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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Pride and Medicine

I recently had some bad headaches. I never get headaches, but this headache was not so localized so that I could even tell for sure it was a headache. Then I finally took some Tylenol, and I marveled at the wonders of Western medicine (I'm living in China).

I've also been having problems sleeping. I am easily provoked to lose sleep by caffeine, even if I have some during the daytime, but this time I hadn't had any. Well, actually, I had one chocolate ice cream cone one of the nights, so when I started to suspect some medicine I was taking (I didn't suspect it before as I didn't see it as "serious" medicine, as it was just for some heartburn), I decided to try taking it at night before sleep to make sure. (No, I didn't obsess to the point of sleeplessness over the thought of it being a potential cause.) Sure enough, I could not sleep at all, and the headaches returned.

Small wonder then that when I searched for the side effects of this medicine, that I should find that its potential side effects include insomnia and headaches.

So, how great is this Western medicine that allows such commercial medicines to be so freely distributed and whereby only strong medicines such as these are researched, whereby such medicines are readily approved and made available and doctors fail to sufficiently warn you of the side effects either due to a fear of inducing 'medical students' disease' (whereby one thinks one has every disease one reads about), or for some financial interest on their part? And why did I have heart-burn in the first place? Could it be caused by yet another flaw in the civilization?

I can imagine some cold-hearted person blaming me saying "I always read the labels carefully before taking any medicine" or "It's your responsibility" and so on. As a programmer, this reminds me of the arrogance among programmers who scoff at other programmers or users who make mistakes or those who scoff at others who failed to the see the fine print within a contract or license. Good for you, you are so worthy of praise for reading every fine print detail of any product you buy or use and never making mistakes, and we are so unworthy and minimal to fail to find the time to do so.

Yet, I am also willing to take some blame, but not as much for those reasons. The blame I take is, I think, shared by many. The reason is nationalism/racialism/culturalism. Sound far-fetched? (Actually, the tendency to be cynical against these "soft" issues having any influence is itself a form of a covert pride in one's culture--cynics are worshiped in our society when they are not only often wrong, but themselves perpetrators.) While I may be tempted to look down on people of other countries who have so worshiped their leaders or religious leaders, yet I realize how easily I have been duped to have so much faith in the "system" so as to not only timidly question the cycle of buying medicines to treat conditions caused by other medicines.

If it were not for a certain news channel which has demonstrated to me beyond a doubt the potential for sickening corruption and propaganda among my fellow national citizens, I might not have come to this realization, at least not with the anger to write about it, so I must be grateful for the rapid decline of this "old world order", as it is necessary toward recognizing the steps needed toward the positive "new world order".

But we dare not question the system because what alternative do we have?

Baha'u'llah, the Prophet-Founder of the Baha'i Faith--a religion which began in 19th century Persia holds, I believe, the answer.

He addressed an enormous array of topics which are only becoming more relevant as time passes.

While this issue of medicine is only one small part of Baha'u'llah's vast Revelation (sorry if it scares you to hear such words as "Revelation", but it is the only fitting way to describe it), it is significant, and since I brought up medicine, I will mention a little bit.

In a Tablet to a Physician, Baha'u'llah recommended the following:

O God! The Supreme Knower! The Ancient Tongue speaks that which will satisfy the wise in the absence of doctors.

O People, do not eat except when you are hungry. Do not drink after you have retired to sleep.

Exercise is good when the stomach is empty; it strengthens the muscles. When the stomach is full it is very harmful.

Do not neglect medical treatment, when it is necessary, but leave it off when the body is in good condition.

Do not take nourishment except when (the process of) digestion is completed. Do not swallow until you have thoroughly masticated your food.

Treat disease first of all through diet, and refrain from medicine. If you can find what you need for healing in a single herb do not use a compound medicine. Leave off medicine when the health is good, and use it in case of necessity.

If two diametrically opposite foods are put on the table do not mix them. Be content with one of them. Take first the liquid food before partaking of solid food. The taking of food before that which you have already eaten is digested is dangerous....

When you have eaten walk a little that the food may settle.

That which is difficult to masticate is forbidden by the wise. Thus the Supreme Pen commands you.

A light meal in the morning is as a light to the body.

Avoid all harmful habits: they cause unhappiness in the world.

Search for the causes of disease. This saying is the conclusion of this utterance.
(Star of the West, vol. 13, no. 9, December 1922, p. 252)

Much of this would be quite interesting to be correlated with existing research, but much of it is "common sense" which is no longer so common, as we come to believe in the infallibility of our doctors and technology--even while a simple natural life (which does not mean embracing pseudo-science or refraining from medicine entirely) holds so much more promise--especially were science to gear itself in the directions of cures which were more natural. One such avenue recommended by the predecessor of Baha'u'llah (a John-the-Baptist-like Figure, but of an equally high position as Baha'u'llah), the Bab ('Gate' in Persian), recommended that Baha'is advance the study of the science of medicine to the point of being able to heal through foods. (Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha, 153-154). This does not necessarily mean that existing foods can simply be combined together. This may, I might venture, involve specialized techniques for adding more vitamins, etc. within a particular food. But it makes sense to me that food would allow the most reasonable absorption. Maybe one sign of this is my understanding that zinc lozenges works to reduce a cold while taking mere zinc tablets does not have the same effect. Anyhow, I leave that to the experts.

It is not a necessary evil to be forever complacent with the corporate-sponsored status quo. No, the alternative is not Leftism. It is, I wholeheartedly believe, a turn to Spirituality with Practicality--as embodied in the teachings of the Faith for today, the Baha'i Faith.


  • the opposite point of view winds up being essentially the same. If you're a skeptic and don't have faith in anything, you don't have faith in medicines and just like you don't assume that the church has the answers you don't assume that the nation does, nor big medicine.

    And really, if it's NOT your responsibility, whose is it?

    Of course for some perspective in modern medicine your side effects were actually labelled and fairly minor. Inconvenient but you didn't die or suffer any permanent damage. Compared to taking mercury for heartburn and not really knowing what the hell it's going to do you, i think you've got 18th century medicine beat by a mile.

    By Blogger Last Call, at Wednesday, 05 September, 2007  

  • Well, there, now that's very nice surprise... Feels like I'm back in a coffee house (ok, it was usually a Dennys) with my old friend. The internet is less cold now, thanks. :)

    By the way, anybody here who has time, go read "last call"'s blog. I don't have a whole lot of free time, but even if you disagree (as I often do), he (I won't use your name unless you do) is always thought-provoking and entertaining. </commercial>

    Ok, to your points...

    1) I wasn't saying in this case that it was religion that brought me to a greater distrust of big medicine, though I do think it reassured me of it when I finally came to a greater realization of its distrustability. Actually, true religion, in my view, is from one point of view the most cynical perspective one can find. Islam states "There is no god but God." That is very cynical if you look at it closely. But whether I am a cynic who avers belief in either the first part of the phrase, or who accepts both parts, none of this is to say that such a person cannot be duped. As I mentioned, I feel duped in this case by my own osmotic embrace of nationalistic pride. Nationalism is certainly not endorsed by religion (on the contrary), nor admittedly by the type of cynicism you refer to, but we all still I believe all affected by it.

    2) As far as responsibility, yes, there is a degree of an individual level of responsibility. But if we were living in a Matrix-like world, or Huxleyian, Orwellian, take your pick (We certainly are already to different degrees), can't we be a little compassionate to say that we fallible creatures are going to be impacted by the craziness of the society around us?

    "And when they've given you their all Some stagger and fall, after all it's not easy Banging your heart against some mad bugger's wall."

    3) These headaches went beyond mere inconvenience, trust me. Other side effects of such drugs include hallucinations, dangerous skin disorders, etc. Yes, the medical awareness is better now than before, thank God for that. But because they were "labelled" is not an excuse. It makes me think of the Hitchhiker's bit about Arthur Dent's demolition notice having been posted in the basement of that office which had no stairs going down, etc. etc. Yes, I know, I know, medicines are more transparent, and at present tv advertisements are forced to spell out all of the side effects (though I believe the companies are already skirting that to certain degrees), etc., but we human beings are not omniscient robots which can quickly scan, retain and recall every bit of information we've received and process it intelligently. We're fallible, and just having a label isn't good enough. There needs to be redundancy in any good system. The doctor is the expert, and while I'm not going to just put my life in their hands entirely, if I were such an infallible expert, I wouldn't need to go to a doctor in the first place.

    By the way, I saw your surprising (and I think scary) endorsement of the 2nd amendment. Where do you draw the line? Can I own my own nuke, and as with the medicine issue above, its my responsibility to use it properly? Do you really think England, etc. without such a law is being tyrannized to no end? It's a fine and dandy idea to believe that humans are wholly independent creatures, but I believe the facts say otherwise. Freedom can be the greatest tyranny...I believe that and have recognized and experienced the bliss of such 'freedom's absence and the nastiness of its presence.

    By Blogger Brett, at Wednesday, 05 September, 2007  

  • lol. did you know that chocolate was banned in switzerland for many years. read this

    By Blogger s.j.simon, at Sunday, 11 November, 2007  

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