ROVIN' AND RAVIN' WITH MIKE
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|My body and mind took the only sensible alternative by grinding to a halt with what we call ‘flu. There is something reassuring about the full name, influenza, so called because this illness was supposedly caused by the "influence" of the moon and stars. That puts my individual illness into the perspective of the whole complicated workings of the universe.||
"New York, New York is to the left, Paris to the right."
There are some statements that the human mind and body just are not equipped to deal with, even if that statement was overheard on the Las Vegas Strip with its improbably named casinos.
In many ways, modern "scientific" thinking asks us to accept a mythology that serves its own ends quite well. We get sick because strange little (invisible) critters enter our bodies; for treatment, we turn to white-robed priests before whom we sacrifice modesty and individuality. We get pierced with a needle (perhaps to let unfriendly spirits out?) and get magical potions to take. If we go to the doctor, we get over the flu in fourteen days; if we tough it out on our own, we get better in two weeks. Have we really come that far from the good old days when people spent the night in the temple of Apollo, the god of healing, so that the healing serpents (which now survive only on the caduceus, the symbol of the medical profession) could lick the tears from their eyes?
We make a number of choices along the way, almost to the point of choosing to be sick or not. We choose whether to stay out of work (or school), whether or not to take a non-prescription remedy, whether or not to go to a medical professional. There are decidedly non-medical factors in these decisions. In our country, with the most sophisticated medical centers in the world, financial considerations put the miracles of modern medicine beyond the reach of many people. How many "sick days" have we used? Do we have insurance?
As in many aspects of our lives, we have lost much when dealing with illness. Of course, the twentieth century (which gets clobbered periodically in these columns) has given us amazing advances in medical care, while simple little bothers like the flu seem to be with us forever. In earlier times, simpler times, however, illness had a spiritual dimension. Most spiritual traditions include stories of miraculous healings as perhaps the best illustration of the working of the spiritual in the physical world.
Illness was seen as an imbalance, as a call to action, to straighten things out, not always in such simplistic terms as saying an illness was a punishment, although sometimes that was the case. The words "heal" and "whole" are related, since healing was a process of making whole. For an individual, an ongoing illness might be a sign of a divine calling. In some traditions, the only possible cure was for that person to accept his or her whole identity by accepting that call and whatever hardships it might involve.
The sacred clowns of some Native American cultures, for instance, were called to their strange healing vocation by being struck by lightning. Then, they had to journey into the world of illness and into a rather brutal world of healing. They brought balance to the world by acting in opposition to the "normal." They walked backwards, took off their clothes in winter, bundled up in summer, and ate stones, sticks and dung to bring about healing.
One choice that we can make nowadays is of therapeutic modality. Do we wish to use mainstream allopathic medicine? This is a medical mode very much based on opposites, drawing on anticoagulants, antidepressants, antibiotics, anti-everything medicines, to transform the customer’s body into a battlefield. (Think of the "war" on cancer, AIDS, and so on.) Or, we can become informed customers of a range of alternative medical treatments, including acupuncture, massage, and herbs. Perhaps the most exciting development in medicine these days is the concept of complementary medicine, the use of a range of healing modalities in unison, to complement (complete) each other. And, guess where that leads us? Right, back to the Internet, with all the information that it offers us.
Now, a couple of warnings. Looking up sites on the Internet does not take the place of individual consultation with a medical professional. Also, all web-sites are not created equal. Remember that those that end in ".com" are commercial ventures, some of which may have questionable ethical and legal status. I'm simply calling these sites to your attention to assist you in your research. Neither Peanut.org nor I recommend the content of the sites or assume any responsibility for your use of that content.
Two very popular sites for medical information are those bearing the name of Dr. C. Everett Koop, the former Surgeon-General, for mainstream medicine, and of Dr. Andrew Weil, who draws on mainstream and alternative therapies and at times criticizes both.
Keep your feet dry (the better to avoid the nasty bugs lurking in the world these cold, damp months) and your heart full of noble thoughts as you journey through this life and through cyberspace in search of healing and "wholing" alike. Remember that in many traditions the surest sign of being healed is that you extend your healing to all the dis-ease in the world. Still, right now, I would settle for a really good cough drop.
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