, who suffer along with patients and struggle to pay inflated medical bills. Those who seek to defend the drug industry's right to monopolize healthcare, gouge the public, and make rapacious, extravagant profits should read Mark 8:36, "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"
BIOPHOBIA: FACT OR FICTION
Eggs are great. They produce life via conception and maintain life via ingestion. Linked with life, eggs are an ideal food, and doctors who tell us not to eat them are biophobic, which means they're morose and verbose from overdosing on life and strife, spills and spells, ills and pills.
BLESSED ARE THE MEEK, FOR THEY SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH (MATTHEW 5:5)
Society is hypocritical. It preaches civility and courtesy, but praises aggression and audacity. We mock Caspar Milquetoast, but emulate Rambo and the Terminator. As children, we learn that bullies control the playground, and as adults, we learn that dictators and tyrants control the world. If we want to live in a more civilized world, we must reject bluster and bravado, and instead learn to respect and appreciate the meek. To quote Swami Sivananda, "Meekness is not weakness."
Magic but hemorrhagic and tragic, money is like blood, and poverty is like anemia. Anemia is physical and due to weakness, malnutrition, infection, and bleeding; but poverty is fiscal and due to bleakness, maldistribution, deception, and cheating. Anemia gets transfusions from blood banks, but poverty gets infusions from bloody banks. So blood is hemoglobin, but money is demons and goblins.
BLUEPRINT FOR WRITERS
Writing is like building a skyscraper. The writer must be the architect, contractor, janitor, interior decorator, real estate agent, and doorman. As architect, the writer envisions the concept and blueprint for the writing. As contractor, the writer turns the blueprint into sentences and paragraphs. As janitor, the writer edits the sentences and paragraphs. As interior decorator, the writer embellishes the edited sentences and paragraphs. As real estate agent, the writer presents the embellished, edited sentences and paragraphs to the public. And as doorman, the writer greets all readers. In short, the writer is reaching for the sky and taking you along.
Traditionally, neuroscientists view the brain as a computer with hardware (neuroanatomy), software (neurophysiology), and engineers (teachers and doctors). But the brain is more than just a computer, because it also has flexibility (neuroplasticity) and changeability (cognitive modification), both of which are essential to peace and health. So let’s not be too concrete, literal, or reductionist in our brain research, and also include creative input from artists and musicians, both of whom can expand our view of the human condition and potential.
BREAD & CIRCUS (JUVENAL)
Imperial Rome pacified its people with free food and grisly gladiators at the Colosseum, which the satirist, Juvenal, called bread and circus. Sadly, little has changed, since people are still pacified by imperious states with bread (welfare) and circus (warfare), but today's Colosseum is an artful army of smarmy media swarming with armfuls of harmful malware, spyware, madware, and scareware. To paraphrase Juvenal: Who will protect us from our protectors, or ourselves?
BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO (SEDAKA)
Relationships are paradoxical. They often end badly, but the bad endings always surprise us. Sadly, this happens with marriage, family, friends, and business. Why is this? Perhaps we starve and stifle relationships with so much secrecy and fantasy, that they fade and disappear in daylight. Like dreams, relationships end when we wake up, and then the nightmare of breaking up begins.
BUT I HAVE PROMISES TO KEEP, AND MILES TO GO BEFORE I SLEEP (ROBERT FROST)
Despite significant social and scientific progress, society is still fraught with sickness, injustice, violence, and conflict. We’ve come a long way from the Middle Ages, but we still have a long way to go. So let’s not get too puffed up about the information explosion, by confusing facts and data with knowledge and wisdom. And let’s not congratulate and honor ourselves, until we can actually feed the hungry, heal the sick, and achieve peace, without destroying ourselves or the planet.
BUT THY ETERNAL SUMMER SHALL NOT FADE (SHAKESPEARE SONNET 18)
Grieving is bittersweet. At first, we are overwhelmed with the shock and bitterness of losing a loved one. But after a while, after the shock starts to wear off, we begin to reminisce about the sweetness that we shared with our loved one. Still later, after the bitterness and sweetness begin to recede, we start analyzing our relationship with our loved one, and come to new understandings. Since the grieving process is lengthy and complex, but productive, we should give ourselves ample time to go through the whole process and come out a better person.
The miraculous rescue of 33 Chilean miners at Camp Esperanza (Hope) was a poignant, riveting resurrection reminiscent of birth itself. Securely sealed in a protective capsule (amniotic sac) and connected to a lifeline (umbilical cord) that traversed a long tube (birth canal), each miner (baby) was carefully rescued (delivered) from a dark cave (womb) by coworkers (midwives), who lovingly reunited the miners (babies) with their joyous wives (mothers), wrapped them in a (receiving) blanket, and carried them on a stretcher (cradle) to the physician (pediatrician) in the hospital (nursery), while the mining company (father) greeted everyone, took pictures, and paid the bill. Thank God for miracles!
CAPITALISM VS. SOCIALISM
The eternal rift between the rights of the rich (capitalism) and the plight of the poor (socialism) defies all political solutions. Each country wavers back and forth, and some have reached tipping points, verging on collapse. Why can’t this rift be resolved? Perhaps the real issue isn't political or economic, but more basic and scientific. Our science is still too disruptive and destructive; so we need a new, safe science of peace and health, our most crucial but elusive goals.
Celebrity is a mixed blessing. It offers the opportunity for comfort, candor, and philanthropy; but it also offers the opportunity for extravagance, self-indulgence, and self-destruction. Ironically, many celebrities lead short, unhappy, meteoric lives that are both fascinating and revolting. So let's be grateful for our modest, mundane, mediocre lives which enforce a measure of normality, rationality, and reality.
In contrast to social justice (science of mercy), legal justice (alliance of commerce) is an oxymoron and circus maximus, in which law courts (cattle calls) milk the public via the judge (sacred cow), gavel (cattle prod), lawyer (cowboy/cowgirl), plaintiff/defendant (fatted calf), trial (cash cow), witness (auctioneer), jury (steer), bailiff (bull), and verdict (cow pie).
CDC, FDA, AND NIH: FACT OR FICTION
Regulation is dissimulation with covert compensation. For example, Big Pharma, the pell-mell pill mill, is "regulated" by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). But in fact, CDC, FDA, and NIH coordinate Big Pharma's pricey, perilous polypharmacy, which lubricates lucrative revolving doors for CDC, FDA, and NIH with Big Pharma - the king of kickbacks and queen of quacks.
CHRISTMAS CARD FOR EBENEZER SCROOGE (DICKENS)
Number$ are bummers. Numbing, dumbing, and humbling, they make us succumb to crumbling slums run by grumbling humbugs like you, Mr. Scrooge.
CLIMB EVERY MOUNTAIN (THE SOUND OF MUSIC)
Mount Everest is more than the tallest mountain on earth; it is a metaphor for the ultimate challenge. Life presents each of us with a unique series of opportunities and challenges. The task in life is to seize opportunities, face challenges, and turn challenges into opportunities. Each of us is a lone mountain climber scaling a unique mountain. And each of us needs creativity, courage, companionship, determination, and luck.
COMPUTERS: PRO & CON
Computers are paradoxical, because they're miraculous but ridiculous. They digitize data, but midgetize us. They measure us, but don’t treasure us. So what should we do? We should distinguish between quantity and quality, because therein lies the crucial difference between computers and us. Computers are suitable and doable, but we are inscrutable and irreducible.
There's no middle ground with marriage; it's either good or bad. If it's good, it offers love, companionship, security, and reassurance. But if it's bad, it offers nothing but a pricey, oppressive, omnipresent prison. So let's spend more time selecting and caring for our marriage partners, and avoid the dilemma of choosing between a miserable marriage and a devastating divorce.
CONSENT MAKES THE LAW (CONSENSUS FACIT LEGEM)
Informed consent is a redundancy, because being properly informed is a precondition of consent. Without being properly informed, a patient or client cannot give any legitimate, binding consent. Therefore, it is imperative that all professionals withhold any request for agreement or signatures, until after all information and questions have been addressed.
CONSERVATIVES AND LIBERALS
The eternal conflict between conservatives (fundamentalists) and liberals (humanists) is, in part, linguistic. The former use literal (denotative) language, while the latter use figurative (connotative) language. Perhaps this conflict is a fallacy of false choices, since both linguistic forms are equally valid, and thus mutually compatible. So let's syncretically reconcile our political and religious differences, by increasing our semantic tolerance of language.
Wordy but worthy, conversations are defined by context and driven by purpose. The context of a conversation is its background, which involves the past and present. The purpose of a conversation is its goal, which involves the present and future. Combining the past, present, and future with pining, whining, and divining, conversations intertwine time with design, and mine with thine.
COWBOYS & INDIANS: FACT OR FICTION
Guns play an important role in American history, especially in stories about “cowboys and Indians.” Sadly, these stories falsely portray cowboys, settlers, soldiers, and guns as good, but Native Americans, tribes, teepees, and bows-and-arrows as bad. Of course, these stories cover up the lies and exploitation perpetrated by a young, exuberant America that didn’t understand or practice civil rights. But to be fair, neither did the rest of the world. Nevertheless, the continuing canard of "cowboys and Indians" captures the hypocrisy of colonialism and racism, and reminds us that most stereotyped dualities reverse reality and mock morality.
The internet is a modern miracle but a mixed blessing. It enables us to search and communicate with the rest of the world; but it also enables the rest of the world to search and communicate about us. Like most progress, the internet enhances our lives, but compromises our privacy. Since the internet is a sine qua non of modernity, let's not worry about things we can't change or do without. And let's not succumb to Ludditism or paranoia and reduce our lives to cloak-and-dagger pulp fiction.
CYBERSPACE IS THE GREAT EQUALIZER
Apart from Facebook and YouTube, most of cyberspace is blind and deaf, because we don’t see or hear the people we correspond with. Paradoxically, this enhances our communication, because we focus more on words and feelings, and are not as distracted by irrelevant superficialities. Ironically, the blind and deaf, like all disabled people, have special understanding that abled people lack.
DEATH AND BEYOND
Death is deadly, but hope is heady. So although war and sickness spoil living and loving, dreams foil death by toiling for peace and health. To quote John Donne, "Death be not proud, though some have called thee mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so".
DEATH BE NOT PROUD (JOHN DONNE)
Life and death are inseparable. From the moment of birth we begin to die, because our cells are programmed to grow, mature, and die by a process called apoptosis. But nevertheless, death often comes as a surprise, even to doctors and nurses, who try to forget that every symptom, injury, or sickness is yet another memento mori. The burden of life and death is too heavy for the medical profession to cope with by itself. In order to alleviate this burden and improve patient care, doctors and nurses should have interdisciplinary conferences with clergy, philosophers, psychologists, sociologists, and other non-medical experts, who can help to illuminate and mitigate the universal paradox of life and death - the danse macabre.
DIAGNOSIS & PROGNOSIS
Physicians treat sickness by probing the past and present (diagnosis), prescribing medicine or surgery, and predicting the future (prognosis). But sometimes physicians are wrong, because they’re so focused on esoteric scientific knowledge, that they ignore plain common sense by overlooking obvious questions, such as the patient’s contact with toxins and addictions, both of which are common causes of sickness. A wise physician knows that knowledge plus common sense is wisdom, but knowledge minus common sense is nonsense.
DIAGNOSIS: FACT OR FICTION
Diagnosis is the sine qua non of healthcare. Without a diagnosis, doctors don't know how to help patients. But there are many patients who can't be diagnosed or helped. So let's enhance diagnostics and therapeutics with commonsense holistics by avoiding all toxins and addictions, because both are common, covert causes of multimorbidity and mortality. Intellectual but ineffectual, and oblivious to the obvious, diagnostics and therapeutics are contrived and divisive, but logical holistics are realistic and pragmatic, and should be automatic.
DIET AND CULTURE
Diet and culture are inseparable. Each culture has its own special dietary habits. Some of these habits are good, but some are bad. Unfortunately, the bad habits of addiction often outweigh the good habits of nutrition. The bad habits of addiction can undermine the security and progress of a culture. It is important for each culture to study its dietary habits and to distinguish between nutrition and addiction. This will enable each and every culture to fulfill its own unique potential. This will also enable all cultures to live in peace and harmony with each other.
DIFFERENTIAL DIAGNOSIS OF AFFECTIVE DISORDERS
The affective disorders of mania and depression are common psychiatric diagnoses. The diagnostic and therapeutic categories for affective disorders include psychoanalytical (oral fixation), psychopharmacological (neurotransmitter imbalance), physical (acute & chronic disease), psychological (low self-esteem), sociological (low social status), dietary (toxins & addictions), and lifestyle (sedentary & solitary). In my experience, the most pragmatic and effective categories are dietary and lifestyle, both of which empower the patient to make immediate, constructive changes that may obviate the need for more expensive treatment.
Marriage can be both torrid and horrid, because gonads stimulate, genitals satiate, spouses procreate, children agitate, men vegetate, women aggravate, lawyers litigate, marriages terminate, and families separate and devastate, but spouses don't relate, communicate, or cooperate - until it's too late. But alcohol and drugs celebrate.
DO NOTHING FROM RIVALRY OR CONCEIT, BUT IN HUMILITY (PHILIPPIANS 2:3)
Life is not a contest or conquest, but a quest for the best, in and for each and every one of us.
DOCTORS AND NURSES
Life is competition for survival. This competition breeds conflict and jealousy, which affect all relationships, including those between spouses, siblings, neighbors, and co-workers. So we shouldn't be surprised that there is some conflict and jealousy between doctors and nurses. However, we must ensure that no internecine competition ever affects the quality of patient care.
DOCTORS ARE NOT DEMIGODS
"By the authority vested in me, I hereby confer upon you the degree of Doctor of Medicine." With these magic words, spoken 40 years ago, the president of the university sanctified my four years of hell in medical school. But little did I realize that the hell of sickness and searching for answers had just begun. It took me decades to realize that traditional healthcare does not have all the answers, and that alternative healthcare does have some answers. So I find it disturbing that some medical doctors condemn alternative healthcare, and even suggest that alternative doctors do not deserve the title of doctor. I believe that healthcare should be complementary, and that medical doctors should be complimentary to their alternative colleagues. Despite their exalted status, medical doctors should strive to be humble, open-minded, and respectful, and give their patients every opportunity to receive help.
DON'T FORGET THE DISAFFECTED
Sadly, the professions are Procrustean beds of peer pressure and neophobic conformity. This is counter-productive because art and science advance by dissension, as well as consensus. So let's stop cloning the status quo, and instead promote real progress by including the disaffected, because they understand that peer pressure is an impediment to progress and that conformity is often a deformity.
EDUCATION: PRO & CON
Education isn't all edification. It informs and conforms us with facts, but it immerses and rehearses us with minutiae. Enlightened but benighted, and filled with the helium of higher education, our head is in the sky, and our feet barely touch the ground. So let's treat this heady intoxication with brevity, simplicity, clarity, and humility, since education isn't pontification, fabrication, or polysyllabification, but public communication for and with all people - past, present, and future.
EPIGENETICS: BEYOND GENETICS
Life is frenetic, and genetics is not copacetic. It maps genes on chromosomes (good), but zaps us with GMOs (uh-oh). Since GMOs are spiffy but iffy, and fixed but nixed, and since GMOs from recombinant DNA may cause recumbent DOAs, let's replace genetics (GMOs) with epigenetics (non-GMOs) via true-blue genes and real hygiene, not fake high-genes. Holistic and realistic, epigenetics (non-GMOs) trumps genetics (GMOs), by making us gentle genies of genomics and princes of proteomics.*
*GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are used for pharmaceuticals and agriculture. In contrast to genetics (GMOs), epigenetics (non-GMOs) is DNA's on-off switch that promotes health by avoiding toxins and addictions, not by genetic engineering. Genomics studies genomes (complete sets of genes), and proteomics studies proteomes (complete sets of proteins). Most of our cells have 46 chromosomes with 25k genes made of DNA.
Epilepsy and addiction are synergistically linked. They potentiate each other. But sadly, many epileptologists overlook this clinical connection. In my experience, epileptics benefit from diets that eliminate common addictions, such as alcohol, tobacco, honey, sugar, coffee, tea, cola, chocolate, and vanilla. This seems to raise the seizure threshold and lower the frequency and severity of seizures, as well as the need for medication. Sickness needs nutrition, not addiction.
ETERNAL VIGILANCE IS THE PRICE OF LIBERTY (ANDREW JACKSON & WENDELL PHILLIPS)
Government is like ranching, and citizens are like cattle. Cattle think that ranchers are taking care of them by giving them food, water, and land. Likewise, citizens think, hope, or pretend, that governments are taking care of them by giving them rights, protection, and money. But in fact, both cattle and citizens are bred, misled, and bled for profit. So citizens belong to bloviating Big Brothers whose insatiable states, profligate professions, and mendacious media use citizenship like a branding iron.
EUGENICS & EUTHENICS
There are two competing philosophies about societal progress: eugenics and euthenics. Eugenics seeks to improve gene pools, while euthenics seeks to improve the environment. In both cases, scientists study, measure, and quantify various parameters. But in neither case do scientists consider such unquantifiable parameters as courage, creativity, compassion, humility, and self-sacrifice, all of which are essential for societal progress. So let’s not succumb to a fallacy of false choices, by overlooking the ineffable, immeasurable human spirit.
EXPERTISE VS. EXPERTOSIS
Expertise is a paradox. When experts summit, expertise plummets. With pomp at the podium and arrogance ad nauseam, experts posture at rostrums and lecture at lecterns about nonsense and nostrums that make us dumb and keep us mum. Many experts are smitten with their smarts and suffer from expertosis, diplomatosis, academic neurosis, and apotheosis.
EXTROVERTS & INTROVERTS
As social mammals, our sociability spans a continuum from extroversion to introversion. Extroverts are outgoing and talkative, while introverts are reserved and reticent. Like a musical key signature, sociability stamps each personality with either the perky sharps of extroversion or the sad flats of introversion. But regardless of our temperament or tempo, each of us is the composer and conductor of a solitary soul's solemn sonata seeking social solace.
FABLES AND FAIRY TALES
Fables and fairy tales are timeless wisdom, and no one is too old, or too educated, to learn from them. The potential beneficiaries of such wisdom include doctors, scientists, journalists, teachers, lawyers, and politicians. I propose that the curricula for all higher education incorporate the study of fables and fairy tales. Let's learn to view society from the perspective of such fabulists and social critics as Aesop, Hans Christian Andersen, and the Brothers Grimm. Let's learn to identify and criticize the pretentious, unjust, and absurd nature of society's arrogant power structure.
FACILIS DESCENSUS AVERNO OR THE DESCENT TO HELL IS EASY (VIRGIL'S AENEID)
Addiction is an open portal to hell with few exits. The entertainment industry is based on glorifying addiction; the food and beverage industry is based on sugar, vanilla, chocolate, cola, caffeine, and alcohol addiction; the tobacco industry is based on nicotine addiction; the healthcare industry is based on prescribing addictive drugs; and the criminal justice industry is based on incarcerating drug addicts. As a hellish phantasmagoria of addiction and euphoria, society is long on sin and notoriety, but short on sincerity and sobriety.
Facing death is life's final and most frightening challenge. What will happen to us? Will we disappear, or will we enter a new dimension and be reunited with dead loved ones? And what will happen to loved ones we leave behind? Will they be able to cope with losing us? Will they miss us, or will they just forget us? Alas, we're mortal and can't answer these questions. So we pray and place faith in our Creator who names, maintains, and reclaims us. Amen.
FACTS vs. OPINIONS
Many believe and opine, but few perceive or define. So having opinions is fine, but being opinionated is over the line. To quote Leonardo da Vinci, "The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions."
FAITH & FATE
Life is an act of faith, because none of us are truly qualified to be or do anything, and we never will be. What should we do? We should seek truth, sincerity, and humility, but place our faith and fate in God, because God alone is truly qualified.
FIDES ET RATIO (FAITH AND REASON)
Truth is elusive, and we all feel the pull between faith and reason. While extremists adhere exclusively to one, and ignore the other, most of us recognize that life requires a realistic and practical combination of both. Faith teaches us to be dependent and obedient, while reason teaches us to be independent and objective. Since life requires all these qualities, we should avoid extremism and instead blend realism with eclecticism.
FLOWERS ARE FOREVER
As symbols of beauty and vitality, flowers are a natural gift for loved ones. Flowers remind us that the purpose of life is to live and enjoy life. Unlike us, with all of our ambivalence, flowers have no problems with anger, guilt, depression, or suicide. They simply want to live, thrive, and reproduce. So we should celebrate flowers, and incorporate them into our lives. We need to be reminded that life is a gift that should be enjoyed.
Beware of words. They can mislead us. Two examples are redundancies and oxymora. Redundancies mislead with synonyms, while oxymora mislead with antonyms. For example, redundancies include obsessive thoughts, compulsive behavior, hunger pangs, and childish games; while oxymora include open mind, free will, common courtesy, and common sense. Sadly, words are both building blocks and roadblocks.
GHOSTWRITING & PLAGIARISM
Ghostwriting is an oxymoron and quasi-legitimate form of plagiarism. The difference between ghostwriting and plagiarism is that the former pays for someone else's writing, while the latter steals it. But both practices are reprehensible, because they mislead the public for the sake of false economic gain and ego gratification. So it's important to ascertain the true authorship of anything we read, because the relationship between author and reader is sacred.
GIVE A HOOT ABOUT ECOLOGY
Facing our second-story kitchen window, a small Screech Owl named Hoot nestles in the hollow limb of a tall oak tree in our backyard. It’s winter now, and we watch Hoot with binoculars, admiring her heart-shaped face, huge yellow eyes, ear tufts, curved beak, large talons, and brindle plumage. During the day, Hoot sleeps and sunbathes, but at dusk she awakes, and her head swivels back and forth, searching the yard for prey. Suddenly, Hoot is airborne and swallowed up by the night sky. At the foot of the oak tree are rodent carcasses that Hoot regurgitates after digesting. Somehow, this cute little raptor has captured our hearts, and we even love her haunting hooting and screeching. Backyard biology offers a bounty of natural beauty and biodiversity.
GLOBAL DEATH ROUNDS
The global economic crisis is end-stage pseudo-hypo-faux-commercialism caused by a metastatic cancer of cronyism, phonyism, baloneyism, and tax-free, off-shore, alias bank accounts, which have rendered the marrow of our body politic necrotic, despotic, and idiotic. The economic stimulus packages are emergency walletectomies and bypass operations performed with great, ravenous, venal graft. The prognosis is guarded and depends on plausible deniability, persuasive posturing, pathological passivity, and perpetual deep sedation provided by the media under the supervision of spin doctors, hypnotherapists, and ventriloquists.
GREAT EXPECTATIONS (CHARLES DICKENS)
Life is full of great expectations and equally great disappointments. Time and again our hopes are dashed, but each time they resurrect themselves like the mythical phoenix. This eternal hopefulness is the essence of life, because without it we succumb to disappointment and give up on life. So let's be grateful for our great, albeit unrealistic, expectations, but let's try to temper them with the wisdom gained from past disappointments.
It’s beautiful here at the Riviera, and the people of Cannes are so friendly. Of course, the weather is marvelous and the ocean revitalizing. I met this wonderful woman who works as a nurse in Paris. Her name is Danielle, and she’s a doll! I’ve asked her for a snapshot so you can see what I mean. My editor just extended my stay here in exchange for an article on Parisian nightlife. Quelle chance! I can return to Paris with Danielle and kill two birds with one stone.
By the way, I spoke to Anna and the boys before I left. They’re living in one room in a bad neighborhood and miss you terribly. Anna says it’s impossible to contact you or get any information. Your lawyer still feels hopeful but needs more money to continue the appeal. We’re all heartsick about you. It seems like a lifetime since we met in Professor Wilshire’s political science class—me looking for a gentleman’s C, you a foreign-exchange student full of social concern. Well, I guess somebody has to care. Anyway, I’d love to help finance your appeal, but I’m tapped and have to find a larger apartment when I get back to New York. Of course, if there’s anything else I can do, just name it. I’ll try to keep an eye on Anna and the boys.
Mon Dieu, the sun is so strong! I hope I don’t burn. Danielle and I are flying to Monte Carlo for the weekend. Wish me luck at the roulette wheel! Take care of yourself, and keep in touch.
Your pal, Gerald
* * *
Siberia lives up to its reputation—cold and bleak. There are about 500 political prisoners here, mostly men in the prime of life. Some, like me, are teachers who questioned Party policy. At my trial, the judge said “hooligans” like me belong in a mental hospital. I’m lucky I’m not getting drugs and shock treatments. Starvation is our “rehabilitation.” We get bread and water twice a day, three raw potatoes a week, and a small apple on Sundays. It’s hard to describe the torture—I’m hungry, cold, lonely, anxious, and depressed. God help me!
I’m worried sick about Anna and the boys. You must help them! Tell Anna not to blame herself; she warned me about speaking out. Frankly, I’d do it again. My lawyer says that my sentence can be reduced to five years if the judge is bribed. Unfortunately, we have no money left. I know you haven’t forgotten the $3,000 I loaned you for that used BMW. I just hope you can repay it soon. Well, the cold is numbing my hand, and I still want to write to Anna. Good luck with Danielle, Monte Carlo, and the new apartment.
HEALTH & HOMEOSTASIS
Health is homeostasis. Homeostasis is an internal feedback system that stabilizes and balances our body's chemistry, so that our organs work smoothly and efficiently with each other. Sickness is the disruption of homeostasis, which doctors treat with medicine. But medicine adjusts one homeostatic mechanism by disrupting another, which leads to more sickness and more medicine. This is why medicines are so profitable, but have so many side effects and adverse reactions. So healthcare should minimize medicine and maximize holistic factors, such as lifestyle, diet, exercise, education, recreation, and relationships.
HEALTH & SICKNESS
Health and sickness are like the two ends of a seesaw. As one goes up, the other goes down. So health spares us from swings and slides of sickness and merry-go-rounds of misguided, dizzy doctors, who think that health is merely the absence of sickness. But health is more than the absence of sickness, just as life is more than the absence of death. Health is the shield between life and death.
It sounds trite, but my father was a great guy. Lacking education but not dedication, he supported us in a comfortable home, while he worked in a filthy factory. After ten hours of standing at a noisy machine and inhaling clouds of toxic dust, he came home cheerful and loving, without self-pity or resentment. One day, my father surprised me with a bicycle he built from spare parts he found in the basement of our tenement. I loved that multi-colored bike, because my father built it for me with his hands and his heart. God, thank you for my father. Now I know what to expect from You.
HOW TO UNDERSTAND SELF-HARM
Self-harm is prolific and protean. Its self-deceptive, sadomasochistic manifestations include injuries, accidents, addiction, tattoos, body-piercing, promiscuity, infidelity, fanaticism, cruelty, crime, and violence. What should we do? We should understand that we all have both a life wish (libido) and a death wish (mortido). And we should be alert to the mortido, because it never rests, and it’s always with us.
HOW TO UNDERSTAND ROYALTY
Royalty are like religious orders. Religious orders have a calling and take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience; but Royalty have gall and are endowed with property, audacity, and expedience. Also, religious orders shun deep, mortal sin and cloister with mystery, brethren, and agony; but Royalty shun cheap, awful linen and roister with crystal, leather, and mahogany. Religious orders save souls and serve God and the poor, but Royalty save gold and are served like gods by the poor. In short, religious orders offer deliverance and parity, but Royalty offer indifference and parody. So Royalty need genuine reflection, not genuflection.
HUMAN KIND CANNOT BEAR VERY MUCH REALITY (FOUR QUARTETS BY TS ELIOT)
TS Eliot's brilliant poetry is based primarily on his penetrating insight into the frailty of human nature. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock reflects Eliot's insight into our timidity, while The Wasteland and The Hollow Men reflect Eliot's insight into our shallowness. With the skill of a psychoanalyst, Eliot penetrates our facade and exposes our fragile ego, but offers sympathy and support. Poetry is the universal language of truth, unity, and peace.
HUMAN NATURE & AMBIVALENCE
Human nature is contradictory. We are all burdened with conflicting emotions about life and death. At any given moment, we can feel positive and negative emotions, which tear us in different directions. How can we cope with this? We should accept the limitations of human nature, both in ourselves and others, but at the same time, we should also strive to retain control of our behavior. Ultimately, our lives are determined by our behavior, not by our emotions.
I'M NOBODY! WHO ARE YOU? (EMILY DICKINSON)
There are two kinds of people: somebodies who think they’re nobodies, and nobodies who think they’re somebodies. If you’re the former, avoid the latter.
INDEPENDENCE: PRO & CON
Independence is a paradox. It frees us to think, believe, say, and do as we wish. But it also confronts us with the dire consequences of our mistakes. What should we do? We should seek wise, caring mentors and friends, because our lives are traumatic and tragic, and we automatically need the magic of mommy, who helps us to dream, and daddy, who helps us to wean.
INDIVIDUAL HEALTH & PUBLIC HEALTH
Individual health and public health are inseparable. In order to promote individual health, physicians must also promote public health by thinking globally and functioning as medical sociologists, who value human rights, quality of life, social justice, international relations, and world peace. The path to world peace begins with the physician's commitment to individual health and public health. Peace and health are inseparable.
As an embryo, and later a fetus, our needs are automatically satisfied. But with birth, we lose our home (womb), friend (placenta), and lifeline (umbilical cord). This is a profound and haunting loss, and all behavior is an unconscious attempt to recreate the intimacy and sufficiency of prenatal life.
IN PRAISE OF BRITISH LITERATURE
British English is the mother tongue and standard for the English-speaking world. So it’s no surprise that British literature is likewise an exemplar for the literary world. It’s hard to imagine that anyone will ever surpass the work of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Donne, Milton, Blake, Austen, Keats, Dickens, Doyle, or Woolf. Kudos to Great Britain on the 200th birthday of novelist Charles Dickens, whose vivid Victorian characters have inspired worldwide entertainment, study, and social reform.
IN PRAISE OF DISABLED PEOPLE
The world is full of disabled people who are routinely stigmatized, marginalized, and ostracized. We shun the disabled, because they frighten and depress us by reminding us of life's limitations. Let's reverse this systematic exclusion of the disabled by recognizing that they are not memento mori or bed-ridden burdens, but rather heroic figures who can teach us how to face and overcome life's inevitable challenges.
IN PRAISE OF FATHERS
When it comes to parenting, we tend to overestimate mothers and underestimate fathers. We assume that mothers are more devoted and caring than fathers. This is unfortunate, because parenting does not depend on gender, and in many families, it is the father who provides the love and nurturing for the children. So let's not disregard or diminish the role of fathers; they love their children just as much as mothers do, and sometimes more.
IN PRAISE OF MEEKNESS
With counterintuition and bountiful cognition, gentleness and kindness aren't weakness or bleakness, but the greatness of meekness, the elixir of life and fixer of strife.
Communication is a miracle. We communicate with many different languages, dialects, idioms, abbreviations, and accents. So our communication is often imperfect and subject to misunderstanding. But we should treat these misunderstandings with patience and kindness, especially when they occur with foreigners who are multilingual and speak our language with an accent. The accents, foibles, and faux pas of multilingualism are not defects or adversity, but tributes to perfect diversity.
IN PRAISE OF PIONEERS
Nothing is free, and everything has a price, whether it be financial, physical, or emotional. But there is an especially heavy price for going up against the system, because the system doesn't tolerate disagreement or opposition. So I salute all brave souls who correctly challenge the system and bear the consequences. These brave souls are the greatest pioneers in civilization, and they deserve to be honored.
IN PRAISE OF THE ELDERLY
We're very vain. We want to live, but we don't want to age or look old. But living and aging are inseparable, and old age is inevitable. So let's celebrate, not segregate, the elderly. Wizened but wise, the elderly teach us that life is finite but souls are infinite, and that senescence isn't convalescence or obsolescence, but the very essence of our soul's solo sojourn in space, time, and fate.
IN PRAISE OF THE LAITY
Society's institutions are controlled by oxbridge-ivy-league professionals, who ostensibly represent "the best and the brightest." Government is controlled by top lawyers; medicine is controlled by top doctors; banking is controlled by top economists; and education is controlled by top professors. The net effect is that society is controlled by homogeneous coalitions of elite professional insiders who cloak their arcane activities with esoteric jargon. I propose that all societal institutions be controlled by redbrick laypersons who can apply common sense and function as conduits between the professionals and the public. This will provide some long-overdue transparency and accountability over wealthy, powerful, inscrutable institutions whose members tend to be arrogant and condescending. Sometimes the brightest are not the best.
IS CHOCOLATE ADDICTIVE?
Everyone loves chocolate. The Latin name for chocolate is Theobroma, which means food of the gods. Apparently, even the gods love chocolate. We love chocolate, because it helps us to love and feel loved, which is why it's a favorite gift for Valentine's Day. But chocolate's connection with love is illusory. In reality, chocolate is an addictive stimulant-aphrodisiac that tricks and traps us by creating the fleeting euphoria of love, but the sustained sickness of loneliness. The euphoria of love and the sickness of loneliness are polar opposites that reinforce each other: the euphoria blinds us to the sickness, and the sickness makes us crave the euphoria. Ironically, our beloved chocolate creates, aggravates, and perpetuates the very sickness of insatiable loneliness and longing that it seems to cure.
IS HEALTHCARE A RELIGION?
Doctors proudly declare themselves scientists. But is this really true? Although science is based on the scientific method of predictability and reliability, healthcare is often unpredictable and unreliable. Perhaps healthcare is, in part, a faith-based religion, in which the doctor (priest) inquires about symptoms (sins), offers sympathy (forgiveness), makes a diagnosis (blessing), prescribes a bitter pill (penance), and performs a procedure (baptism), in order to cure (save) the patient (parishioner) of sickness (guilt), reverse disability (damnation), restore health (grace), and ensure longevity (heaven). Faith is the science of conscience and prescience.
ISRAEL VERSUS ARABS
Like two roosters trapped in a cock fight, Israel and the Arabs are co-equal victims in a world that is motivated by conflict, gore, and profit, rather than cooperation, health, and peace. Let's stop blaming the victims, and let's put the blame where it belongs: the failure of the world's academics and physicians to solve man's problems and change man's mindset.
IS POLITICS A SOAP OPERA?
Scripted but encrypted, and perceptive but deceptive, politics is a nonstop, hotshot, flip-flop, good cop, bad cop, top cop, cop-out, soap opera, whose decidedly divided audience (citizens) focus on the cast (politicians) and announcer (spin doctors), but not the writers (pundits), directors (lawyers), producers (lobbyists), or sponsors (corporations) - all of which is mercilessly coerced and rehearsed.
IS VANILLA ADDICTIVE?
Despite its benign reputation, vanilla is highly addictive. The active ingredient in vanilla is vanillic acid, which is related to the hormones epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline), both of which stimulate the brain. This chemical relationship explains why vanilla is a potent and addictive stimulant. Although people assume that vanilla is harmless, or even beneficial, companies know otherwise. This is why vanilla is added to ice cream, yogurt, cola, chocolate, pastry, perfume, and even cigarettes. It is wise to avoid vanilla and all products that contain vanilla.
IT IS A WISE FATHER THAT KNOWS HIS OWN CHILD (MERCHANT OF VENICE)
Share and share alike. These wise words mean that good fortune should be shared with others. But bad fortune should also be shared. As an elderly man, my father taught me a poignant lesson in sharing bad fortune. As a physician with chronic health problems, I told my father that I was so determined to improve healthcare, that I was willing to walk on hot coals. My father stunned me by replying that he would like to walk on the hot coals before me, just to cool them off. By trumping my metaphor and sharing my burden, my father's self-sacrificial sympathy became his eloquent legacy of loyalty and love. Wise, loving fathers are a gift from God.
IT'S DANGEROUS TO BE RIGHT WHEN THE GOVERNMENT IS WRONG (VOLTAIRE)
Sadly, the 21st century has seen a spate of state-sponsored, sadistic schemes to incarcerate great human rights activists, thus suggesting that many nations callously regard their citizens as serfs and slaves.
IT'S NOT SO ELEMENTARY, MY DEAR DOCTOR
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's unforgettable characters, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, are a study in contrasts. Holmes, the addict, autodidact, and astute bohemian, is a perfect foil for Watson, the traditional, formally educated, dull doctor. Together, Holmes and Watson represent Doyle's intrapsychic conflict: Holmes is the free-spirited (albeit Victorian) id, while Watson is the stodgy stumbling superego. Doyle resolves this intrapsychic conflict by aligning Holmes (good id) and Watson (superego) against the evil Professor Moriarty (bad id) in a battle of wits (ego). Doyle's masterpiece memorializes Freud's tripartite structural theory of id (instinct), superego (conscience), and ego (intellect) so skillfully that it seems "elementary."
Every spring, a bluebird flies down our chimney, gets trapped in the flue, and makes a tremendous racket trying to free itself. But birds cannot fly vertically, so eventually the little fellow falls into our woodstove, exhausted and defeated. Then we gently rescue him, take him outside, and watch him fly away. Like the bluebird, mankind is trapped, unable to escape or ascend. And man is waiting for the gentle hand of kindness to lift him up.
KUDOS TO PATHOLOGISTS
As an intern, I rotated through anatomic pathology and performed autopsies under the supervision of senior pathologists. Although my graduating medical school class was 90% male, with no non-whites, these pathologists were a surprisingly and delightfully diverse and avant-garde group of physicians who enriched my understanding of life. They were kind, helpful, knowledgeable, philosophical, and the best teachers in medical school. They correlated the basic sciences with clinical medicine and taught me to actively question, think, and analyze, rather than passively accept, believe, and memorize. Although my internship ended many years ago, and I did not become a pathologist, I still have fond and appreciative memories of these pathologists. Each one was a gem, and it was a privilege to know them.
KUDOS TO SURGEONS
Healthcare is a profound process that alters both physician and patient. Medical education is a demanding, exacting, life-altering process that trains physicians to alter the patient's anatomy (surgery) and physiology (medicine). Anatomical alterations are the exclusive domain of surgeons, whose training is the longest and most demanding of all specialties. Surgeons require not just knowledge, but also strength, stamina, speed, dexterity, and acuity. Surgery is so central to healthcare that the history of surgery is the history of healthcare.
L'ALLEGRO AND IL PENSEROSO (JOHN MILTON)
Life is full of dilemmas. No matter how hard we try, we can't seem to escape or resolve these dilemmas. What should we do? We should resist the temptation to resolve these dilemmas prematurely and impetuously. Instead, we should delay action and seek new, creative solutions. So let's strive to be more penseroso (thoughtful and serious) and less allegro (active and happy). Let's cerebrate, not celebrate.
LAND OF MILK AND HONEY
Indubitable but inscrutable, scripture is epic poetry about religious conflicts in the Middle East that involve land, water, crops, harvest, food, and diet. So perhaps scripture is an arable parable and alimentary allegory, in which “Middle East” is a homonym for “middle eats” (stomach’s food), and the "Land of Milk and Honey" is a metaphor for nutrition (milk) versus addiction (honey). Since addiction causes craving, frustration, anger, and violence, perhaps the "religious conflicts" in the Middle East are dietary, and the Peace Table needs a new menu free of all addictions, which might be the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. *
*Common addictions are sugar, honey, chocolate, vanilla, cola, coffee, tea, alcohol, tobacco, and drugs, all of which are inimical to peace and health.
LAND OF OPPORTUNITY
Although it's called the "land of opportunity," America is no paradise. But then again, no country is perfect, and all have their faults. So how should we evaluate and compare different countries? What standard should we use? I prefer the standard cited by the English lexicographer, Samuel Johnson, who said "A decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilisation." Opportunity is nice, but compassion and mercy are nicer.
LET EVERY MAN BE MASTER OF HIS TIME (MACBETH)
Healthcare requires self-care, and self-care requires time. If you don't have time for self-care, you will spend a lot of time suffering and going to doctors. After you take the doctors' medicine, you may still spend a lot of time suffering. The time that you spend suffering and going to doctors is often a waste of time. So if you practice self-care, you will have lots of free time to enjoy yourself.
LIFE AND DEATH
Both medicine and law grapple with issues of life and death such as abortion, euthanasia, and suicide. Notwithstanding facile positions promoted by political extremes, these issues remain vexing dilemmas, which require Solomonic wisdom. Sadly, most professions seem long on facts, but short on wisdom. Perhaps we have yet to properly define or articulate these dilemmas. And perhaps there is no more eloquent articulation of these dilemmas than Hamlet's words, "To be or not to be, that is the question..."
LIFE IS A LOCKED-IN SYNDROME
The locked-in syndrome is more than just a brainstem stroke with quadriplegia. It's also a metaphor for life's loneliness, helplessness, and hopelessness. Sadly, most of us are "locked-in" bad jobs, bad relationships, bad marriages, and bad financial, legal, or health problems. So let's seek the master key that opens all locked-in states and celebrate life with freedom and health.
LIFE IS NOT A CARTOON
Apart from the venomous variety, most cartoons are animating and captivating, insightful and delightful. With levity and brevity, their comical characters and incongruous captions convey sophisticated satire. This satire is important social commentary, because it highlights life’s abundant absurdities and inequities. As artists and social commentators, cartoonists can rescue us from ourselves and each other by reminding us of how fate interweaves our fantasies, foibles, and fears with life's miracle, mystery, and misery.
LIFE IS NOT A TELEVISION SOAP OPERA
Television is hypnotic and addictive. The programs, commercials, graphics, and colors are designed to overwhelm our minds. In effect, we are being brainwashed to suspend our judgment and buy products we don't need. If we can't stop watching TV, we should simply get rid of it. I don't own a TV and haven't watched it in years. Getting rid of my TV was liberating. It gave me more time to think, read, write, socialize, exercise, relax, and sleep. I'm sure it will do the same for others. We need to live our real lives, not the fantasy lives of TV characters.
LOBBYISTS: PRO & CON
Lobbyists are a mixed blessing. They can inform and educate public officials, but they can also mislead and bribe public officials. How can we promote the former, but prevent the latter? The key to the relationship between lobbyist and public official is integrity and oversight, both of which are sadly in short supply, because money has eclipsed morality and reality.
Since all of our feelings are ambivalent, it's no surprise that love-hate relationships are so common. No matter how hard we try to have pure feelings, it's impossible. Let's accept ambivalence as a fact of life, and reconcile ourselves to the painful, embarrassing inevitability of love-hate relationships. And let's learn to appreciate love, even if it's sometimes tinged with hate.
LOVE OF LIFE
Homey and wholesome, love is like food. Food nourishes metabolism and fills us to live, but love flourishes symbolism and wills us to live. So love is why, food is how, and life is now.
MARRIAGE & FAMILY
The elements of a successful marriage are compatibility, communication, compassion, cooperation, contentment, commitment, constancy, and continuity. Each element naturally leads to the next, and, if all elements are present, marriage partners feel at home with each other and bond as a family, which is the very essence of marriage. To quote the Buddha, "A family is a place where minds come in contact with one another."
Pious but biased, blame is a one-way street, in which we blame others, but not ourselves. But if we're honest with ourselves, we realize that right and wrong, and good and bad, are a two-way street. So let’s have more balanced, honest conversations with ourselves and others, and stop our sanctimonious pretense, because it's a blind dead-end street where minds never meet.
MEDICINE AND MONEY DON'T MIX
Healthcare is ostensibly based on objective scientific research. But who conducts and/or sponsors this research? All too often, it’s the very companies whose products are being studied, and thus have obvious conflicts of interest. As a result, this “research” becomes little more than a euphemism for advertising and marketing. As the shield between life and death, healthcare should be based on science and mercy, not business or commerce.
METAPHORS & SIMILES
As figures of speech, metaphors and similes are poetic pairs, tropes of truth, études in similitude, zeitgeist insights, and epiphanies of finesse, which liken and enlighten. Like mini-matchmakers, metaphors and similes magically make us meet and smile, even if only for a while.
Mind-body dualism is as old as history, and as current as today. This eternal dualism has been explored by many great philosophers, and it remains a central issue in today's materialistic world. For example, it informs conflicts between faith and reason, religion and science. It also informs conflicts between psychologists, who treat the mind, and physicians, who treat the body. In order to resolve these conflicts, we must revisit the conundrum of mind-body dualism in a multi-disciplinary fashion, so as to minimize polarizing polemics and facile solutions.
MOOD DISORDERS: FACT OR FICTION
Mood depends on food, and most mood disorders are food disorders. Most mania and depression reflect the various cravings and ravings of addictions to sugar, honey, chocolate, vanilla, cola, coffee, tea, alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. To correct a mood, just change the food.
MORBIDITY & MORTALITY
Doctors measure failures as morbidity (sickness) and mortality (death). But doctors don’t measure or correlate morbidity and mortality with exposure to common addictions, such as sugar, honey, chocolate, vanilla, caffeine, and cola. Why are these addictions under the radar? Is it because they are essential to our economy? Are we compromising public health for the sake of private wealth?
Our relationship with Earth is paradoxical. We struggle with the forces of nature and seek to dominate Earth, but we need Earth's air, water, food, and shelter to stay alive. We travel and explore Earth, but we need Earth's energy to overcome gravity. We claim to own land on Earth, but when we die, the land reclaims our bodies. In the midst of our struggles with the forces of nature, we forget that life is a magical, mysterious gift that Earth creates, controls, cancels, and recycles. Life and death have no meaning apart from Earth.
Mother Nature designed us to drink milk. We are mammals, which means that mothers feed their babies with breast milk. So milk is not only nutritious, but also comforting. If you feel anxious or depressed, have a glass of organic whole milk and you'll feel better. I've noticed that people who dislike milk, also dislike eggs. Since milk and eggs both represent female sexuality, perhaps these people find it hard to accept female sexuality. We must all remember that Mother Nature is a woman.