POEM: The Ins and Outs of Breathing

Which is better
To breathe in or out
At their annual convention
This was the question
Of the year
Not a moment
Too soon
As immanent researchers congregated
Took sides
Gave talks
Of oxygen and carbon dioxide
Aerobic capacity and respiration rates
Jousting with jargon
And championing with prodigious and prestigious citations
As philosophical schools of fish out of water
Evolve their thinking
In the now
Shared err
Missing the import of inspiration
And export of expiration
And in that moment
A women seated arose
Previously silent spoke
It simply depends
What you did last
And decidedly acting
Put it to rest
(until next)

Some wear long the weigh, I heard the Zen or Zen-like answer to the question: Which is better, breathing in or breathing out?  Steeped in an atmosphere of competition for the best and an all-too-often default mode of reducing problems to a single, universal solution, those of us living in Western cultures may miss the sublime holism and simple practicality of the answer: it depends what you did last. I am struck by the rhythm and harmony of this answer and its corresponding reality in nature. Nature breathes in deep harmonies, an underlying balance only poorly reflected in our oft pasted together half-truths and over-lying and mismatched self-servings.

To this Zen meditation of a poem, I add my love of science and social justice, both of which lean gently but persistently into a more accurate and more fulfilling relationship with reality as a whole. A woman seated arises. One previously silent speaks. And decidedly acting it is put to rest.

Benefits of Immunizations – Just for the Health of It radio show

Below is the script for my public health radio show on immunizations.  You can listen to the half-hour immunization show here.  You can listen to the most current and all previous shows at the archive for Just for the Health of It public health radio show.

Today, I want to talk about vaccine-preventable infectious diseases, and I want to make it exceedingly clear that immunization with vaccines is of profound benefit to the 300+ million people in the United States and to billions of people around the world.  In fact, it is difficult to even imagine our world without vaccines.  I dare say that a world without vaccinations would be a scary place, far scarier than any picture painted by so-called “Anti-vaxxers.”

What would our world look like without vaccines?  Well, it wasn’t that long ago that we lived in a world without vaccines.  Smallpox killed over 300 million people in the 20th century.  Smallpox was eradicated by 1979.  I graduated from high school in 1979 and I have never known anyone with smallpox. Smallpox was eradicated.  ERADICATED!  That means that we don’t even have to immunize against it anymore!  I don’t have any tattoos, but I do have a cool scar on my left shoulder from my smallpox immunization as a kid in the 1960s.  This scar seems to me to be a small price to pay for a world without smallpox.  I’ll gladly wear this scar as a reminder of the power of public health and vaccines. For those of you who have never had to live in a world with smallpox, I’ll explain the reason for the scar.  The smallpox vaccine was not given with a hypodermic needle. It was not a shot, like many vaccinations. The vaccine was given using a two-pronged needle that was dipped into the vaccine solution. When removed, the needle retained a droplet of the vaccine. The needle is then used to prick the skin 15 times in a few seconds.  As the body develops a response to the vaccine, a scar is eventually formed.

If one devastating disease eliminated isn’t enough, how about a second – Polio.  Polio paralyzed or killed more than 500 million people in the 20th century.  Polio was eradicated from the Western hemisphere by 1988.  Just 30 years ago, the poliovirus was widespread across 125 countries, causing millions to endure lifelong paralysis.  Last year there were poliovirus infections in just two countries – Afghanistan and Pakistan – with only 33 confirmed cases reported worldwide.

Today, our reawakening awareness of vaccine-preventable diseases not being prevented is due to the current measles outbreaks affecting 22 states.  Measles was declared eradicated from the United States in 2000.  Unfortunately, occasional measles cases acquired during international travel have found a foothold in locales with lower immunization rates.  Borders don’t stop measles, vaccination does.  Back in 1963, at the time the measles vaccine was introduced, measles killed approximately 2.6 million deaths every year.  Today it has been reduced to 110,000 – that’s a 95% reduction.  I’ll talk a little more about the current measles outbreaks a little later in the show.

The bottom line: Overall, worldwide, vaccines continue to prevent an estimated 2 to 3 million deaths every year.

More recently, maternal and neonatal tetanus, an often fatal disease, has been eliminated in all but 13 countries because of vaccination of women before or during pregnancy.  And promising results from nations that have introduced the human papillomavirus vaccine early, suggests that cervical cancer is set to decline.

Further, new vaccines are on the horizon to protect against some of our most dangerous known pathogens. The Ebola vaccine has already played a critical role in controlling the spread of the current outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Plus, the world’s first ever malaria vaccine is being piloted in routine immunization programs starting this month in three African countries.

I’d like to back up just a bit and review some of the currently available vaccines, which include:

Cholera
Dengue
Diphtheria
Hepatitis A
Hepatitis B
Hepatitis E
Human papillomavirus (HPV)
Influenza, or the flu
Several forms of encephalitis
Malaria
Measles
Meningitis
Mumps
Pertussis, or whooping cough
Pneumococcal disease, or pneumonia
Polio
Rabies
Rotavirus
Rubella
Tetanus
Tuberculosis
Typhoid
Varicella, or “chickenpox”
Yellow Fever

A couple of dozen other vaccines are in the pipeline.

For those of you unfamiliar with some of these diseases, you may want to thank the wonders of vaccines and the anonymity of prevention.  One of the inherent problems of public health is the anonymity of prevention.  When you prevent something from happening, people tend not to notice.  We focus a lot more on things that do happen.  This leads to an inevitable bias toward disease rather than disease prevention, sickness rather than health, and health care rather than public health.

So, I’ll highlight a few vaccine-preventable illnesses that may not capture much of our attention and often fly under the radar:

Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the Cholera bacterium. The annual burden of cholera has been estimated at 1.3 to 4.0 million cases and 21,000 to 143,000 deaths worldwide.

Dengue fever is from a mosquito-borne virus, with 40% of the world’s population at-risk.

Diphtheria is fatal in 5 – 10% of cases, with a higher mortality rate in young children.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) causes cervical cancer, which is the fourth most common cancer in women, with an estimated 266,000 deaths and 528,000 new cases worldwide in 2012.

Rotaviruses are the most common cause of severe diarrheal disease in young children throughout the world. About 215,000 children aged under 5 years die each year from vaccine-preventable rotavirus infections.

The reawakened interest in immunizations and infectious disease epidemics has been spurred on by the measles outbreaks occurring in the U.S. this year and continuing today.  For those of you who may not have followed this story, here is a quick review:

[CDC measles story]

 [Unvaccinated adult story]

Most of the people who avoid or delay vaccinations are best described as suffering from “Vaccine hesitancy.”  A much smaller group of people would describe themselves as “Anti-vaxxers.”  Vaccine hesitancy emerges from fear and doubt about vaccine safety or vaccine effectiveness, often from the prodding of “Anti-vaxxers.”  The relatively small but growing number of Americans who are infected by “Vaccine hesitancy” are driving vaccination levels down enough to allow vaccine-preventable diseases to re-emerge in the United States.  Ironically, the effectiveness of vaccines have been part of the downfall of immunization rates, as protection from a host of vaccine-preventable infectious diseases seems insignificant compared to worries about prevention somehow being worse than the disease.  To me, this seems like an odd use of a privileged condition of living in a society largely free of diseases which were a scourge in the past.

So…I’m going to tell a story about polio, a scourge of the past, almost eradicated.  I believe that this history will better inform our understanding of where we are today.

To tell this story, I am using material from Sciencehistory.org and Technologyreview.com

In the early 1950s, 25,000 to 50,000 new cases of polio occurred each year. Jonas Salk became a national hero when he allayed the fear of the dreaded disease with his polio vaccine, approved in 1955. Although it was the first polio vaccine, it was not to be the last; Albert Sabin introduced an oral vaccine in the United States in the early 1960s that replaced Salk’s.  The disease was finally brought under control because of these vaccines,

In the first half of the 20th century, summer was a dreaded time for children. Although they could enjoy the long days of unfettered play, summer was also known as “polio season.” Children were among the most susceptible to paralytic poliomyelitis (also known as infantile paralysis), a disease that affects the central nervous system and can result in paralysis. When exposed to a poliovirus in the first months of life, infants usually manifested only mild symptoms because they were protected from paralysis by maternal antibodies still present in their bodies. However, as hygienic conditions improved and fewer newborns were exposed to the virus (which is present in human sewage), paralytic poliomyelitis began to appear in older children and adults who did not have an infant’s benefit of immunity. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt is perhaps the most famous victim of the poliovirus. In 1921, at the age of 39, he contracted the disease, one of the thousands that were afflicted that year.

Jonas Salk invented the polio vaccine in 1953 but never patented it. He believed that, like the sun, a vaccine for polio belonged to the people.

Salk tested the vaccine on himself and his own family first and later went on to work on a cure for AIDS.  Salk is impressive, but he must be talked about along with Albert Sabin, who discovered a vaccine around the same time (and also didn’t patent it).  Salk and Sabin’s vaccines are still used to prevent polio today.

Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) played a big role in funding and awareness. FDR had contracted polio in 1921. In 1938 as President he helped to found the (now titled) March of Dimes Foundation. By the late 40’s the foundation was raising tens of millions a year with the help of celebrities like Mickey Mouse. The March of Dimes Foundation funded Salk, and helped him to become the first one to find a vaccine for Polio.

Still, having a vaccine is not enough by itself to deal with the scourge of infectious disease.  A vaccine needs to reach enough people across a broad swath of society to root our patterns of endemic infections and waves of epidemics.

In 1959, epidemiologists reported findings on the pattern of the disease. These suggested a shift in incidence according to age, geography, and race. By 1960, less than one-third of the population under 40 years of age had received the full course of three doses of the Salk vaccine plus a booster. Most of those who had were white and from the middle and upper economic classes. The disease raged on in urban areas among African Americans and Puerto Ricans and in certain rural locales among Native Americans and members of isolated religious groups.

The gap had to do with access to vaccination. Pediatricians were not well compensated. “This was the one thing they could do which was a guaranteed reasonable flow of cash.”  The physicians resisted losing that cash; they argued for a vaccine that required their professional training.

The practice of medicine perverted by the profit motive is an age-old story. However, other pediatricians were more public health minded…

Beginning in January 1962, pediatricians in two Arizona counties, Maricopa and Pima, containing the state’s largest cities, Phoenix and Tucson, conducted separate but similar voluntary mass immunizations using Sabin’s vaccine. “Previous programs in the county, using the Salk vaccine, had failed to bring polio immunization to a satisfactory level,” they reported a year later in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The program was called SOS (Sabin Oral Sundays). More than 700,000 people were immunized – 75 percent of the total population in both counties. The vaccine was given at the cost of 25 cents, for those who could pay. It was given to population groups that were socially, racially, and culturally diverse, on Indian reservations and military posts and in urban and rural areas. The program became a model for subsequent U.S. mass-immunization programs. By the mid-1960s, Sabin’s vaccine was the only one in use in the United States. It was the Sabin vaccine that closed the immunity gap and effectively put an end to polio in the United States.

If the story of public health efforts to end polio does not give you some reasonable level of confidence in the profound value of vaccinations, perhaps I’ll share the story of smallpox eradication in another episode.  Public health efforts are often far from perfect, yet the profound contribution that public health affords us, generation after generation, to this very day, is undeniable.

The bottom line: get vaccinated; get your children and grandchildren vaccinated; support your neighbors getting vaccinated.  Together, we can defend ourselves and each other from a host of infectious diseases that still inhabit the planet.

Now, I’m going to switch gears a bit, and talk a bit about the many forms of conspiracy beliefs and scientific illiteracy that drives anti-vaccination efforts.  First up, a more global perspective:

[Vaccinator shot in Pakistan story]

 Next up, a little closer to home, the small, exploratory study that pointed to a potential link between the MMR vaccination and autism.  You might call this the little study that wouldn’t die.

 [Lancet retract Wakefield article]

### end of show ###

JUST FOR THE HEALTH OF IT: Public Health Radio Show on WAKT 106.1 FM Toledo

JUST FOR THE HEALTH OF IT: Public Health Radio Show on WAKT 106.1 FM Toledo

Just for the Health of It - The Science of Health for ALL - PUBLIC HEALTH radio show, WAKT 106.1 FM ToledoJust for the Health of It is my weekly half-hour public health show on WAKT, 106.1 FM Toledo. You can listen at 9:00 AM Tuesdays and Thursdays (after Democracy NOW) on-air or on-line ToledoRadio.org.  To listen anytime you want online, below are links to the latest shows.

You can follow the program and shows on facebook here.

Just for the Health of It brings you fresh perspectives on the science of health for all; plus local, state, national, and global health news, as well as local guests for home-grown perspectives and connections to local resources. Just for the Health brings you the best of both social justice and personal health.WAKT Toledo 106.1 FM -- Just for the Health of It - Public health radio show

Just for the Health focuses on putting the JUST in Just for the Health of It

My aim is to equip you to live healthily in a healthy community on a just planet.

For you of those folks who are perhaps too busy to catch a whole show, or just want to sample my sense of humor, here are a few of my parody PSAs:

Parody PSA: Cory the Coronavirus

Parody PSA: TL20-squared VIRUS Pandemic

Parody PSA: Pla-ce-bo Pharmaceuticals’ Elimin-all

Parody PSA: PR Medica and Merciless Health Systems

Parody PSA: Health Care for ALL

HERE ARE LINKS TO THE LATEST SHOWS:

Week of August 10, 2020:

Featuring: COVID-19 and prisons (2:30) local and state COVID-19 update (4:52); local and national updates on school reopenings (17:50); ventilation should be part of the conversation on school reopening — why isn’t it? (33:25); poll — 35% of Americans, most Republicans would reject COVID-19 vaccine (41:03); U.S. obesity epidemic could undermine effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccine (43:30); health care workers of color nearly twice as likely as whites to get COVID-19 (47:32); telemedicine is booming — but many people still face huge barriers to virtual care (50:03); experts urge evaluation of diet at routine check-ups (53:21).

Week of August 3, 2020:

Featuring: worldwide whirlwind of COVID-19 (1:44); local COVID-19 update (6:44); states with stricter COVID-19 restrictions watch lax neighbors warily, knowing the virus does not respect borders (10:08); 79% say they support national face mask mandate (16:59); in Texas, more people are losing their health insurance as COVID-19 cases climb (18:03); about 20% of New Jersey prisoners could be freed to avoid virus (20:12); young kids could spread COVID-19 as much as older children and adults (22:08); contact tracing is failing in many states — here’s why (23:16); how effective does COVID-19 vaccine need to be to stop the pandemic? (30:07); those coronavirus vaccines leading the race? don’t ditch the masks quite yet (36:06); liberal group warns that U.S. is unprepared to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine (43:06); COVID-19 vaccines may cause mild side effects, experts say, stressing need for education, not alarm (45:15); poorer communities face double burden during pandemic as they stay home less (50:48); one in three children worldwide have unacceptably high lead levels (52:37).

Week of July 27, 2020:

Featuring: Lucas County, Ohio, and national COVID-19 update (1:55); new poll — 3 in 4 Americans back requiring masks, and other pandemic response support growing (9:26); COVID-19 will end up as a leading cause of death in 2020, CDC says (12:13); U.S. COVID-19 deaths back up over 1,000 per day (15:14); scientists publish findings from first statewide COVID-19 random sample study in U.S. (16:01); as long waits for results render COVID-19 tests “useless,” states seek workarounds (18:32); COVID-19 tests much easier to get in wealthier and whiter neighborhoods (26:03); U.S. prison population down 8% amid coronavirus outbreaks, mostly due to criminal justice system slowdown (30:07); what scientists know about how children spread COVID-19 (31:47); back to school? most major schools are heading to online class as COVID-19 cases spike (40:20); cost of preventing next pandemic equal to just 2% of COVID-19 economic damage (47:44); We are the first to applaud you regarding your efforts in COVID-19 — a message from the African diaspora to our brothers and sisters of Africa (50:14); after surgery, black children are more likely to die than white children (53:11).

Week of July 20, 2020:

Featuring: Lucas County, Ohio, and national COVID-19 update (2:18); “epicenter of the epicenter” — young people partying in Miami Beach despite COVID-19 threat (9:19); over 1,000 inmates at Texas federal prison test positive for COVID-19 (15:02); Texas nursing home COVID-19 cases jump 60% since July 1 (15:42); masks win political momentum despite GOP holdouts (16:53); Americans want evidence and data to drive COVID decisions — and they don’t believe that’s happening (19:46); public health groups denounce new Trump move sidelining CDC (23:17); testing is on the brink of paralysis — and that’s very bad news (27:48); world treating symptoms, not cause of pandemics, says UN (31:52); why are we so late responding to COVID-19? blame it on our culture and brains (36:02); the coronavirus-climate-air conditioning nexus (41:26); scientists’ warning on affluence (46:15); half of world’s population exposed to increasing air pollution (47;33); in shadow of pandemic, U.S. drug overdose deaths resurge to record (48:37); years-long push to remove racist bias from kidney testing gains new ground (50:06).

Week of July 13, 2020:

Featuring: lobbying brewing over access to COVID-19 vaccine (2:27); as U.S. buys up remdesivir, “vaccine nationalism” threatens access to COVID-19 treatments (5:51); COVID-19 vaccine research must involve Black and Latinx participants — here are 4 ways to make that happen (8:31); WHO, partners unveil ambitious plan to deliver 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine to high-risk populations (14:21); U.S. withdrawal from WHO threatens to leave it “flying blind on flu vaccines (17:42); rebroadcast of May 2019 episode on immunization history and benefits (25:15).

Week of July 6, 2020:

Featuring: national COVID-19 update (1:45); Lucas County and Ohio update (8:04); hollowed-out public health system faces more cuts amid virus (11:33); women in science are battling both COVID-19 and the patriarchy (21:20); structural racism is why I’m leaving organized psychiatry (29:31); expecting students to play it safe if colleges reopen is a fantasy (40:23); as COVID-19 tears through Navajo Nation, young people step up to protect their elders (47:18).

Week of June 29, 2020:

Featuring: local, state, and national COVID-19 update (1:53); “normal” is the problem (13:32); the emerging long-term complications of COVID-19, explained (24:14); “vaccine sovereignty” versus “a people’s vaccine” (39:12); lack of water fuels COVID-19 for 2 billion people around world and in the Navajo Nation within the U.S. (44:09); what “less lethal” weapons actually do (50:27).

Week of June 22, 2020:

Featuring: local, state, and national COVID-19 update (1:53); burgeoning activism (12:32) in journalism (13:08), among scientists (17:13), health care professionals (25:13), in scientific publishing (37:28), and connecting racism with environmental justice (42:32).

Week of June 15, 2020:

Featuring: local COVID-19 update (2;03); Ohio immigration detention facility has 100% COVID-19 positive detainees (9:07); COVID-19 spikes, but most governors signal they’re staying the course (13:39); Americans divided on return to regular routines (17:09); pandemic lockdowns saved millions of lives (19:03); face masks may reduce COVID-19 spread by 85% (22:48); black U.S. adults follow many COVID-19 news topics more closely, discuss the outbreak more frequently (28:12); researchers face hurdles in studying COVID-19 racial disparities (29:12); for a day. scientists pause science to confront racism (34;33); racism, not genetics, explains why black Americans are dying of COVID-19 (37:12); omission of air pollution from report on COVID-19 and race “astonishing” (46:10); George Floyd’s autopsy and the structural gaslighting of America (47:58).

Week of June 8, 2020:

A Double Special Edition on Racism and the dual epidemics of COVID-19 and police violence, featuring: Ohio Legislative Black Caucus declares racism a public health crisis (2:33); Physicians for a National Health program declare police violence and racism as public health emergencies (7:11); over 1,000 health professionals sigh letter saying, don’t shut down protests using coronavirus as an excuse (10:01); protest in top 25 hot spots ignite fears of contagion (11:23); protests draw shoulder-to-shoulder crowds after months of virus isolation (16:24); racism is the contagion in health care we need to eradicate (23:46); my nightmare — COVID-19 meets racism meets the killing of a Black person by police (27;41); the everyday health harms of racism (33:39); which death do they choose? — many Black men fear wearing a mask more than the coronavirus (42:17); tear gas is way more dangerous than police let on — especially during the coronavirus pandemic (48:58).

Week of June 1, 2020:

COVID-19 SPECIAL EDITION #12: Racism as a public health issue (2:08); amid COVID-19, U.S. should embrace the right to food (9:31); Bill Barr promised to release prisoners threatened by coronavirus — even as the feds secretly made it harder for them to get out (13:06); model testing blitz in San Francisco shows COVID-19 struck mostly low-wage workers (20:45); One-fourth of U.S. doctors are immigrants who, if they die of coronavirus, could have their families deported (27:27); COVID-19 cases shift to younger people (29:14); the latest on testing (33:17); the local situation (41:11); biopharma companies are spreading misinformation — and taking advantage of it (44:34); masks sold by former white house official to Navajo hospitals don’t meet FDA standards (50:45); status of Latin American epidemic (52:47); is defunding the World Health Organization really just a backdoor attack on sexual and reproductive health? (55:46)

Week of May 25, 2020:

COVID-19 SPECIAL EDITION #11: national situation (2:18); latest local news from Lucas County and Ohio (36:16); other news, including how bad is COVID-19 misinformation (48:06).

Week of May 18, 2020:

COVID-19 SPECIAL EDITION #10: national situation (2:48); what’s our status in re-opening and what does this mean? (11:11); latest local news (35:44).

Week of May 11, 2020:

COVID-19 SPECIAL EDITION #9: national picture (2:38); Toledo, Lucas County, and Ohio status and re-opening considerations (11:22); Americas has no plan for worst-case scenario of COVID-19 (26;34); coronavirus pandemic exposing long-term inequalities experienced by communities of color and in public health system (32:24); survey shows record high trust in government and widespread suspicion of businesses in COVID-19 responses.

Week of May 4, 2020:

COVID-19 SPECIAL EDITION #8: Donald Trump assures nation will continue to be full of baloney (2:07); status at prisons in Ohio and Lucas County (6:47); latest local update (13:08); national “non-plan” for testing (16:34); piecing together info on local situation (23:29); high-tech and low-tech COVID-19 treatment (28:29); what Jonas Salk would have said about COVID-19 — evolve socially (35:15).

Week of April 27, 2020:

COVID-19 SPECIAL EDITION #7: National and state roundup (1:43); jails could add 99,000 deaths to epidemic (14:42); physical distancing — how are we doing in U.S., Ohio and Lucas County (19:14); what it will take to get the U.S. open for business (29:08); what about antibody testing and immunity? (34:24); the latest on local testing and contact tracing (57:18).

Week of April 20, 2020:

COVID-19 SPECIAL EDITION #6: National roundup (2:05); local round up including county social distancing score from cell phone data, county COVID-19 response preparedness score, and nursing homes impact (9:57); thinking big and responding big (21:52); where are we with testing and what needs to be done? (32:50); where are we with contact tracing and what needs to be done? (46:42); more news on challenges facing (51:02); health inequities and racial disparities (55:18).

Week of April 13, 2020:

COVID-19 SPECIAL EDITION #5: Featuring: How does our local epidemic compare to the rest of Ohio and the rest of the country? (2:09); latest news and commentary (4:37); battle of the latest projections – a deep dive into the numbers racket (23:56); quick roundup of completely predictable bad news (57:13).

Week of April 6, 2020:

COVID-19 SPECIAL EDITION #4: Featuring my prediction – COVID-19 deaths will approach the leading cause of death this next year (1:45); good news – Ohio leadership (3:55); bad news – national lack of leadership (5;42); grade card on key interventions required to reverse epidemic (16:31); where is all of this leading? a look at the south going south (27:53); some lighter news (35:55); testing update – don’t expect anytime soon (37:52); drug treatments? “closed for cleaning”? should people wear masks? (50:01); pandemic will ravage lower-income countries (54:05).

Week of March 30, 2020:

COVID-19 SPECIAL EDITION #3: Featuring leadership bringing us to number 1 in the world (1:43); Ohio Sen. Rob Portman refuses call to advocate for a coordinated nationwide shelter-in-place strategy (4:31); my prediction two weeks ago that the U.S. will look like Italy in two weeks is panning out (7:10); local testing started — what does this mean? (9:14); a third of coronavirus cases may be “silent carriers” (18:45); playing the “hot spot” game is too little too late (18:45); the economy versus our public health is a false dichotomy and dangerous distraction (25:43); rationing and supply-line shortages will only worsen (34:32); multiple waves of epidemics from health care workers and other workers, institutionalized populations like prisoners, nursing home residents and active military, as well as homeless and displaced people worldwide (44:28); what would winning look like? (52:43).

Week of March 23, 2020:

COVID-19 SPECIAL EDITION #2: Featuring quick leadership assessment (2:16); the coronavirus paradox — our lowest point and finest hour (3:10); a terrified nation needs a leader during this crisis, not a salesman (8:03); World Health Organization expert explains why China’s cases of COVID-19 have declined and what we must learn from this (14:02); situation analysis of where we are right now and likely heading in the next few weeks (28:11); Lucas County local report on where we are at with testing, contact tracing and hospital preparedness, based on my interview with Eric Zgodzinski, Health Director, Toledo-Lucas County Health Department (33:01).

Week of March 16, 2020:

Featuring COVID-19 SPECIAL EDITION: good news/bad news (1:43); majority of Americans have at least one underlying condition that puts them at greater risk (3:19); the biggest thing to worry with coronavirus is the overwhelming of our health care system (5:57); chronically deteriorating funding of public health has crippled our ability to respond effectively to this epidemic (13:56); aggressive social distancing is seriously important even if you feel well (23:30); absence of a truly coordinated national response leaves those potentially exposed or sick confused about what to do (25:12); White House classifies coronavirus deliberations as secret which hampers response (41:19); Science magazine editorial — disrespecting science and the laws of nature confounds response (45:51); FTC and FDA cites 7 firms falsely claiming products treat COVID-19 (50:05).

Week of March 9, 2020:

Featuring as coronavirus spreads, the bill for our public health failures is due (1:53); coronavirus testing could cost some patients extra and impede response to epidemic (7:07); America is botching coronavirus testing (10:26); prisons and jails are vulnerable to COVID-19 outbreaks (12:17); Ohio ranks at bottom in new national drug trend report (20:46); air pollution is one of the world’s most dangerous health risks (21:25); climate change leads to more violence against women and girls (23:29); every country on Earth failing to provide world fit for children (30:35).

Week of March 2, 2020:

Featuring my coronavirus pandemic prediction (1:44); if coronavirus sweeps America, blame our brutal work and healthcare culture (3:08); how you can prepare for the coronavirus epidemic in America (14;35); Bayer CEO quits over Roundup lawsuits (26:53); here’s the Medicare-for-all study that Bernie Sanders keeps bringing up (27;43); Obamacare favorability hits record high (31:02); survival of the friendliest — how close friendships help us thrive (32:19).

Week of February 24, 2020:

Featuring a public health case study on coronavirus epidemic — where are we headed and what lessons can be learned? (1:50); no clear rationale for 45% of Medicaid antibiotic prescriptions (21:39); changing clocks is bad for your health, but which time to choose? (24:45); largest publicly-traded health insurers  profits grew by 66% in 2019 (28:39); 1 in 4 rural hospitals is vulnerable to closure, driven by states refusing Medicaid expansion (29:07).

Week of February 17, 2020:

Featuring Ohio gun safety laws get “D” on annual scorecard (2:19); puberty starts a year earlier for girls now than in the 1970’s (5:35); as out-of-pocket health costs rise, insured adults are seeking less primary care (7:02); Trump’s budget a non-starter for Great Lakes restoration (10:21); in agricultural giant Brazil, a new a growing hazard of illegal trade in pesticides (12:38); “Like sending bees to war” — the deadly truth behind almond growing (19:12); most Americans consider climate change the most important issue facing society today, with many struggling with eco-anxiety and changing their own behaviors (25:07); why sequencing the human genome hasn’t cured many diseases (27:46); Pittsburgh unveils master plan to significantly expand bike lanes (33:00).

Week of February 10, 2020:

Featuring Trump kept controversial pesticide on market and now its biggest manufacturer is ending production (2:18); spike in loneliness with two-thirds of adults feeling lonely (4:42); a sampling of interesting facts about what, when, and where America eats (10:07); consumers trust food and beverage corporations much less than other corporations (14:00); public health experts warn China travel ban will hinder coronavirus response (14:30); jail officials profit from selling e-cigarettes to inmates (19:43); the disturbing link between environmental racism and criminalization (23:20); female genital mutilation hurts women and economies (31:40).

Week of February 3, 2020:

Featuring Dicamba pesticide on trial (2:22); Trump regime forgets to renew its own opioid emergency declaration (4:13); putting the Wuhan coronavirus in relative perspective with the flu (5:14); containing new coronavirus may not be feasible, as experts warn of possible sustained global spread (10:27); FDA sunscreen report raises concerns over common sunscreen chemicals (14:54); hormone-altering chemicals threaten our health, finances and future (19:55); analysis of data gives insights into complementary health recommendations from U.S. physicians (34:55).

Week of January 27, 2020:

Featuring in opioid racketeering trial, pharmaceutical executive John Kapoor sentenced to 5.5 years (2:19); report finds most states lack crucial highway safety laws, with Ohio in bottom tier (5:17); the USDA never gives up on favoring corporate interests over kids’ health, in rolling back school food rules (8:38); new study debunks argument for weakening health school lunch rules (12:16); sepsis associated with 1 in 5 deaths globally, double previous estimate (14:34); Physicians for a National Health Program public letter on Medicare for All (16;49); The American College of Physicians’ endorsement of single-payer reform is a sea change for the medical profession (18:55); how non-compete clauses shackle physicians and hurt patients (22:01); the false promise of natural gas, aka, methane (25:21); world consumption of natural materials hits record 13 tons per earthling per year (35:02).

Week of January 20, 2020:

Featuring why drinking diet soda makes you crave sugar (1:44); slow carbs over low carbs – fiber matters (5:00); FDA and NIH let clinical trial sponsors keep results secret against regulations (9:02); putting air filters in classrooms could give student performance a serious boost (12:42); between 2005 and 2016, the shift away from coal saved an estimated 26,610 lives and 570 million bushels of crops (14:07); why Black doctors like me are leaving faculty positions in academic medical centers (16:42); McDonald’s in Black America (23:18); millions of “outdated” tests being performed on healthy females 15-20 years old (26:00); Kansas leaders announce breakthrough bipartisan deal to expand Medicaid (26:58); the most expensive health care option of all — do nothing (27:36); more Americans dying at home rather than in hospitals (33:17); helping patients prep mind and body for surgery pays off (34:35).

Week of January 13, 2020:

Featuring alcohol-related deaths have doubled since 1999, here’s why (2:18); 40% of gun owners reported not locking all guns, even around kids (6:25); Coca-Cola internal documents reveal efforts to sell to teens, despite obesity crisis (8:52); half of America will be obese within 10 years, unless we work together (10:48); more than one in three low- and middle-income countries face both extremes of malnutrition (13:48); Medicaid expansion linked to 6% decline in opioid overdose deaths (18:10); U.S. health care bureaucracy costs unnecessary $600 billion yearly (19:02); every American family basically pays a yearly $8,000 “poll tax” under U.S. health system (20:25); nurses get under 7 hours of sleep before a work shift — 83 minutes fewer than days off (25;40); health care providers are unrecognized victims of mass killings, and we are doing little to support them (28:26); U.S. cancer rate drops by largest annual margin ever (30:58); ecopsychology — how immersion in nature benefits your health (33:12).

Week of January 6, 2020:

Featuring Trump abandons sweeping vape ban with weak new rules (2:21); 7 women’s health topics we need to talk about in 2020 (5:48); advocates hopeful gun violence research funding will lead to prevention (12:16); long work hours linked to both regular and hidden high blood pressure (15:28); processed meat recalls rise dramatically as consumers bite down in metal, plastic and glass (16:48); animal agriculture cost more in health damage than it contributes to the economy (20:08); “completely unsustainable” — how streaming and other data demands take a toll on the environment (21:38); The IRS sent a letter to 3.9 million people and it saved some of their lives (22:32); “Medicare for All” ignores a bigger problem of community-level factors impacting health (25:22); Toledo needs to fix access to drug treatment centers (29:32); your DNA is not your destiny — or a good predictor of your health (33:04); huge drop in cholera cases worldwide as key endemic countries achieve gains in cholera control (35:10).

Week of December 30, 2019:

Featuring a special episode on conflicts of interest in health science research with: why scientists defend dangerous industries (2:32); scientists’ failure to disclose hundreds of millions by of dollars in conflicts of interest in federally funded health research (9:12); and how even public universities do a poor job of reporting their professors’ conflicts of interest (20:46).

Week of December 23, 2019:

Featuring context and broader perspective on Toledo’s reported ranking as #2 in mental health among American midsize cities, with wide look at Toledo health indicators compared to the U.S. as a whole (1:45), and how Ohio ranks compared to other states within another set of health indicators(10:00); and for Toledoans to feel relatively better, an in-depth report on the extraordinary danger of being pregnant and uninsured in Texas (15:44).

Week of December 16, 2019:

Featuring the latest Romaine lettuce outbreak — Just say NO (2:18); labeling foods with the amount and type of exercise needed to burn off the calories may encourage people to make healthier dietary choices (5:46); dramatic health benefits following air pollution reductions (8:03); climate change impact of hot temperatures shortening pregnancies (12:17); mental health and addiction care are poorly covered by insurance networks, even with parity law (13:42); half of homeless people may have experienced a head injury in their lifetime (17:04); large pharma companies don’t really provide drug development innovation (18:38); another generic drug company admits to price-fixing (23:31); how “Indian relocation” created a public health crisis (25:23); scientists take action to prevent sexual harassment and bias in STEM workplace (24:34).

Week of December 9, 2019:

Featuring no need for extra protein unless losing weight or gaining muscle (2:21); access to online grocery shopping can vastly reduce “food deserts” (3:47); Trump administration plays perfect Grinch with its new food stamp rules (5:31); red states expanding Medicaid points to its widespread political popularity (10:18); tobacco use among kids jumps from 3.6 million to 6.2 million in one year (14:48); the e-cigarette ingredient to really fear is nicotine (17:07); Ohio to test state drinking water supplies for “forever chemical” contamination (20:15); 1.9 million Michigan residents drink some PFAS as evidence mounts about its dangers (21:58); breast cancer linked to permanent hair dye and chemical hair straighteners, especially among black women (27:32); police killings of unarmed black Americans may effect health of black infants (29:39); how racism ripples through rural California pipes (35:08).

Week of December 2, 2019:

Featuring short-term air pollution linked to growing list of health problems (2:14); Americans’ drinking, drug use, despair wiping life expectancy gains (5:05); health care, mass shootings, 2020 election causing Americans significant stress (9:09); hospital alarms prove a noisy misery for patients (12:24); the $11 million Medicare tool that gives seniors the wrong insurance information (16:50); Mississippi forfeits a million dollars daily in Medicaid funds, severely affecting mentally ill (20:49); mental health studies limp transgender teens under one umbrella, missing clues to help them in the process (25:23); shooting victims have increased risk of mental harm long after physical injuries have healed (30:24); feeling loved in everyday life linked with improved well-being (32:24).

Week of November 25:

Featuring holiday commentary on eating for quality of life, and tips on mindful eating (1:43); public health case study — why the FDA was unable to prevent a crisis of vaping among youth (10:53); large health coverage expansions do not increase overall health care utilization (26:40); employees spending greater share of income on health insurance (28:58); Georgia waivers more costly and cover far fewer people than Medicaid expansion (31:10); Ohio Medicaid still hemorrhaging money to pharmacy middlemen (33:28); with half of brain removed, it still works pretty well (36:52).

Week of November 18:

Featuring new data-driven definitions of unhealthy yet persuasive ‘hyper-palatable’ foods (2:16); adult cigarette smoking rates hit all-time low in U.S. (5;37); e-cigarettes take serious toll on heart health, not safer than traditional cigarettes (7:18); High proportion of youth report using prescription opioids (8:51); vaping and prescription opioids — limbic capitalism in action (10:49); childhood trauma as a public health issue (18:47); getting a handle on self-harm (23:07); 35,000 Americans die of antibiotic-resistant infection each year (30:16); groundbreaking HIV vaccine design strategy shows promise in proof-of-principle tests (31:47); in a notoriously polluted area of the country, massive new chemical plants are still moving in (34:16); Delhi is engulfed by toxic pollution — why isn’t anyone wearing masks? (34:55)

Week of November 11:

Featuring how in health care so-called market competition and the “public option” is a poison pill (1:43); number of uninsured children rises for second year, topping 4 million (22:50); widely used algorithm for follow-up care in hospitals is racially biased (25:26); women scientists author fewer invited commentaries in medical journals than men (28:15); dementia impacts women more and new approaches are needed (29:03); tap water at Trump National Golf Course contaminated with toxic “forever chemical” (31:57); restoring native vegetation could cut air pollution and costs (34:22).

Week of November 4:

Featuring thousands of doctors paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by drug and medical device companies (2:20); pharma money paid to doctors is the cancer growing in cancer medicine (6:06); massive marketing muscle pushes more expensive 3D mammograms despite no evidence they save more lives (19:11); proposed opioid settlement could cost drugmaker only pennies on the dollar (14;12); Trump has already hired 4 times the former lobbyists than Obama had six years into office (15:13); wasted health care spending in U.S. tops annual defense budget (15:48); to treat chronic ailments, fix diet first (17;36); nutritious foods have lower environmental impact than unhealthy foods (20:42); study finds focusing on patient value and goals instead of problems yields better outcomes (23:02); in longer run, drugs and talk therapy offer similar value for people with depression (27:42); mentally ill die many years earlier than others (30:46); sleeps connection to gut microbiome reinforces overall good health (31:42); racial inequities in hospital admissions for heart failure (34:29).

Week of October 28:

Featuring the connection between pipelines and sexual violence (2:21); taking the cops out of mental health-related 911 rescues (5:42); when medical debt collectors decide who get arrested (7;22); children’s risk of dying before age 5 varies more than 40-fold (11:23); 7 million people receive record level of lifesaving TB treatment but 3 million still miss out (14:27); 2 out of 3 wild poliovirus strains eradicated (16;44); fear of falling — how hospitals do even more harm by keeping patients in bed (18:30); exercise can reduce artery stiffness even in those with heart failure (20:41); largest study finds greater reduction in cardiovascular disease and death from taking high blood pressure medication at bedtime rather than in morning (21;21); doctors argue for term limits to diversify medical school leadership (23:58); U.S. air quality was improving but is no getting worse (28:26); replacement flame retardants pose serious risks (31:07).

Week of October 21:

Featuring a call to eliminate all flavored cigarettes, not just the electric kind (2:18); JUUL announcement on certain flavored e-cigarettes is way too little way to late (6:32); Doctors are more likely to prescribe opioids later in the day, or if appointments run late (7:23); every hospital needs recovery coaches for patients with substance use problems (9:46); cultivating joy through mindfulness — an antidote to opioid misuse, the disease of despair (15:13); INVESTIGATIVE REPORT – inside the drug industry’s plan to defeat the DEA (19:03).

Week of October 14:

Featuring: lead scientist of controversial meat guidelines didn’t report ties to food industry front group (1:43); noise pollution as an emerging public health crisis (7:37); update on vaping recommendations (12:41); upcoming flu season may be fairly severe (14:33); STD rates hit record high in U.S. (16:22); global report on vision impairment (18:38); NIH funding disparity between black and white scientists (19:29); sheriffs avoid paying their hospital bills by foisting “medical bond” on sick inmates (21:33); unjustified drug price hikes cost Americans billions (25:31); antibiotic resistance in food animals nearly tripled since 1000 (27:20); EPA about-face lets emissions soar at some coal plants (28:24); PFAS levels rise in Michigan drinking water from Lake Erie (30:30); environmental and health harms are downshifting America’s obsession with the lawn (31:33).

Week of October 7:

Featuring the recent confusion around meat consumption research — a case study on nutritional science research (1:43); lack of sleep has detrimental effects on hunger and fat metabolism (19:00); smartphone dependency predicts depressive symptoms and loneliness (20:07); handgun purchasers with a prior DUI have a greater risk for serious violence (21:50); FDA refuses to classify ‘forever chemical” PFAS as hazardous substance (23:15); safe drinking water violations are higher for communities of color (27:50); role of racial stereotypes in assumptions that African-Americans are more violent (28:58); special series of articles in the American Journal of Public Health documenting role of slavery and racism in health inequalities that persist today (31:06).

Week of September 30:

Featuring American Heart Association statement condemning JUUL’s executive leadership change to long-time tobacco exec (1:45); how active shooter drills in schools are traumatizing our children (4:33); the Surgeon General’s deafening silence on gun violence (10:42); investigative journalist reveals startling flaws in generic drug industry, with FDA missing in action (14:20); World Health Organization calls for urgent action to reduce patient harm in healthcare (18:03); stressed out — Americans making themselves sick over politics (23:19); heart-healthy forager-farmers in lowland Bolivia are changing diets and gaining weight (25:35); many schools are putting brakes on making meals healthier for kids (27:52); some tea bags may shed billions of microplastics per cup (31:02); in continuing trend, S.C. Johnson joins Coca-Cola and PepsiCo in ditching ties to Plastics Industry Association (34:34).

Week of September 23:

Featuring Ohio initiatives to fight youth vaping (2:18); sexual trauma as a global public health issue (5:57); Defense Department as single biggest polluter on planet (12:00); 15 governors lobby for provisions in defense bill to limit toxic chemicals (17:10); deforestation is getting worse, five years after countries and companies vowed to stop it (19:12); Man vs. mosquito – at the front lines of a public health war (20:57); the connection between residential segregation and health (23:48); national support for “red-flag: gun laws could prevent many suicides (25;47); obesity epidemic grows and disparities persist (28:39); despite growing burden of diet-related diseases, medical education does not equip students to provide quality nutritional care to patients (29:52); House panel investigating private equity firms’ role in surprise medical billing (32:16); more women and children survive today than ever before — U.N. report (33:29).

Week of September 16:

Featuring suicide prevention awareness month info (1:43); lifestyle, not genetics, explain most premature heart disease, and multiple risk factors raise risk exponentially (7:23); flu vaccination linked to lower risk of early death in people with high blood pressure (8:43); it matters that Detroit broke federal law when it razed asbestos-laden building (11:25); Juul illegally marketed e-cigarettes (13:26); if Ohio can’t pass the simplest health care price transparency laws, how will Congress curb surprise bills (15:59); Physicians for a National Health Program diagnose politicians and pundits with Corporate Talking-Pointitis (23:06); only a fraction of costs of excessive drinking are paid for by alcohol taxes (30:12); STAT wins long legal fight clearing way for release of Purdue OxyContin files (32:50).

Week of September 9:

Featuring a case study in nutritional fads — vitamin D — with a study of high doses of vitamin D resulting in decreased bone density (1:43); emails show Monsanto orchestrated GOP effort to intimidate cancer researchers (8:24); how Ohio’s Chamber of Commerce killed the Lake Erie Bill of Rights (11:14); EPA to roll back regulations on methane, a potent greenhouse gas (12:41); sexism in health care — in men, it’s Parkinson’s, in women, it’s hysteria (14:53); overeating wastes far more food then we throw away (18:33); big pharma sinks to bottom of U.S. industry rankings (21:14); advocates sound alarm as uninsured rates rise under Trump (22:02); Obamacare health insurance exchange prices to drop in Ohio for first time (23:46); opioid treatment is used vastly more in states that expanded Medicaid (26:23); plant-based fire retardants may offer less toxic way to tame flames (27:43); water treatment cuts parasitic roundworm infections affection 800 million people (28:26); a quarter of the world’s population at risk of developing tuberculosis (29:45); FDA approves TB pill that cures more hard-to-treat patients (30:15); for the first time, clinical trial results show Ebola drugs improve survival rates (32:01).

Week of September 2:

Featuring an in-depth investigative report into industry influence of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines development process (1:47); and Ohio drug deaths plunge in Ohio, but up in Lucas County (29:50).

Week of August 26:

Featuring the two largest health factors in your personal health: smoking and diet (1:44); nearly 200,000 trans people have been exposed to conversion therapy (16:02); toxic furniture flame retardants may not stifle deadliest home fires (18:35); Health panel tells doctors to screen all adults for illicit drug use (20:31); spending on illicit drugs nears $150 billion annually, similar to alcohol (21:17); American Medical Association leaves coalition opposing single-payer Medicare for All (22:50); and programs work from within to prevent black maternal deaths: workers targeting root cause — racism (24:56).

Week of August 19:

Featuring Brazil’s Bolsonaro administration approving 290 new pesticide products for use (2:20); in echo of Flint lead crisis, Newark offers bottled water (4:31); summer in the city is hot, but some neighborhoods suffer more (5:32); up to half of patients withhold life-threatening issues from doctors (9:18); how #MeToo is changing sex ed policies – even in red states (10:04); 140,000 women could lose clinical abortion access in 1st year if Roe v. Wade were overturned (14:55); 250,000 fewer Ohioans on Medicaid, but even the experts don’t know why (15:38); Half-a-million years of Ohioans’ life expectancy lost to gun deaths (19:13); review of 33 years worth of medical studies reveals key areas for new research to explore concerning gun deaths (23:13); the dangers of the mental health narrative when it comes to gun violence (25:17); racist words and acts, like El Paso shooting, harm children’s health (29:46).

Week of August 12:

Featuring lower weight bias among physicians who regard obesity as a disease; BPA substitutes linked to obesity; call for radical reform to address 3.5 billion people worldwide with poor dental health; Coca-Cola pushing to get FDA let it add vitamins to drinks; amid teen vaping epidemic, Juul taps addiction expert as medical director; high radiation levels found near U.S. nuclear dump from weapons testing in Marshall Islands; moral injury and burnout in medicine requires collective action; and how judges added to the grim toll of opioids.

Week of August 5:

Featuring growing PCB claims adding to Bayer’s legal woes for Roundup; floods and fires stir up toxic stew posing long-term dangers; new tool for Michigan officials to use to remedy environmental injustice; Florida sugarcane burning could switch to green harvesting saving lives and boosting economy; U.S. could have averted 15,600 deaths if every state expanded Medicaid; Trump proposal to push 3 million Americans off food assistance; one-third of food grown never makes it out of fields; relatively low-dose radiation from CT scans and x-rays favor cancer growth; fitbits and other wearables may not accurately track heart rates in people of color; and seeing greenery linked to less intense and frequent cravings.

Week of July 29:

Featuring the corrupting influence of conflicts of interest in medical research; UT exhibit on protest and social change includes “Condoms STOP AIDS” poster developed by your humble host; widespread aspirin use despite few benefits, high risks; child drowning rates dropping two-thirds driven by better building codes concerning pools; vaccinating dogs for rabies worldwide could save the lives 59,000 people yearly; nations with strong women’s rights have better population health and faster economic growth; Medicare for All unlikely to raise hospitalization rates much, if at all; climate shocks, conflict and economic slumps drive rising world hunger; taps run dry for half of Zimbabwe’s capital city affecting millions.

Week of July 22:

Featuring keto diets and other diets that severely restrict carbohydrates, how there is little evidence for their effectiveness, especially considering their potential risks and sustainability issues both individually and ecologically, and how massive carbohydrate restriction hamstrings consumption of health-producing carbohydrates like beans, fruits, vegetables and unrefined grains; capping medical residency training hours does not hamper doctor quality; primary care needs to be encouraged; patients provide input for first time in mental health definitions; how to deal with anxiety about climate change; and protecting forests and watersheds to treat water cost-effectively and sustainably.

Week of July 15:

Featuring why there is so much commercial corruption in nutrition; fiber and health and fiber as a good marker for intake of whole foods; indoor carbon dioxide levels could be a health hazard; most kids on public coverage have parents who work for big companies; international drug development processes are irresponsible and must be reformed; the burgeoning benzo crisis; psychiatric diagnosis “scientifically meaningless”; and environmental activists declare victory after Detroit incinerator closes.

Week of July 8:

Featuring alcohol and cancer; bullying and weight bias; the Veterans Crisis Line; austerity and inequality fueling mental illness; EPA moves to phase out animal experiments which could mean end to toxics regulations; mini-biographies help clinicians connect with patients; new guidelines aim to enlist primary care physicians in transgender care; poll: most Americans favor Medicare for All if they can keep their doctors; and children’s cardiac care dangerous when mixed with corporatized health care.

Week of July 1:

Featuring the continuing public health case study that is the obesity epidemic, with a call to move beyond individual behavior and focus on social determinants driving obesity such as fat shaming and bias, and access to culturally-competent health services; plus, medical groups declare climate change as greatest public health challenge of the 21st century; Agriculture Department buries studies showing dangers of climate change; dangerous DDT levels 50 years after banning; and how banning dangerous chemicals could save the U.S. billions.

Week of June 24:

Featuring the question: Is public health in America so bad among the young, supposedly healthier people, that the U.S. may eventually not be able to defend itself militarily? Plus, the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s busiest year; childhood adversity’s link to mental illness, sexually transmitted infections continue unabated; world’s rivers awash with dangerous levels of antibiotics, the U.S. continuing to use pesticides banned in other countries; and Ohio River moves to voluntary pollution standards in face of massive petrochemical plant build-out.

Week of June 17:

Featuring the importance of happiness and purpose in driving health and well-being, and the epidemic of meaninglessness in work life; the role of sleep in health; the celebration of Men’s Health Month through using male privilege to help bring about gender justice and defeat patriarchy; the secret to Latino longevity; and how skyrocketing out-of-pocket health expenses, particularly among employer-based and private health insurance is costing health and lives.

Week of June 10:

Featuring a public health case study offering several perspectives on the many factors which form the perfect storm of the obesity epidemic — with a few tips for weathering the storm; and a series of articles regarding racism and racial disparities in health — with some good news.

Week of June 3:

Featuring continued coverage of the health effects of processed foods, including two new major studies; concerns about the potential risks of the exponential growth of nanoparticles in food processing; toxic chemicals used in food packaging and how to avoid them; and why cutting down on salt is health promoting,even if your blood pressure is fine.

Week of May 27:

Featuring continuing Mental Health Awareness Month coverage including suicide, supposed mental health parity, and appealing health coverage denials, and another in a series of mental health poems by local poet, Justin Samson, with this week’s poem on PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome; Media Watch segment on MercyHealth claiming that nurses mean the world ironically while their nurses strike; landmark study on processed foods and overeating, and a series of stories on air pollution as a public health emergency.

Week of May 20:

Featuring Mental Health Awareness Month coverage including the debut in a series of mental health poems by local poet, Justin Samson, with this week’s poem on major depression; public health news and research roundup coverage of dementia prevention recommendations, childhood cancer prevention, and basic sanitation as a critical public health issue in the U.S. and globally.

Week of May 13:

Featuring Mental Health Awareness Month coverage, public health news and research roundup coverage of the ongoing Monsanto Roundup™ saga plus other herbicide/pesticide/plastics toxins, prescription drug prices, and the debut of another parody PSA.

Week of May 6:

A whole show about vaccine-preventable infectious diseases.  SPOILER ALERT: immunizations profoundly improve the public health of our planet!

Week of April 29:

Featuring tips on cutting back on salt and sugar, and getting more whole grains into your diet. This episode debuts two new segments, Media Watch, looking at how public health is portrayed in the media, and Health Observances, April as minority health month, examining racism as the driving force in the so-called mystery of stubbornly high black infant mortality. The Public Health News and Research Roundup includes the health effects of fracking, and the effect of food waste on climate change.

Week of April 22:

Featuring “The three most dangerous food additives,” and good news in the Public Health News and Research Roundup. And look out for that parody PSA!

Week of April 15:

Featuring Public Health News and Research Roundup and a noncommercial break highlighting blood donation.

Week of April 8:

Featuring environmental health news and the question: Can you be a serious environmentalist without cutting down drastically on animal-foods, that is, cutting way down on meat, eggs, and dairy?

Week of April 1:

Featuring a far-reaching riff on epidemiology, the science of the distribution of health, disease and their determinants in populations; in laypersons’ terms, what are the most important things to consider in our community’s health. Regarding personal health, the show closes with a quick summary of evidence-based eating for health.

Week of May 25:

Featuring Public Health News and Research Roundup [not affiliated with Roundup™, the infamous human carcinogen].

Week of May 18: 

Featuring Medicare for all testimony and Toledo Democracy Day coverage, plus conferring the award for the MOST CONSTIPATED View of DEMOCRACY.

PILOT Show from December 2015: 

This is the original pilot show that started it all! This full hour show features an interview with local guest, Johnathon Ross, M.D., M.P.H., a local public health physician and former president of Physicians for a National Health Program.

INAUGURAL Public Health Radio Show on WAKT, 106.1 FM Toledo — Just For The Health of It: Medicare For All and Toledo Democracy Day

After years in the waiting and making, I am proud to announce the inaugural show of my public health radio show, Just for the Health of It,  on WAKT, 106.1 FM Toledo (ToledoRadio.org). Just for the Health of It brings you new perspectives on the science of health for all; plus local, state, national, and global health news, as well as local guests for home-grown perspectives and connections to local resources. Just for the Health brings you the best of both social justice and personal health. Just for the Health focuses on putting the JUST in Just for the Health of It. My aim is to equip you to live healthily in a healthy community on a just planet.

You can listen here for this show about Medicare For All and coverage of Toledo’s Democracy Day.  You can listen to the most recent and all previous shows at the archive for Just for the Health of It public health radio show.

Here is the script for the show for the week of March 18, 1019:

Welcome to the inaugural show of Just for the Health of It. Normally, the planned format for this show is to do a public health news and research roundup, provide useful health information for you and your loved ones, and interview a local guest to speak to critical public health issues in Toledo. The eventual format will be an hour long; but, until we get the regular studio up and running, I will be doing a shorter half hour version without the interview portion – broadcasting from an undisclosed location which is eerily similar to my den.
Today, we have special coverage of the 3rd annual Toledo Democracy Day public hearings.
If you are wondering what public health has to do with democracy, stay tuned!
Democracy Day was established through citizen’s initiative and approved by Toledo voters in 2016. It functions as an annual public hearing on the influence of money on our politicians that the Mayor and city council must attend. All members of the public are encouraged to come and share their thoughts on the importance of democracy and the corrupting influence of large donors on the political process.

By law, after each Democracy Day, the Mayor must send a letter to our Congressional representatives urging them to support a Constitutional amendment that says corporations are not people and political donations are not free speech. Enacting such a Constitutional amendment is the primary purpose of Move to Amend – a national organization with chapters all across the United States. For more information, you can check out movetoamend.org

So, went to City Council chambers,  or, as I like to say, where democracy goes to die.  And, among other wonderful testimony, several citizens spoke to the need for a universal health program. This included myself. Or, at least I thought. I spent many hours in order to prepare 8 minutes of testimony, ending with a call for the passage of the Medicare For All Act of 2019. However, when I got to the public hearing, I found out that they were limiting testimony to 3 minutes. In previous years they asked citizens to keep their testimony to about 5 minutes, and they loosely enforced this time-frame. There was no way for me to cut my testimony in half on the spot, so I expressed my frustration about not being allowed to present my full testimony. I read most of the last paragraph, with my call to action. To further express my deep disappointment with their bass ackward and absurd limits when required by law to listen to citizens’ testimony on substantive issues, I used the remaining minute of my time to read the last paragraph of my testimony backwards. Sometimes the only commensurate response to absurdity is absurdity. And sometimes Toledo just seems like a backwards town. As it happens, they ended a half hour ahead of time. Having ended with plenty of time remaining, I asked to present my full testimony. I was refused.
I must admit, I felt a little bit of democracy die within me. But, I will just add it to my heap of progressive disillusionment…and if you are going to be disillusioned, please make it progressive.

The good news is that democracy need not be limited to the wood-paneled coffin of democracy we call City Council chambers, or limited to the marble lobbies of Government Center. There are other venues, and this is one of them.

So, I will present my full testimony here today.

Though, make sure to stay tuned to the whole show, as at the end of the show, I will bestow the first Just for the Health of It award, in honor of Toledo’s Democracy Day.
But back to my testimony: here goes:

Toledo’s Democracy Day is rooted in the reality that, in America, corporate personhood often trumps human personhood, and that profit is routinely treated as more important than human need or human rights. This battle courses through American life and our body politic. However, there is perhaps no other facet of American life where this battle is so palpable and endemic as health care. As the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. diagnosed, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

Hi, my name is Dan Rutt. I have a master’s degree in public health. I am the former health planner for the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department. I am a past president of the Ohio Public Health Association. However, perhaps my most important qualification for speaking today about health care is similar to most of the people in this room: I have witnessed personally multiple health care horror stories. Is there anyone in America that doesn’t have a health care horror story? I’ve passed out in the so-called “emergency room” waiting for medical triage, slipping into anaphylactic shock – though they did have plenty of time to take my billing information. Three times I’ve gone to the same “emergency” room for severe reactions to bee stings; each time, I’ve been left alone, untreated and unsupervised – once in the waiting room, once in an exam room, once on a gurney in the hallway. To protect the guilty, I won’t divulge the name – Saint something or other . . . probably “other.” The last time I was in there, I had used my expired “Epi-pen” after refusing to re-fill my prescription after they jacked the price up to $600. I told the nurse that if I die, I want them to throw my dead body on the lawn of Mylan Pharmaceutical’s corporate headquarters. I could go on; and I have, despite shocking and inhumane so-called “health care.” I’ve been blessed with a pretty healthy life, but I have a long litany of health care horror stories. I’ll leave for another time the cautionary tale about getting a vasectomy from the lowest bidder when I had no health insurance.

Today, about 30 million people in America still have no health insurance whatsoever. For Toledo, that’s thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of Toledoans. About 45,000 Americans will die this year due to being uninsured. Some might even dare call it a national emergency. If you might consider that designation a close call, consider that even having “health insurance” in the U.S. is no guarantee of being able to pay for needed care. An additional 85 million Americans are “underinsured,” meaning that out-of-pocket costs of co-pays, deductibles and co-insurance puts them at risk for financial catastrophe if they seek care. In short, more than one in three Americans have precarious protection against health crises, all topped off with looming financial ruin when they are at their most vulnerable.

Health care is the leading cause of financial terrorism, the number one cause of personal bankruptcy, and the leading candidate for our nation’s moral bankruptcy. We kowtow to health care syndicates as they hold unparalleled control over our community’s finances and even our very lives. We are held hostage, and in a Kafkaesque fatal twist, we are expected to accept as normal community-wide Stockholm Syndrome, an irrational sympathy for our captors. Unfortunately, we don’t get the benefit of the universal health care of those residing in Stockholm.

Health care in the U.S. is about $11,000 per capita, about twice as expensive per person as health care in other industrialized countries. Health care consumes about 18 of every 100 dollars spent in America. This might be worth it if we were healthier; instead we are sicker, and more likely to die. We chronically drag along the bottom of health outcomes among industrialized countries. If the business of health care is quality care at a reasonable cost, then American health care qualifies as a gargantuan business scam, sucking something on the order of two trillion dollars of value out of our economy – that’s 2,000 billions of dollars, year after year; that’s billions of value sucked out of Toledoans, year after year after year. Would it be undemocratic to demand a better deal? Is the business of American health care a gigantic cash toilet too big to succeed at delivering quality health care at a reasonable cost? I hope not.

We live in the wealthiest nation in human history and we do a frighteningly poor job of producing health. Tragically, this is at an even more dumbfounding financial and human cost. I dare you to find a nation where they get less for their health care dollar than America. If we have any notion of running health care as a reputable business, then we should start firing the heads of those businesses, not rewarding them with huge profits and deferential prestige. If nothing else, at the prices we are paying, we shouldn’t have to fear sending our parents, grandparents, kids or neighbors, into a system that wreaks unnecessary stress when they are most vulnerable.

Further, if you think that America’s health care system is high quality, consider this: health care kills more people than lack of health insurance. So-called “medical errors” kill about 250,000 Americans every year. Medical errors can be considered the third leading cause of death in America, exceeded only by heart disease as number one and cancer as number two.

Our addiction to health care as a product to be marketed and sold rather than as a human right, has locked us into a system of perverse incentives that distort the meeting of human need due to corporate greed. This has produced the worst of both worlds: overutilization of expensive and ineffective health care, and underutilization of cost effective care. This is all topped off with unparalleled administrative costs and corporate profits.

There is a way out. A couple of weeks ago, U.S. Representatives Jayapal, Dingell, and over 100 co-sponsors introduced the Medicare For All Act of 2019. This Act will improve and expand the overwhelmingly successful and popular Medicare program, so that every person living in the United States has guaranteed access to healthcare with comprehensive benefits. Services covered include primary care, emergency care, mental health coverage, addiction treatment services, prescription drug coverage, medical devices, even dental and vision. With one standard of care covering essential services, no American need gamble their health with substandard insurance to eke out financial viability. This legislation embodies true community, where everybody is in; nobody is out. We need not leave anyone behind. Money saved with administrative streamlining will cover expanded care for over 100 million Americans with no insurance or substandard insurance. This Medicare For All Act will integrate the multitude of health care payment systems and simplify the current labyrinth of administrative requirements for both providers and patients. This will allow for a quantum leap in realigning financial stewardship with patient outcomes rather than mere profitability.

Fortunately, the leap is not that far. About 75% of health care in America is already paid for by taxes, primarily for Medicare, which, serving an elderly population, has the bulk of our nation’s health care costs, and secondarily through Medicaid and military/veteran’s health care. Most simply, expanding Medicare for all will transfer the remaining 25% of private insurance funded health care into the existing Medicare payroll tax. Premiums paid by individuals and businesses will disappear. The generations-long experiment with for-profit health care has failed. We can profit from the generations-long successes of other nations in assuring the health of their people.

The time is now. I call upon Toledo City Council, the Lucas County Commissioners, each of our local health care conglomerates, and any other interested parties, to join together in efforts to pass the Medicare For All Act of 2019 or similar legislation. I ask that each party provide the staff and resources necessary for such a collaboration to assure the urgent passage of such a national health program. To this end, I ask that ProMedica and Mercy Health devote one-thousandth of their revenue for such a bold and transformative venture. My testimony today will be featured on my inaugural public health radio show on WAKT, 106.1 FM, Toledo’s activist, noncommercial community radio station, the latest in Toledo’s burgeoning democracy. I will be monitoring and reporting on your efforts. May our community lead the way for a shared health care system that will benefit every community across our nation. If not us, who? If not now, when? Thank you.

There, now that wasn’t so bad, was it?

Now, Just for the Health It is about offering fresh perspectives, and I’d like to highlight three fresh perspectives today:

#1: Health care kills more people than having no health insurance – 250,000 deaths versus 45,000 deaths. As I like to say: a hospital is no place for a sick person. Now, of course, health care saves lots of lives as well. Still, health care is an often dangerous undertaking for our lives and an overtaking for our money. Prevention not only saves us from disease, prevention saves us from health care.

The good news is that while health care’s medical errors can be considered a cause of death exceeded only by heart disease and cancer, if we look at other underlying causes of death, we find there are lifestyle factors that are more important in preserving and promoting our health. For instance, smoking kills about 600,000 Americans each year; and diet kills even more Americans prematurely than smoking. Lifestyle factors such as these are more in our control, and much less pricey, than health care. Other key lifestyle factors include physical activity and adequate sleep. Good news for all.

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And now for a word from our lack of sponsors…

PR Medica and Merciless Health are rated in the top 100 in clinical excellence in some category that hopefully covers the health care you might be able to access. Warning: such excellence may be severely limited by being delivered in the least effective and most expensive sick care system among the so-called advanced economies. While you may be privileged enough, or lucky enough, to get access to excellent care, your community overall is poorly served. Any such clinical excellence is best taken with a double dose of advocacy for universal health care.

This program is not sponsored by PR Medica or Merciless Health. PR Medica and Merciless Health are unholy owned subsidiaries of Tourette’s Industries, insuring that you will swear by them, whether you like it or not.

Now, back to your irregular programming…

Welcome back to Just for the Health of It, the people’s school of public health, where the people’s health is not academic. You are listening to WAKT, 106.1 FM Toledo, your source for local, anti-commercial, activist radio.

The second fresh perspective I’d like to highlight today is regarding ideological battles over socialism and capitalism. Health care is not your typical product or service which might be conducive to efficiencies of market competition. Just finding out what health care costs is nearly impossible. In many cases, often the most expensive cases, health care cannot be planned for, even if we wanted to. Only the richest people can afford to pay for all of their health care out-of-pocket. The need to rely on health insurance because of the great variability and unpredictability of health care needs insulates us from the item by item expenses of health care. Plus, the complexity and technical nature of health care is so great that we typically must rely heavily on expert opinions of doctors. Health care is so expensive to deliver, and adding new services in the marketplace is so costly, that rather than lowering cost through competition, we often end up with duplicative services beyond the capacity needed, the total system costs rise, and prices ultimately rise more. Outside of large metropolitan areas, it’s hard to provide all the health care facilities and services that people need, let alone two to choose from. Everyone needs health care. Cut-rate health care is inhumane. Decent health care for all is something that we really need to work out collectively. Health care might better be viewed in the same way that we regulate public utilities. Public utilities are a fine example of socialism. Imagine two water lines coming into your home, so you would have a choice of which service to use. Double the infrastructure, double the costs – the height of inefficiency. Imagine two sets of roads to compete, two separate trash services…you get the picture. Well, this is modern American health care – except that there is so much more money involved that many more careers and fortunes are made in gaming the system, jacking up costs. In such cases, capitalism is costly to all but a very few. Lastly, ideological battles over socialism and capitalism often revolve around the trope of taxes. Some people feel better about getting the bill from some corporation than the government. We pay twice as much for health care than in countries where health care is treated as a public good, and regulated akin to a public utility. At about 18% of our economy, that’s about 9% of our economy wasted on health care inefficiency and duplication. In essence, it’s like already having a 9% tax on everything, except we are getting nothing for it – actually less than nothing, our health outcomes are worse. This sounds eerily similar to the nightmare that tax hawks fear, with insinuations of government inefficiency – except that it is brought to us by health care capitalism. Health care capitalism is wreaking havoc on our economy and our people. Whatever difficulties a more socialist approach may bring, it is difficult to imagine making our current state of affairs in health care worse than having profit drive health care decisions.

For the third fresh perspective I’d like to highlight today, I’m going to switch it up a bit. I’m talking about the direct link between health and democracy. Why should public health and health care advocates talk about democracy?  The clearest reason is that dead people don’t vote – well, except perhaps in Chicago. The reality is that inequalities in premature death directly affect elections. For example, the excess deaths that Blacks suffer over Whites results in over a million missing Black votes nationwide. If you include excess deaths of other people of color and poor whites, this results in millions more missing voters. Clearly this skews election results in favor of wealthier, healthier and whiter populations, reinforcing existing inequalities. This dynamic reinforces health and wealth gaps across generations. For instance, Whites can expect to draw on social security about 44% longer than Blacks, simply by Blacks dying off prematurely. Blacks contribute social security over the span of their whole working lives, but the grim reaper cuts short their reaping a full span of benefits. While I love a good metaphor as much as the next person, we must realize that for tens of millions of Americans, democracy and justice means literally fighting for their lives. Health justice is directly tied to a healthy democracy that truly represents all of its people.

Now that we’ve established the direct connection between public health and democracy, I offer a bonus testimony from the first Toledo Democracy Day, my testimony in response to a 5 minute limit on citizen testimony, entitled “Five minutes of Democracy.”

Here it goes, Just for the Health of It:

[See TESTIMONY -“Five minutes of Democracy”]

And now…what you’ve all been waiting for, a WAKT first, the Just for the Health of It, 2019 Toledo Democracy Day award:

By the powers infested by me, I do hereby confer upon Toledo City Councilperson Nick Komives, the 2019 Toledo Democracy Day award for the MOST CONSTIPATED View of DEMOCRACY. After being confronted with over three hours of democracy during the 2018 Democracy Day, Mr. Komives, with heroic efficiency, scheduled only two hours for the 2019 Democracy Day, and ingeniously combining this with a three-minute limit on public testimony, succeeded in City Council only having to listen to 90 minutes of citizen testimony, thus, empowering Toledo citizens to truly declare: “Democracy Day, now with 50% less democracy.” Should Mr. Komives, in all humility, consider that he doesn’t deserve this award, then may he share this with all others who have made democracy in Toledo passable. In any case, may Mr. Komives find within him the moral fiber to relieve himself of this distinction.

WAKT Just for the Health of It 2019 Toledo Democracy Day Award to City Toledo Councilperson Nick Komives for MOST CONSTIPATE View of DEMOCRACY

I will deliver a signed, framed copy of this award to Mr. Komives.

Lastly, in regards to Toledo City Councilperson Nick Komives’ expert shepherding of our citizenry, on behalf of all us sheep scattered across Toledo, I just want to say, “Baaaad democracy, Baaaad democracy.”

If you have feedback or ideas for this show, please feel free to email me at: WAKT@TopPun.com

You can listen to Just for the Health of It on WAKT 106.1 FM Toledo or online at ToledoRadio.org.

You can listen to this show here.

You can listen to the most recent and all previous shows at the archive for Just for the Health of It public health radio show.

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FREE Environmental POSTER: EPA Under NEW Mismanagement – Scott Pruitt Swamp Monster OUT Andrew Wheeler Coal Lobbyist IN

Fossil Fuels, Fossil Fools (Pollution) - POLITICAL BUTTONAs EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, resigns under a snowballing avalanche of ethics violations, the Trump regime doesn’t have to reach far into its deep bench of political hacks to find another swamp monster to clog up democracy, evidence-based policies respecting science, let alone clean water, clean air, or clean soil. Andrew Wheeler, former coal lobbyist, will carry on the polluted policies of Scott Pruitt, his boss, Donald Trump, and co-conspirators, congressional Republicans.

In tribute to the EPA under new mismanagement, I give you this FREE Environmental POSTER: EPA Under NEW Mismanagement – Scott Pruitt Swamp Monster OUT Andrew Wheeler Coal Lobbyist IN. Please feel free to share or print out.

FREE Environmental POSTER: EPA Under NEW Mismanagement - Scott Pruitt Swamp Monster OUT Andrew Wheeler Coal Lobbyist IN

As the Washington Post succinctly stated, the new EPA boss is the same as the old boss:

The change at the top of the Environmental Protection Agency won’t mean a dramatic shift in policy. If anything, President Donald Trump’s EPA could become even more effective at undoing Obama-era environmental policies under its new boss.

At Least The War on the Environment is Going Well POLITICAL BUTTONThat’s because the incoming acting administrator Andrew Wheeler, who’s set take over Monday following the resignation of Scott Pruitt, is a politically savvy former Senate staffer, wise in the ways of Washington — and getting things done. Wheeler, 53, has crusaded behind the scenes for decades to quash climate What Exactly Are Conservatives Conserving (Earth) POLITICAL BUTTONchange legislation and promote coal.

Wheeler, who was confirmed to be the EPA’s No. 2 official in April, could bring a quiet effectiveness to the top job that some environmentalists say will make him a more formidable opponent than Pruitt.

“There is no time for celebration,” said Tom Pelton, with the Environmental Integrity Project. Wheeler, he said, “has a background just as biased toward industry as Scott Pruitt, so we and other environmental advocates are going to have to watch Wheeler just as closely as we did his former boss.”

he Environment Is Over-Raided - FUNNY POLITICAL BUTTONWheeler shares Trump and Pruitt’s environmental agenda, including proposals to roll back regulations addressing climate change and pollution. And in a June 27 interview, Wheeler said he’s proud of his lobbying past. Although he said being called a “coal lobbyist” wasn’t derogatory, it irritates him because his advocacy on energy and environmental issues was broader than any single issue.

The replacement of Pruitt may mean a change in style at the EPA, but it won’t mean a change in substance, said Jeff Holmstead, a former deputy EPA administrator.

“Pruitt had never worked in a regulatory agency and didn’t fully understand the rulemaking process. He was certainly engaged in the politics of environmental issues, but he wasn’t always engaged in the substance,” Holmstead added. “In many ways, Wheeler is the polar opposite.”

Please feel free to browse my designs on the environment, climate change slogans, and green energy politics.

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A Spiritual Autobiography

I wrote the below spiritual autobiography a dozen years ago as part of a servant leadership study group.  While it definitely needs updating, it serves well as a brief overview of my spiritual history and development over much of my life, particularly my early years.  Fortuitously, my humor remains righteously irreverent and my faith grows.

RUTTS
by Alex Haley
(that’s just my pun name)

The year was 1961. Preceded by John, a child was conceived, fathered by a closeted gay man, in Bethlehem, on the outskirts of the city of brotherly love. In my mother’s womb, I was transported to Haiti, where my parents, as doctor and nurse, were beginning their service as medical missionaries with the Mennonite Central Committee. A dozen (and a half) generations ago my ancestors had fled religious persecution and military conscription in Germany to settle in America. For a new beginning, they were gifted with land from William Penn. This land was some of the most fertile in the world; so fertile, in fact, that even gay men father children there! Though now in Haiti, they were soon to be counted again among the privileged of the world. I was born. And on this journey, Joseph followed. Continuing my heritage as a sojourner in a foreign land, I was born a true child of the 60s.

I have no specific memories of those first couple of years in Haiti. However, only in recent years have I realized my ideal vision of serenity as sleeping without a care late in the morning in a mountain cabin while the rain pounds on the tin roof likely came from memories as a baby (now, if only I can figure out why I have a pleasant association with the smell of skunk!). Also, I am told that I was scared of most white people. Strangely, I am still haunted by white people on occasion.

After a brief stint in Detroit, perhaps explaining my love of urban life, I grew up in a small town in Michigan. The town was Mennonite-free, so I was raised a United Methodist. My childhood was strikingly trauma-free (only striking in retrospect). I knew safety. I knew predictability and caring. Our family always ate meals together, beginning with a prayer too short not to recount here: “God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for our food. Amen.” A lot more theology in that prayer than I usually give credit. Our family participated in worship and church functions regularly. Worship was generally boring. One of my few memories was a teenager with a guitar, singing “Blowing in the wind.” I guess that would have been contemporary music, huh? And that was before Bob Dylan was a Christian. I attended Sunday school, vacation Bible school, and youth group. I only vaguely remember confirmation. I remember good times. Except for a desperately poor matching of gifts by placing me in a children’s choir – my first, and really only, experience with “playing hooky.” I loved summer camp. First there were church camps, then Boy Scout camps. My younger brother and I earned Eagle Scout ranking (the highest in Boy Scouts) in record time. Our scoutmaster was easygoing and playful. Perhaps paradoxically, it was easy to achieve in that environment. If “achievement” had been required of me, I probably wouldn’t have done it, or at least wouldn’t have enjoyed it so much. When we later moved and joined another scout troop, which was probably better organized and certainly more rigid, we dropped out after a while.

My understanding of diversity was child-like. I knew that Catholic families were the ones with five or six kids. Good families to play with. My best friend’s dad was Cuban. He also had two older half-siblings. In retrospect, this was the only somewhat non-traditional family I recall; though I don’t recall giving it much thought.

I was baptized at age eleven. Apparently, I was out of the country at the time such events usually occur. Fortunately, my understanding of baptism was still pretty much that of an infant, so it worked out well. I was confirmed a year later. About this same time, I was in little league baseball. In an attempt to deal with performance anxiety, I kept a pocket-sized New Testament in my back pocket. This crude attempt at spiritual osmosis was discovered by my brothers who with little affection labeled me “Bible boy.” I didn’t like this. I remember that my parent rebuked them.

When we moved to Dearborn, Michigan, before my ninth grade, my parents looked for a church nearby, but had little success – “too suburban” I think. Not surprising, considering we lived in a nice home with a pool, only 100 feet from a golf course. They decided to return to their church from earlier years, Central United Methodist Church in downtown Detroit, 20 minutes away. Central is the oldest Protest-ant church in Michigan, and has been called “the conscience of the city.” Always a leader in social justice, their most widely known pastor preached pacifism before, during and after World War II. I was soon to be raised on 45+ minute sermons, truly epic sermons. A turning point happened to me sometime during my high school years when my mom took me to a peace conference at church. My eyes were opened and my heart would soon follow.

I went to Hope College, a small, private, liberal arts school. It was a Christian College, as were most of its staff and students, mostly Reformed and Christian Reformed. However, it was unlikely that I would ever be Reformed; conservatively speaking that is. My college years began with my father lightly warning me of these Calvinists. I didn’t know what he was talking about. My first roommate and I, who were boyhood friends, unknowingly were matched because we were both Methodists – apparently, a rare breed thereabouts. Early on, I must have been an easy target for an overabundance of evangelism. A friend invited me to Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. I went to what turned out to be a practically diversity-free zone; even ALL of the other persons in my small group were named “Kathy” (though probably a diversity of spellings). Later, when I saw out my dorm room window the friend who invited me, I said, “hello.” She asked me what I thought of the meeting. I shouted from the second floor window something to the effect that it was “too religious.” I did like church, and I went willingly. I even went to chapel services three times a week – religiously. I was also on part-time staff of the campus ministry. Though a biology major, I was frequently mistaken for a political science or philosophy major. Apparently, I was succeeding at the liberal arts (or at least the art of being liberal).

I very soon got involved with a small group of students known as the World Hunger Committee. Being a United Methodist, I must have known that there would be a committee for that! This formally launched my work in social justice, and my personal interest in stewardship, vegetarianism and nutrition. That first year, God brought together this son of a Mennonite with a Hope graduate who was a Mennonite (perhaps the only one). I told him that I was concerned about President Carter re-instituting draft registration. He said, “Why don’t you start a peace group?” I said, “Yes.” Fortunately, I didn’t now what I was doing. So, I helped found “Hope for Peace.”

For my own concerns, I hooked up with a Viet Nam war-era draft counselor. To make a long story short, when President Reagan broke his campaign promise to end draft registration, I was identified in the Detroit News as a non-registrant. Being the only publicly-identified non-registrant in Michigan, I garnered much media attention. Eventually, the Reagan ‘get the government off your back’ regime and his Attorney General, Edwin ‘people are only hungry by choice’ Meese III, saw that out of millions of non-registrants, I was number 13 to be prosecuted. In the end, six years later, after heroically losing half a dozen pre-trial motions (with the help of a volunteer team of legal experts), my older brother dying, graduating from college, getting married, having a son, graduating from graduate school, and getting a job, I defended myself before a jury of my peers (though none of them were subject to the law I was defending myself from). I lost. But what did I win? (that is, beside three months room and board at the taxpayers’ expense) I learned to live in good conscience. I learned to refine my beliefs, even amidst great public scrutiny. I learned about civil disobedience, or as A.J. Muste, a great American pacifist and Hope College graduate would have said, “holy obedience” (in my write mind I say, “wholly obedience). I learned that the U.S. government has the absolute authority to draft any citizen regardless of conscientious objection. Any exception to this is due only to “legislative grace.” I learned to live by God’s grace even when it exceeds the grace of my government. Actually, I presented my case at the Detroit Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, in conjunction with a resolution to support young men’s consciences who were subject to draft registration laws, whether their conscience led them to register or not. The resolution failed. So, I learned to live by God’s grace even when it exceeds the grace of my denomination.

During college, after guest preaching at my home church in Detroit, someone came up afterwards and said, “I didn’t know that you were in seminary.” Nonetheless, I consider myself a theological mutt. I have drawn from many Christian traditions. I have studied Asian religions, and I am drawn to Buddhism. I am an amateur philosopher (that is, until someone pays me) and I am intrigued by the angst of existentialism. I have experienced a spiritual re-awakening in Alanon, which has given me things that my church could not. I believe that “religionism” may be the ultimate “-ism,” preventing us from experiencing the oneness of God. I may be a leading candidate to be voted, “most likely to be heretical,” by the powers that be. This is my orthodoxy. I believe that paradox lives in the neighbor of truth; and we should love our neighbors. In true Zen-like fashion, I find that irreverence is often the highest form of reverence. Among my heresies is my unabashed appreciation of “The Simpsons” (but, as the Hindus would say, “Don’t have a cow.”).

After an intense summer working for Bread for the World as an organizer, and days before my senior year began, my brother John was killed in an avalanche in Western Canada; but only after dropping out of college while on foreign study, wandering, rock-climbing and working (pretty much in that order) for a couple of years in Africa and the Western U.S. His death has given me a much greater sense of mortality and the preciousness of life each day. I actually find funerals as fruitful opportunities for reflection and renewing my sense of “living in the moment.” I have undervalued such opportunities. One of the few regrets in my life was missing three of four funerals of my grandparents.

My paternal grandparents were particularly religious. Only upon the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary (and doing the math) did I realize that my father was a near-bastard child to a teen mom. Years later, when my sister was pregnant and out-of-wedlock at age 19, my grandfather said, “The sins of the grandfather are being visited upon the granddaughter.” My thought: get over it! Well, at least, I can now understand why my gay father was closeted until his parents were either dead or demented. While I didn’t see healing in my grandparents, I saw that having an understanding of God under construction is a good thing, and sometimes demolition work is required.

That brings me to my marriage. To make a long, and usually happy, story short, my marriage of 11+ years ended 10 years ago. Nonetheless, we were blessed with two wonderful children, Joshua and Kathryn. I love being a parent. It may be the closest I’ve been able to experience what God must feel in His/Her unconditional love for us. Kate’s life is an ongoing miracle since she was born with multiple heart defects. She underwent two heart surgeries, and at one point with surgical complications, a doctor, trying to be optimistic, said, she has at least a 50/50 chance of living. A brush with death. There’s that mortality thing again. Not unlike death, I thought I had no problem with divorce – as long as it was happening to other people. Accepting our divorce was the most difficult thing I have ever dealt with.

Being out of a “relationship” for a number of years helped my re-develop my relationship with myself and with God. This came more through Alanon than church. Now, being in a relationship for eight years with a wise and beautiful woman has taught me to appreciate life as it comes, one day at a time – with both of us half single, half single parent; no longer with in-laws but ex’s. I’ve learned that God makes all things new, and often faster than I want. God never gives me what I want; God always gives me something better!

My career. God brought me to a career in public health, as I savored its roots in social justice. God brought me out of public health, re-naming me “Top Pun,” and appointing me as a jester for peace, where the pun is mightier than the sword, and justice is no yoke. My canvasses are buttons, T-shirts, bumper stickers, and the World Wide Web. My business, by definition, is good – that is, maximizing prophets. My business is exactly on schedule; though I don’t know what the schedule is.

God brought me to Central’s neighborhood, and a few hours later, to Central. Centralites were my kind of people. Some happened to be Christians who were gay. Through my social justice work, not my public health work, God brought me to work in the fight against HIV/AIDS. This opened further opportunities to work with persons who happened to be gay. My dad “came out.” My parents divorced. God had prepared me.

I have issues with money. I aspire to live simply, gracefully facilitated by my recent poverty-level earnings. Living with less financial security has inspired me to give today because I may not be able to give later. Whatever old car I’m driving facilitates my prayer life (of course, no “auto”-biography would be complete without a mention of my car).

I am a mystic at heart, journeying as a gifted rationalist, Caucasian, male, father, lover, businessman, American, etc., etc., yada, yada, yada. While embracing the enigmatic, I hope these few words will offer you a clue as to who I am. Hopefully, these few words will offer you a clue as to who we are. One of my favorite poems is from Muhammad Ali: “Me. We.”

In all, God has never left me; except for an instant in 1981, but that’s another story…

FREE POSTER: Sen. Rob Portman teams up with The Trump Company to solve the problem of the sick and the sick economy by bringing back Soylent Green

Please enjoy this surreal health care commentary brought to US by senate Republicans and a president who wants to win a legislative victory at any cost: “Sen. Rob Portman teams up with The Trump Company to solve the problem of the sick and the sick economy by bringing back Soylent Green.” This free poster is the next in my continuing series of free posters called “Parity or Parody in democracy.”  Sen. Rob Portman is seriously considering offering tens of millions of sick and poor Americans to feed the greed of the richest Americans.  Normally, such a horrific endeavor would be reserved for a slasher film or science fiction movie.  The Republicans are well practiced at slashing, but are now honing their skills at science fiction, now better known as “alternative” facts.  In a typical misreading of the American public, Republicans have come up with a Soylent Green solution to the people’s unified chorus of “Eat me!”FREE  POSTER: Sen. Rob Portman teams up with The Trump Company to solve the problem of the sick and the sick economy by bringing back Soylent Green

POEM: Rousing Fresh Fortune

To no what is possible
Sum look too the passed
To undertake certainties
Too due dreams untested
Some are moved
Bye this present
Liberating futures seized
And undo
The knot tied
And never tried
How
Ever prospecting possibilities in awe that is mine
From now on in
Rousing fresh fortune
Or die
Try in

The past is the best predictor of the future, except that will always be wrong.  Unpredictability is an essential aspect of the future.  Like Yogi Berra noted: predictions are difficult, especially when they are about the future.  It's kind of fun to do the impossible. Walt Disney quote SPIRITUAL BUTTONI am fascinated by existential possibilities, trying something and seeing what happens.  This is perhaps the truest life science: taking action and paying attention to what happens. Somewhere between overanalyzing the past and dreaming about what things could come the present unwraps the future.  Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. Soren Kierkegaard quote SPIRITUAL BUTTONAs Kierkegaard observed, “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” And as Homer Simpson might say: “Mmmmmm…the present.”  Dreaming with your eyes open is not merely realism, but the basis for enlightened action. Surfing the future is at least as much an art as a science.  Of course, this present reality is not meant to be some exacting, and perhaps depressing, data collection in a notebook, but rather the experience of rousing fresh fortune.  May you discover much joyful anticipation and spirit rousing serendipities as your present unwraps the future.

Feel free to browse Top Pun’s many spiritual and life philosophy designs:

Make Peace With The Future PEACE BUTTONBe willing to give up what you are for what you can become SPIRITUAL BUTTON 	 Don't let your victories go to your head, or your failures go to your heart. SPIRITUAL BUTTON

Don't Look So Hard At My Past, I Don't Live There Anymore SPIRITUAL BUTTON 	 If you are in control, then you are going too slow. SPIRITUAL BUTTONAnd in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years. Abraham Lincoln quote SPIRITUAL BUTTON

Find Your Own Way -- Buddha SPIRITUAL BUTTONHe who never walks except where he sees other men's tracks will make no discoveries. J.G. Holland quote SPIRITUAL BUTTONWhy not go out on a limb? Isn't that where the fruit is? Mark Twain quote SPIRITUAL BUTTON

Don't take life so seriously. Nobody gets out alive anyway. SPIRITUAL BUTTONExperience is what you get when you don't get what you want SPIRITUAL BUTTONBe daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers. Sir Cecil Beaton quote SPIRITUAL BUTTON

The Beginning is Near SPIRITUAL BUTTONThere Is No Gift Like The Present SPIRITUAL BUTTONExpect Miracles SPIRITUAL BUTTON

The cure for boredom is curiosity - There is no cure for curiosity --Dorothy Parker quote SPIRITUAL  	 Life Isn't About Finding Yourself, Life Is About Creating Yourself SPIRITUAL BUTTONEver Wonder? SPIRITUAL BUTTON

Got Awe SPIRITUAL BUTTON

HAPPINESS: Hedonic Happiness Versus Meaningful Happiness

I have long been interested in happiness and happiness research.  I recently stumbled across one of the most fascinating scientific articles of any kind that I have read in recent years: Some Key Differences Between a Happy Life and a Meaningful Life.  This happiness research focused on the crucial differences between happiness attributed simply to one’s pleasurable experiences — hedonic happiness — and happiness attributable to experiencing meaning in life.

This particular happiness research peaked my interest because I have been accused of arrogance or hubris in claiming that some people with high levels of happiness may be missing out on substantial aspects or portions of happiness.  My alleged “second guessing” of peoples’ subjective state is substantially confirmed by this groundbreaking happiness research.

From the authors’ abstract:

“Satisfying one’s needs and wants increased happiness but was largely irrelevant to meaningfulness. Happiness was largely present-oriented, whereas meaningfulness involves integrating past, present, and future. For example, thinking about future and past was associated with high meaningfulness but low happiness. Happiness was linked to being a taker rather than a giver, whereas meaningfulness went with being a giver rather than a taker. Higher levels of worry, stress, and anxiety were linked to higher meaningfulness but lower happiness.”

The pleasure of satisfying needs and wants (hedonic happiness) has little to do with leading a meaningful life.  Plus, worry, stress, and anxiety are linked to higher meaningfulness and lower (hedonic) happiness.  The developmental tasks of integrating meaning into and across one’s life can be stress-inducing.  Fortunately, to cut to the chase, leading a meaningful life contributes substantially to a happy life, often accounting for losses in hedonic happiness.  Though the stress of leading a very difficult but meaningful life may result in lower overall level of happiness.  From my perspective, risking or sacrificing hedonic pleasures for a life of increased meanings strikes me as, well…meaning full.

From the introduction:

“The wishes for happiness and for a meaningful life are two of the most widely held goals by which people measure and motivate themselves. A breathtakingly broad variety of other common goals and strivings — as examples, the desires to be healthy, to be loved, to succeed at work, to raise children, to serve one’s religion or country — can be subsumed under either or both of those broad wishes. The present article addresses the relationship between the two. Although undoubtedly happiness and a meaningful life have substantial overlap, our focus is on the differences. More precisely, we shall develop theory and provide data about what factors differentially predict happiness and meaningfulness.

Positive psychology took off in the 1990s as a corrective to psychology’s heavy emphasis on illness, suffering, and misfortune. It sought to enrich human life and enhance human functioning. The study of happiness has received a tremendous boost from the advent of positive psychology. Research on what makes life meaningful has increased as well, but perhaps not nearly as much. This special issue of the journal may be a useful corrective in that it undertakes to call the attention of positive psychologists (and other interested researchers) to issues of meaning and meaningfulness. The present investigation was intended partly to clarify some key differences between happiness and meaningfulness.

We shall argue that although happiness and meaning are important features of a desirable life and indeed are interrelated, they have different roots and implications (MacGregor & Little, 1998). Happiness may be rooted in having one’s needs and desires satisfied, including being largely free from unpleasant events. Meaningfulness may be considerably more complex than happiness, because it requires interpretive construction of circumstances across time according to abstract values and other culturally mediated ideas.”

I deeply appreciate an integrated middle ground between the all-too-frequent pathologizing in modern psychology and a common superficial view in both research and everyday life of happiness as in essence simply pleasant emotional states.  This research seems to get at the heart of integrating our understanding of the interplay between “positive” emotional experience and the genuinely difficult search for experiencing meaning amidst the hardness in life.  Such an understanding seems critical to a more holistic view of happiness, fuller of our best shot at living amidst ultimate realities (objective realities?) than the surreal view of happiness potentially, perhaps even ideally, disconnected from and unmediated by objective reality, i.e., happiness as a purely subjective state.

In defining happiness:

“Happiness is generally defined as subjective well-being, which is to say, an experiential state that contains a globally positive affective tone. It may be narrowly or broadly focused: A person may claim to be happy to have found a lost shoe, happy that the war is over, or happy to be having a good life. Researchers have conceptualized and measured happiness in at least two quite different ways. One is affect balance, indicating having more pleasant than unpleasant emotional states, and is thus essentially an aggregate of how one feels at different moments. The other, life satisfaction, goes beyond momentary feelings to invoke an integrative, evaluative assessment of one’s life as a whole.

Meaning can be a purely symbolic or linguistic reality, as in the meaning of a word. The question of life’s meaning thus applies symbolic ideas to a biological reality. Meaningfulness is presumably both a cognitive and an emotional assessment of whether one’s life has purpose and value. People may feel that life is meaningful if they find it consistently rewarding in some way, even if they cannot articulate just what it all means. Our focus is on meaningfulness and the meaning of life.

Operationally, we let participants in our studies define happiness and a meaningful life in whatever way they chose, rather than imposing specific definitions on them. We also assumed (and found) that the two overlap substantially…In particular, it should be possible to have a highly meaningful life that is not necessarily a happy one (e.g., as religious missionary, political activist, or terrorist).”

These researchers anchor their theory of happiness to the idea that happiness is natural and meaning is cultural.  Of course, these two constructs overlap and interrelate.  How they are related was the purpose of their research.

“We assume the simpler form of happiness (i.e., affect balance rather than life satisfaction), at least, is rooted in nature. All living creatures have biological needs, which consist of things they must obtain from their environment in order to survive and reproduce. Among creatures with brains and central nervous systems, these basic motivations impel them to pursue and enjoy those needed things, and the satisfaction of those needs generally produces positive feeling states. Conversely, negative feelings arise when those needs are thwarted. Hence affect balance depends to some degree on whether basic needs are being satisfied. Possibly life satisfaction too could be swayed by whether, in general, one is getting the things one wants and needs. Human beings are animals, and their global happiness therefore may depend on whether they generally get what they want and need.

If happiness is natural, meaningfulness may depend on culture. All known cultures use language, which enables them to use meanings and communicate them. There is a large set of concepts underlying language, and these concepts are embedded in interconnected networks of meaning. These are built up over many generations, and each new person comes to learn most of these meanings from the group. Appraising the meaningfulness of one’s life thus uses culturally transmitted symbols (via language) to evaluate one’s life in relation to purposes, values, and other meanings that also are mostly learned from the culture. Meaning is thus more linked to one’s cultural identity than is happiness.

Although this special issue is devoted to “personal meaning,” meaning itself is not personal but rather cultural. It is like a large map or web, gradually filled in by the cooperative work of countless generations. An individual’s meaningfulness may be a personally relevant section of that giant, culturally created and culturally transmitted map.

One crucial advantage of meaning is that it is not limited to the immediately present stimulus environment. Meaningful thought allows people to think about past, future, and spatially distant realities (and indeed even possibilities). Related to that, meaning can integrate events across time. Purpose, one important component of meaningfulness, entails that present events draw meaning from future ones. The examples listed above of meaningful but not happy lives (e.g., oppressed political activist) all involve working toward some future goal or outcome, such that the future outcome is highly desirable even though the present activities may be unpleasant. Meaningfulness may therefore often involve understanding one’s life beyond the here and now, integrating future and past. In contrast, happiness, as a subjective feeling state, exists essentially in the present moment. At most, happiness in the form of life satisfaction may integrate some degree of the past into the present — but even so, it evaluates the past from the point of view of the present. Most people would probably not report high life satisfaction on the basis of having had a good past but while being currently miserable.

Consistent with that view that meaning integrates across time, Vallacher and Wegner (1985, 1987) found that higher levels of meaning were consistently marked by longer time frames. As people shifted toward more concrete and less meaningful ways of thinking about their actions, they became more focused on the here and now. Thus, a wedding can be described both as “making a lifelong commitment to love” and as “saying some words in a church.” The former invokes a longer time span and is more meaningful than the latter.

Indeed, Baumeister (1991) observed that life is in constant change but strives for stability, and meaning is an important tool for imposing stability on the flux of life. For example, the feelings and behaviors that two mates have toward each other will fluctuate from day to day, sometimes even momentarily, but culturally mandated meanings such as marriage define the relationship as something constant and stable. (And marriage does in fact help to stabilize relationships, such as by making it more difficult for the partners to dissolve the relationship.) Such ongoing involvements undoubtedly contribute to the degree of meaningfulness a life has. Put another way, the pursuit of goals and fulfillments through ongoing involvements and activities that are interlinked but spread across time may be central to meaningfulness.

Again, we assume there is substantial overlap between meaningfulness and happiness. Humans are social beings, and participation in social groups is a vital means by which people satisfy their basic needs in order to survive and reproduce. Hence interpersonal involvement, among other things, is surely vital for both meaning and happiness. We do not intend to dwell on such things as interpersonal belongingness, because our focus is on the differences between meaningfulness and happiness, but we acknowledge their importance. Although both happiness and meaningfulness may involve interpersonal connection, they may differ in how one relates to others. Insofar as happiness is about having one’s needs satisfied, interpersonal involvements that benefit the self should improve happiness. In contrast, meaningfulness may come instead from making positive contributions to other people.

Although needs can be satisfied in a selfish fashion, the expression and development of selfhood tends to invoke symbolic relations and is therefore more a matter of meaning than happiness. MacGregor and Little (1998) found that the meaningfulness of individuals’ personal projects depended on how consistent they were with core aspects of self and identity. Many animals have the same basic needs as humans, but the human self is far more elaborate and complex than what other animals exhibit. Part of the reason is that the human self is created and structured on the basis of the cultural system (see Baumeister, 2011). On that basis, we predicted that selfhood would have different relationships to happiness and meaningfulness. Happiness would mainly be linked to whether the self’s needs are being satisfied. Meaningfulness would be far more broadly related to what activities express and reflect the symbolic self, some of which would involve contributing to the welfare of others (individually or in general) or other culturally valued activities.”

In more simple term, culture is what separates humans from other animals.  Much pre-existing happiness research focused too closely on the animal (natural) aspects of humans and not adequately accounting for meaning (cultural) aspects.  I can’t help but notice that modern science, with its mechanistic models, often leaves the heart and soul — meaning — of humanity unasccounted for, and therefore devalued.

To conclude and integrate these happiness researchers’ findings:

“Meaningfulness and happiness are positively correlated, so they have much in common. Many factors, such as feeling connected to others, feeling productive, and not being alone or bored contribute similarly to both. Yet the two are distinct, and the focus of this investigation has been to identify the major differences in correlates of happiness (corrected for meaning) and meaningfulness (corrected for happiness). Correcting highly correlated variables for each other can reverse effects, which may contribute to some inconsistency in the literature. Future research should distinguish happiness from meaningfulness, because many ostensible contributors to happiness are in fact mainly associated with meaning and have little or no direct contribution to happiness except by way of increasing meaning. For example, helping others may actually increase happiness because it increases meaningfulness, which in turn contributes to happiness, but when we corrected for the effect on meaningfulness, the pure effect of helping others was if anything the opposite: a reduced level of happiness.

Our findings suggest that happiness is mainly about getting what one wants and needs, including from other people or even just by using money. In contrast, meaningfulness was linked to doing things that express and reflect the self, and in particular to doing positive things for others. Meaningful involvements increase one’s stress, worries, arguments, and anxiety, which reduce happiness. (Spending money to get things went with happiness, but managing money was linked to meaningfulness.) Happiness went with being a taker more than a giver, while meaningfulness was associated with being a giver more than a taker. Whereas happiness was focused on feeling good in the present, meaningfulness integrated past, present, and future, and it sometimes meant feeling bad. Past misfortunes reduce present happiness, but they are linked to higher meaningfulness — perhaps because people cope with them by finding meaning.

The Highly Meaningful But Unhappy Life

Our data enable us to construct a statistical portrait of a life that is highly meaningful but relatively low in happiness, which illuminates the differences between happiness and meaningfulness. This sort of life has received relatively little attention and even less respect. But people who sacrifice their personal pleasures in order to participate constructively in society may make substantial contributions. Cultivating and encouraging such people despite their unhappiness could be a goal worthy of positive psychology.

Our findings depict the unhappy but meaningful life as seriously involved in difficult undertakings. It was marked by ample worry, stress, argument, and anxiety. People with such lives spend much time thinking about past and future: They expect to do a lot of deep thinking, they imagine future events, and they reflect on past struggles and challenges. They perceive themselves as having had more unpleasant experiences than others, and in fact 3% of having a meaningful life was due to having had bad things happen to you.

Although these individuals may be relatively unhappy, several signs suggest they could make positive contributions to society. High meaningfulness despite low happiness was associated with being a giver rather than a taker. These people were likely to say that taking care of children reflected them, as did buying gifts for others. Such people may self-regulate well, as indicated by their reflecting on past struggles and imagining the future, and also in their tendency to reward themselves.

One can also use our findings to depict the highly happy but relatively meaningless life. People with such lives seem rather carefree, lacking in worries and anxieties. If they argue, they do not feel that arguing reflects them. Interpersonally, they are takers rather than givers, and they give little thought to past and future. These patterns suggest that happiness without meaning characterizes a relatively shallow, self-absorbed or even selfish life, in which things go well, needs and desires are easily satisfied, and difficult or taxing entanglements are avoided.”

I am so delighted, even happy, that I stumbled across this happiness research.  May the deepest harmonies of nature and human culture conspire to bring about profound happiness for us all.

Human Rights are Universal and Inalienable, Interdependent and Indivisible, Equal and Nondiscriminatory

Human Rights Are Not Optional POLITICAL BUTTONHuman rights are inherent to all human beings. PERIOD.

Human rights are universal and inalienable, meaning that such rights cannot be taken away based on what people do.  Human rights are interdependent and indivisible, meaning that they work together as a whole, where the deprivation of anyone’s human right deprives us all, and the enhancement of anyone’s human rights enhances us all.  Human rights are equal and nondiscriminatory, meaning that they apply equally regardless of whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, gender, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status.  Finally, human rights give rise to a fundamental responsibility to protect and promote human rights both for humans and their governments.

Globalize THIS - HUMAN RIGHTS [earth graphic] POLITICAL BUTTONIn 1948, the United Nations passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The declaration had been drafted by representatives from around the world, coming from many different legal and cultural perspectives.  Since then, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has set the world record for the document translated into the most languages: 477.

The declaration has stood up quite well across its eight decades spanning two millennia, though I would better incorporate LGBTQ rights and change the document’s pronouns to gender neutral.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Preamble

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

Article 1.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3.

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4.

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5.

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6.

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7.

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8.

Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10.

Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 11.

(1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
(2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

Article 12.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 13.

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 14.

(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 15.

(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Article 16.

(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Article 17.

(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Article 18.

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19.

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 20.

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Article 21.

(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Article 22.

Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 23.

(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 24.

Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 25.

(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 26.

(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Article 27.

(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

Article 28.

Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

Article 29.

(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
(3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 30.

Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

Human Rights NOW POLITICAL BUTTONMay we each individually and collectively cherish our human rights as the foundation from which our humanity is ever more fully manifest.  One humanity.  One planet.  One love.

POEM: Awe Due Consideration

What is good
A bout religion
At best
There is little to say
Giving a fare hearing
More about listening
Too small
Still voices
Respecting only what due
Saving
A few choice words
For those empower
Occupying humanity
Only in sow far
As won for all
Quiet an undertaking
As ambitious silence
And ponderous a void
That vulnerable space
And venerable pace
Between word and deed
Owned by awe
Wear know thinking
Aloud
For awe to consider

This poem is about the confounding truth that the universe of truth is quiet literally beyond words.  Words are representations, symbols of something else, which may allow us to think about something but often are poor vehicles for bringing about the direct experience to which we are referencing.  Even mathematics, considered the purist science, is mirrorly a representation of truth, not truth itself.  Even if a unified theory of mathematics and physics is elucidated, this will give mournfully flimsy assurance in the quest for an enlightened humanity and moral living in everyday life. Perhaps the most grave bias in postmodern existence is mistaking words and science, even the most erudite collections of words and symbols referred to as ideologies, theologies, or bodies of scientific knowledge, as the living truth.  I consider the most profound truths as existing directly through experience, not the recounting of experience or observations.  This is why I consider consciousness as the most fundamental aspect of reality/existence.  I won’t elaborate on that, hear.  It is no accident that I am drawn to poetry in the Siren’s song of the whirled’s parent chaos, and reverent silence in the muse’s presents.  He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words --Elbert Hubbard quote SPIRITUAL BUTTONI save irreverence for my words.  I prefer the metaphor as a vehicle for reflecting upon truth because it has the humble recognition that what it is trying to say is quite literally not what it is literally saying.  This poem picks on religion first and foremost, perhaps paradoxically, because its grand task is most poorly suited for words.  The phase, “shut the hell up,” comes to mine.  I am a big fan of St. Francis’ proposition, “Preach the Gospel at all times; if necessary, use words.”  This is close kin to my favorite proposition of Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  Both of these quotes lift up action compared to fancy erudition.  Both seek integral and centered being as the pivotal place and space for right action.  St. Francis recognized that speaking, languages of symbols, is a grand gift of humans, but that in many circumstances, a moral economy imbues greater value with scarcity.  While, awe things considered, silence may be the language of God, the awesome need to share our experiences with one another bids us to dare speak, to dare improve upon silence.

POEM: More Than Just, A Tinkle In The Pants

Sum people say
Show me the money
Only taking
That folding
Money
Maid of paper
Illegal to ink for won self
You’re money or you’re life
Weather helled up
Or razing heaven
Our soles speak
As bodies of evidence
And life stiles of the rich and famous
Calling out
Be the change
Beholden to common cents
More than just
A tinkle in the pants
Pissing off the powers that be

In my book, any poem that can incorporate wetting won’s pants and pissing off the powers that be can’t be all bad.  This poem taps perhaps the most fundamental divide in moral life: do we serve God or mammon, the worldly powers, the powers that be.  In this poem, I don’t mention God per se, but instead referred to “you’re life.”  I’ll give a tip of the hat to those uncomfortable with any notion of God.  “Life” or “love” is a synonym-spiced confection more palatable to some.

In this crazy postmodern milieu that we live in, the revered field of of science, with its deep commitment to smoking out causality, has mysteriously led to widespread convictions of randomness.  This perhaps began its accelerative phase with the genius of Darwin pinning his monumental theory of evolution to the notion of randomness.  Concrete evidence has proven the theory of evolution as a powerful scientific tool for accounting for the origin of species.  Of course, explaining things backwards is much easier than predicting the nature of future evolution, other than predicting that we will evolve in some random (sic) way.  Randomness is a notion at least as resistant to a coherent cosmology and worldview as the notion of God.  More troubling, randomness, that which has neither antecedent or predictability/causality is exactly the mythology that science is designed to debunk.  While inserting a “miracle” that cannot be measured by science by either observation or in principle may be irresistible if you can convince others to go along with it, but it is not science.  Randomness is no more a scientific principle than God.  Randomness is not a scientific principle — as God is not.  This facet of the philosophy of science can only be ignored at our own peril.  Quite telling, the field of mathematics has failed to identify any form of mathematics that gives adequate support for the unproven assertion of randomness.  Randomness can rightly be pursued as a hypothesis within metaphysics, the realm in which God is explored.  Still, randomness strikes me as antimatter in the matter of coherency.  We do know that any complete coherence MUST contain more true statements than ANY possible logical system can contain within itself.  This is a space that is in principle incompletely accessible by science and mathematics.  This is a space big enough and unknown enough for God and free will to reside or originate.  Is such a neighborhood the zip code for randomness?  At best, it can not be proven by science or mathematics.

Here is a little more on Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem, the mathematical proof under-girding such thoughts:

“In 1931, the Czech-born mathematician Kurt Gödel demonstrated that within any given branch of mathematics, there would always be some propositions that couldn’t be proven either true or false using the rules and axioms… of that mathematical branch itself. You might be able to prove every conceivable statement about numbers within a system by going outside the system in order to come up with new rules and axioms, but by doing so you’ll only create a larger system with its own unprovable statements. The implication is that all logical system of any complexity are, by definition, incomplete; each of them contains, at any given time, more true statements than it can possibly prove according to its own defining set of rules.

Moving to a cultural level, the affection for randomness has brought us to an infection with randomness in everyday life, reflecting both some nihilistic sense of life and sense of humor: “That was so random.”  Our sense of life and humor has been moving from being centered in an elegantly interconnected system to a severed existence plagued by events “coming out of nowhere” — the antithesis of both scientific and religious worldviews.  Is it any wonder that we are possessed by notions of a zombie apocalypse, a world populated by those who are both dead and alive — or is that neither dead nor alive?

I think that Bob Dylan may have stated it about as bluntly and poetically as anyone, in his song, Gotta Serve Somebody (full lyrics below).  “It may be the devil or it may be the Lord/But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”  Of course, the popularity of the devil or the Lord seems to be in decline.  So, for many, the love triangle between self, neighbor, and the mystery of mysteries is reduced to self and neighbor — and perhaps nature (creation).

Well enough, such truth is still great enough to fill many lifetimes. Wee fight for one another to a void being reduced to a mirror monetizable entity.  Most have a palpable sense of what money is, what worldly power looks like, and the rules into which it invites us into its service.  And still, what is the opposite of serving money?  Is serving money just a vain vocation for the terminally unimaginative?  Perhaps the opposite of serving money involves living a life free of attachments to material security or cultural status.  Whatever there is in life that money cannot buy, I see as that which is truly valuable — able to bring a present with authentic integrity and a future that cannot be bought, only given to one another.

To me, money seems to be one of the least interesting things in life.  Personally, I am in wonder at both the abundant curiosities present in scientific discoveries to date and beyond any imagined horizon AND the mysteries of the heart, my own and others, which inspire countless souls to risk life for more life, and to go where no mere scientist dares.  Can we serve awe and give that which can only be proven to exist by giving it.  Life and love awe weighs fine a way. Serve it up!

Gotta Serve Somebody (by Bob Dylan)

You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
Indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You might be a rock ‘n’ roll addict prancing on the stage
You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage
You may be a business man or some high-degree thief
They may call you doctor or they may call you chief

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes you are
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You may be a state trooper, you might be a young Turk
You may be the head of some big TV network
You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame
You may be living in another country under another name

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes you are
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You may be a construction worker working on a home
You may be living in a mansion or you might live in a dome
You might own guns and you might even own tanks
You might be somebody’s landlord, you might even own banks

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride
You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side
You may be workin’ in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair
You may be somebody’s mistress, may be somebody’s heir

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

Might like to wear cotton, might like to wear silk
Might like to drink whiskey, might like to drink milk
You might like to eat caviar, you might like to eat bread
You may be sleeping on the floor, sleeping in a king-sized bed

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
Indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You may call me Terry, you may call me Timmy
You may call me Bobby, you may call me Zimmy
You may call me R.J., you may call me Ray
You may call me anything but no matter what you say

Still, you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

POEM: A Blinding Faith

Hers was a blinding faith
Sow bright
That it often left her without peer
Few could fathom such countenance
As she left them smiles behind
A grate number are partial
To glean faint moonlight
Mirror dim reflections
Of their dreary world
Rather than stare into one such bright star
Of such undifferentiated light
In discriminate hope
From celestial furnaces
Most believe
Better to be leery
Anywhere near foreboding
Inclement whether
Shoes dropping
On roads paved with good intentions
Or easy devotion to cynical amasses
Having it made
In the shade
Or even to a void in certitude
More at home groping in the dark
Than by a blinding faith

This poem is an ode to faith.  Faith is metaphysical optimism, the blood that beats through wholehearted living.  Faith is only manifest in the mettle of life fully lived, put to the test.  Such a way of life is akin to the scientific method, but its subject is subjectivity, metaphysics, a life lived to discover or confirm how metaphysical optimism can transform living.  Bold testing is the natural course of faith.  Where and how far can faith take us?  Empirical skepticism, the fuel that powers the engine of science, is analogous to this bold testing.  Yet, scientists, who are subjects themselves, often project their own hubris onto subjective matters, leveling “spirituality” for putting forth bold — unfortunately, sometimes bald — faith assumptions for good living.  All the while, there is a nagging tendency to conveniently overlook that there is no such thing as an assumptionless philosophy, even by those subjects operating in scientific endeavors. Yep, as quantum physicists know awe to well, the experimenter changes the experimental results.  In “real world” terms this is simply recognizing that what questions we ask determine the answers.  We, subjects awe, deeply participate in whatever answers will come our way. Look for the answer inside your question --Rumi quote SPIRITUAL BUTTON I, for one, am much more fascinated by the questions of how we transform our lives through the science of living matters, than simply nailing down the science of dead matter, fixated on predictability and control.  Of course, nailing down stuff plagues the human condition in both scientific and metaphysical endeavors.  As Alfred, Lord Tennyson, wrote “There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds.”  The question still remains: in which half of the creeds does faith live?  This can only be tested and confirmed by personal discovery, in our living.  While there is a lot of truth in the truism that misery loves company, I would venture to say that passionate optimism is far more attractive than life-sucking cynicism.  This poem is intended to capture the reactions of living in the wake of bold metaphysical optimism, often through an irresistible pull to live fuller lives, and sometimes by shrinking into the seeming security of smaller certitudes.  May you find yourself putting your deepest faith to the test, and in this mettle may you discover many bright and beautiful alloys along the way.

Double Oh No: The Name’s Cadabra, Abra Cadabra

God’s
Name is knot
Abracadabra
Too be unloosed
Unwhirled
As owed man
Putting on
Some kind
Of spectacle
Who’s genesis
Giving
No quarter
To years
Behind
In a sense
Out right hostility
And udder a version
Sow called
Crater of the whirled
And awe wanting
Clear too see
Not a wood be casket
Drowning in a box
That must
Not hold water
As wee might reckon
Only too be
Delivered
In the final seeing
As figure out
By no means
Self evident
Pulling rabid
From won’s hat
Empty
Sored in passable caskets
Wee suspect
As a parent harms
As sure as there are no teeth
In taking
A bullet to the head
Wear the art
Matter’s not
And yet
Who is
The one
Cutting people in
Have
Awe that is given
Taking it
To the blank
As grater than
A loathe of bred
From nothing
Excepting freely
Wile rooting fore the nix
In a New York minute
As some goaled in goose egg
In disposed
Of whatever
Ladder day judge meant
Too due no wrung
As diff a cult
To under stand
As re-bounding
Back to the show
Is caping
Behind curtains
For the wrest of us
Only too be duped
In mere images
Peering real
Mirrorly a muse
Meant for inspiration
Knot too be swallowed
Hole in won
Or fish tails sow bred
Subject to
Dis tract
As divine accessory
And slight offhand
In vane miss direction
On the eve of knowledge
As simply a trick
Convinced one no’s
How it is
Done
Nothing
Too see
Hear
More than wee in vision
In blinding silence fallow
In a tacit urn hoarse
And yack knowledge
A bit fancy
Meager too please
As inn sufficient
Comforted buy con jury
In the worst kind
Of source err he
As if
Got hour
Back
To slots plain
As abettor
Be helled
No good
For make believe
When cloaked in daggers

This poem strikes a familiar theme of mine, the parent elusiveness of God and the unsophisticated ways of even daring to speak of such things from most any perspective brought to bear.  The dark side of religion has wreaked hellish trauma, bludgeoning both real people and tender hope for sublime understanding.  Militants, that is fundamentalists, from both theist and atheist perspectives routinely bash each other.  Religionists often infantalize atheists, and atheists are often eager to throw the baby out with the bathwater.   My guess is that if theists and atheists got together and compiled all of the gods they don’t believe in, that there would be a pantheon of common ground.  I view militancy, that is fundamentalism, as the primary divide, not theism and atheism.  There are plenty of poor intentions and chronic misunderstandings to go around.  As I see it, militancy bespeaks violence, that is a commitment to winning by creating losers, forever separated buy uncrossable divides in human life, terminally fighting over uncommon ground.  Fundamentalism of all types reduces perpetual paradoxes and the centrality of metaphorical ways of seeing the higher aspects of life to small-minded literalism stuck arguing facts rather than truth and stiff-hearted relationships valuing right ideology over harmonious community.  The siblings of truth and harmony, which are deep quests of theists and atheists, religion and science, or of anyone seeking to work out the seems of their worldview, knead less judgment and a sober patience unwilling to bury others in uncommon ground.

As in most conflicts, power and trust are the ultimate issues, or perhaps more to the point, abuses of power and trust.  Personally, I am increasingly convinced that absolute power absolutely corrupts.  Hell, I even believe God shares power in order to create a better overall world, that is not merely more benevolent and fair, but creates the very foundations for the highest human aspirations and shatters the ceiling of cosmological and worldly puppetry (and the inevitable puppet tiers).  I experience my most human living on a small-scale, in community, where direct accountability to one another breeds well proportioned living.  This brings humanity to power and builds trust seamlessly into the process.  Such human-scaled enterprises are far more sane, represented by the encouraging movements to local — not loco.  Large-scale enterprises are typically suited and tied in hubris, albeit the the finest hubris civilization can offer.  Only such large-scale undertakings can globalize insanity alongside the endemic learned helplessness paralyzed in the reality of “how did we get here?!”  In human community, power resides in people.  Power in human community requires consent.  Complicated — often called “civilized” — nonhuman mechanisms to consolidate power, typically under the auspices of creating “bigger and better” things, ultimately rely on people’s consent.  This often does succeed in producing bigger things; though the better part, our humanity, commensurately suffers in the accelerating smallness and relative unimportance of people in such enterprises.  Not surprisingly, people, not built for such inhumanity, become viewed as the problem, gumming up the efficient workings of the machine.  Depressingly sow, our views of human nature are then tempted to align with the misanthropic view that people are less important than things — see corporate personhood.  Withdraw consent and these nonhuman and inhuman structures and mechanism whither.  This speaks to the importance of protest and noncooperation/resistance to appointed authorities of all unkinds.  Opting out of institutional and corporate enterprises starves the beast and  frees up time and life energies for building alternative human communities.  Active noncooperation and resistance naturally arise as the dominant and dominating culture (sic) inevitably will clash with any growing culture (hopefully viral) that questions the sick assumptions and unearned trust of its immeasurable victims.  In such a project, Jesus radicals, atheist anarchists, and sordid kinds of others can find common ground, fertile for reclaiming our humanity in a whirled of profit tiers.  Let us not be distracted by our differences, but rather unite  in disavowing all things undermining the human heart.

POEM: Kindness 1.618 — Owed To The Goaled In Proportion

A parent
In the relationship
Between to be gotten
The larger to the smaller
The goaled in proportion
Amidst just us
Sum times christened
The divine proportion
And it doesn’t take
A mathematical genus
To divine its kind
Never the less
As if
Sum
Knew specious
And miss conceive
The gold in mean
Barren resemblance to
The sores of our being
An aesthetic
Of beauty
In nature
And human arts
Desserting know one
The hole slew
To gather as won
And when de-part
Leaving soully
Good will
That is
Grasping the incalculable
After math

This is a geek poem about the golden proportion, or golden ratio.   \frac{a+b}{a} = \frac{a}{b} \equiv \varphiIn mathematics, two quantities are in the golden ratio if their ratio is the same as the ratio of their sum to the larger of the two quantities. The Greek letter phi is used to signify this value of 1.618. The golden ration holds a special fascination in mathematics, architecture, and art.  The golden ratio is considered to represent beautiful proportion, often found in nature.

In this poem, the relationship between the larger to the smaller is defined beautifully by kindness.  In computer age parlance Kindness 1.618 — a soft wear if you will.  Social justice issues always involve power differentials, and hard ware is meaningless without soft wear.  Without kindness, social relationships will necessarily be trapped in perpetual struggle, with neither the larger or the smaller experiencing the beauty of peace.  Neither justice nor peace is a finely engineered and calculating existence.  Both justice and peace flourish in generosity and grace.  Oftentimes justice comes through those who have a steady experience of peace that creates sacred spaces enough for the hard work of justice to be performed without resentment, growing hurts. Living out of generosity creates conditions conducive to generosity.  Like produces like, sometimes.  Love produces love, eventually.  Though like is more of a product than love.  Love is the way.  Love loves love.  As life produces life, love produces love.  The seamless reciprocity of love perpetuates itself and invites others to participate in love.  There is necessarily always more room to grow and make the circle wider.  For another geeky poem on this theme, see Wading for Godel, and ode to Kurt Godel and his Incompleteness Theorem which mathematically proves that science, ideologies, and philosophy — that is, anything that is based on any set of propositions — is necessarily incomplete and there are always true propositions which always lie beyond the perspective of any given belief system.   Enough geekiness for one day?  You can always simplify.  As the Dalai Lama most succinctly summarized awe, “Kindness is my religion.”  May you find kindness often in your days, and if there is not kindness, perhaps you are the one to bring it.

POEM: More of the Sane

Going through life
Various docks said
You are just
Going through a phrase
And heeling
Wood be
Yores soon
Enough
Finally cured
Of awe
That is
Green
With envy
Of what might
Passably be
More of the sane

This poem is about the insanity of sanity.  This has less to do with the faults of the status quo — though they are myriad — than it does coming alive, infectiously alive, in a living world.  Security, in conventional wisdom, is sought through well-worn, predictable means.  Such security is based on a knowledge of order present in the world.  This is simply the triangulation of scientific facts, providing a coherent framework from which to navigate our lives. Yeah, go science!  Well, order is knot the whole of life.  Disorder is necessary for possibility, any veering from a determined course.  Order as the hole of life negates freedom, creation, and certainly most of the fun.  Of course, the point is not to create disorder, an abundance of that already exists, the point is to bring to life — that is, create — new order, more conducive and congruent with the higher and deeper orders present in creation.  This perpetual creation and recycling is sharing in the experience of what it’s like to be God, perhaps God’s greatest gift.  We are meant to play with creation, as God’s children, not be some play set for God or other humans to manipulate to their own — and our — constipated end.  Our creation is not a disorder that needs to be cured, it need only respect life by infectiously creating more life.  Such disorder is not a threat to the well-ordered physical world.  However, such disorder is a metaphysical dis-ease with existence being reduced and lived (sic) out in simply a mechanical weigh.  In truth, such disorder is a higher order that cannot be reduced to mere mechanics, lifting up the hood and fixing it.  Such disorder is the infectious need to sail life’s oceans.  Of course, this is vastly aided by abundant knowledge of shipbuilding, navigation, etc.  Even greater though, it requires a love of discovery, a love of the feel of the ocean’s wind and spray in your face, and the courage to risk the vagaries of the wild, the powerful, and the unknown.  While boldly and infectiously sailing life’s oceans may strike many as much less secure than, say, building ships for others, I strongly suspect that one of God’s deepest desires for us is to freely be the captains of our own lives.  However exquisitely we may craft tools for others, God does not desire that we simply be tools for others — that would deny God’s exquisite craftsmanship.  God is a crafty one, peering behind the veil of indeterminacy, which many consider a disorder itself.  This thorniness behind creation results in much anguish and pain, the inescapable fareness of a free life.  The thorny crown atop God’s craftiness is unparalleled, except perhaps among humans, made in God’s image, where an irrepressible willingness to pain the prize is billed in.  May your inborn desire to create be guided by an abiding respect for life and it’s infectious nature seeking know cure.

POEM: Liberal Mined Violent

Some liberal mined violent
Call up on pacifists
To condemn a brand of violence
To wit
They object
Ultimately subjected
To accost
Without benefit analysis
Coming efface to efface
With realty
And a sorted loved wons
Unwilling to accede where others have flailed
The brand they hide
Singularly fingered
Buy pacifists
Calling a tension two
A third weigh
Of the largesse possible
An unwelcome piece
When wanting more than have
Of everything fourth with
Ironying details
Ever beyond that which is a greed
How to saddle for less
Than being cowed
And truth be tolled
The violent
As a madder of practice
Get their weigh
A tempting feudal steer
Milking it for all a veil
In udder disbelief
As much as we can
Due better
Keeping nothing bottled up
Unleashing everything even remotely herd
Know longer listening
Too the artless
Like sum stock ticker
An engine only for the vain
Abase symbol for awe to hear
As the lover of awe kinds
Relinquishes the bully pulpit
In respect to those assembling
Not dissembling

Pacifists such as myself are sometimes called upon by those who are selectively violent to roundly and reliably condemn some violence that is repugnant to their preferred modes of violence.  PACIFIST - Someone With The Nutty Idea That Killing People Is Bad PEACE BUTTONThis convenient opportunism by “liberal mined” violent can hopefully serve as an opportunity for pacifist to draw connections and expose biased interests in enterprises that vainly wish to promote some kinds of violence and condemn other forms of violence, yet miraculously divorce means and ends and somehow produce a nonviolent state.  The situation that came to mind for me in this poem harkens back to the early 1980’s as a peacemongering student at Hope College.  I was asked by a conservative political science professor to serve as an expert witness in the campus’ mock United Nations proceedings.  Specifically, he was asking me to address violence by Palestinians against Israelis.  Much to his chagrin, I spoke about violence in the Israeli occupation of Palestine proportional to the violence present, that is, overwhelmingly committed by Israel and backed by the political and financial patronage of the United States.

Probably the largest complaint that apologists for violence have against pacifists is that they are “passivists,” complicit and enabling of injustices, specifically, and perhaps presumptuously, injustices that seem only solvable through violence, or at least the right “kind” of violence.  Complicity to violence and injustice is a profoundly true charge to both pacifists and apologists for violence.  Pacifism sets the bar high and regularly fails at fully fulfilling its high calling.  Feel free to contrast this limit of idealism (and its harms?) with the cynical acceptance (realism?) that killing others is necessary for justice (usually just us). If the notion and practice of necessary evil doesn’t make your head explode, it will quite assuredly shrink your heart, particularly if aspiring to follow a God of love.  I see Gandhi’s simple taxonomy of roles in the necessarily epic struggles for justice as insightful. Gandhi spoke of nonviolent “warriors,” violent warriors, and cowards.  I'm not a pacifist. I'm not that brave. Phil Donahue quote PEACE BUTTONHe saw these ordered in terms of moral achievement; the pacifist activist, then soldiers, and lastly, cowards. Of course, poorly performing pacifists can fall into the pit of fear and cowardice, unsuccessfully bridging the gap between talking the talk and walking the walk.  Soldiers have an inherent advantage in that a significant proportion can be expected to face death in combat situations.  This engenders a palpable sense of courage for facing such situations, whether, in fact, these situations are just or not.  Willingly facing being killed or severely harmed is the definition of courage. We can learn a lot from soldiers (not the least of which is that the most vehement anti-war activists are often veterans of military combat, sometimes simply slaughter). Courage is commendable.  Having skin in the game is the necessary good.  Any pacifist worth their salt will embody courage and skin in the game.  Evil, and its even uglier companion, necessary evil, can only thrive amidst cowardice and not having skin in the game.  Without courage, cowardice will rule the day (and night).  Without skin in the game, the privileged will continue to keep their foot on the neck of the disenfranchised, usually through a complex system of subcontracting not requiring their actual foot to do the dirty work.  A cowardly, distracted and narcotized public will earn an assist in maintaining their somewhat more advantageous state in the hierarchy of privilege and disenfranchisement.

Of course, the difference between a pacifist and a soldier is not the willingness to die for a cause, but the (un)willingness to kill for a cause.  The willingness to kill is the preeminent prerequisite of a soldier.  Object of War Not to Die for Your Country But Make Other Bastard Die for His -- General George Patton ANTI-WAR QUOTE BUTTONIn regard to willingly dying and willingly killing, perhaps the infamous WWII General George Patton said it best, “The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.”  Further, in the calculus of soldiering, we must remember that in modern times (the last 100+ years), military combat has frighteningly consistently killed over ten noncombatants/civilians for every soldier killed.  By what stretch of imagination do “realists” consider this courageous and honorable?  The cowardice inherent in the proposition of necessary evil is the root of much evil in this world.  The fantasy of necessary evil is nothing short of an abnegation of responsibility, an idol worship of something other than the free will and moral agency of which we are endowed.

As a spiritual practice, I find pacifism, ruling out the killing of others, as a profoundly creative practice.  You may be surprised at the depths of creativity accessible by dispatching the human perversion called necessary evil and the barbaric practice of killing others.  Without presupposing limits on human goodness, you can unleash new experiments, pioneer new ground (sometimes observed as common ground), raise the heights to which humans may aspire, and make the world friendlier to love.  Nonviolence is Organized Love -- Joan Baez PEACE QUOTEAs Joan Baez so elegantly and succinctly said, “That’s all nonviolence is — organized love.”  Of course, my paraphrase would be: nonviolence is just, organized love…

 

POEM: Paying In Attention – Owed To Mind Fullness

I under stand
You are on
Some kind of in
Stall meant plan
As long
As you still
Pay attention
In do time
I’ll pay for such in deference
Hopefully not the final time
Having been
Pre-disposed
In the passed
And per severe
Beyond just us
And awe claims
Sow gossamer a ledge
Holy prone
Sacred out of my wits
With that owed time religion
Bard none
U of life
Won
As in daze of your
Still
In the hear and now
As I right
A tone
Sublime volume
For all too here
It is
My willing
As well
For give
The ineffable scene
Wear knot all is destined
And only that be
Which under stood
Hear after
That awe in life
Sir passing the grave
Life meeting its maker
Coming a cross
In attention
Out pacing
Thought fullness
Fated to outstrip
Getting just desserts
And given
The wrest is history
To whatever extant
I am
Sow
Inclined
End lessly
App’ed
Too think
For what is mind
For what is yores
In-during-ly
A where-ness
Bequeathing real eyes

This poem is about mindfulness.  This poem is about acceptance, seeing things as they truly are, with a minimum of preconceived notions.  This poem is about intimacy, vulnerability, living openly and freely in a whirled that often runs one over unconsciously, even at the hands of those with good intents.  More specifically, this poem is informed and inspired by my experiences over recent months as a regular bicyclist, since I became car-less.  It has dawned on me that riding my bike amidst distracted and unaware drivers of huge masses of metal, glass, and plastic — formerly known as cars — is a powerful metaphor for my worldview.  Even if highly aware, the power differential possessed by unaware car drivers reliably results in them imposing the cost of their lack of awareness on those less powerful; in this case, a biker.  They are insulated from the feedback, the costs, of their own mindlessness.  I see such mindless, abusive power differentials wreaking havoc on our world most anywhere I look. Only Thing Necessary for Triumph of Evil is for Good Men to do Nothing -- Edmund Burke quote At best, these mindless abuses of privilege (privilege as being on the stronger side of a power differential) are maladaptive.  At worst, these mindless abuses of privilege are the foundation upon which evil can successfully manipulate the unconscious aspects of humanity to its own ends.  In regard to intimacy, I would say that in the car-bicyclist relationship the car-driver represents the antithesis of vulnerability, literally protected by a huge wall of metal, glass, and plastic.  To which the bicyclist offers their bare skin and an oft-ill-fitting plastic helmet for one’s consciousness-bearing noggin.  You can draw your own particular picture of the implications of this larger dynamic played out in our social and political life together.  In the world of urban cycling, let it suffice to say that good intent is not sufficient.  Most drivers who violate your legal right-of-way are palpably repentant after they realize what they have done.  I take great pride in offering my existence as a biker to drivers to help them learn about the existence of other people who are made vulnerable by their mindlessness.  Still, it is I who pays the greater price for this potential evolutionary relationship.  Thus, this poem.

If I am to be run over and killed by a mindless driver, please read this poem at my funeral, and offer this poem to the manslaughterer.  Similarly, I offer myself up in the path of mindless (and mindful) political forces, in hopes of expanding humanity’s potential for evolution.  If I should be run over and killed by some overtly political force, I am sure their are plenty of my other poems appropriate to be read at my memorial.  In any case, wish me luck — if you believe in such things.

I view consciousness, or mindfulness, as the primary force and indicator of human evolution.  I view most of the bad things in this world as a byproduct of a mindfulness deficiency.  Quantitatively, having no one at the wheel allows many, many bad things to happen.  Qualitatively, having people who are aware of their destructive choices and yet still choose them — one definition of sin — is a scary situation because mindfulness alone is insufficient for self-correction.  This is an active disease of the will.  Still, the passivity of the will, of active mindfulness, carries most of the day in most of our everyday lives.  I see that our lives are lived for us, as passive beings, to a larger degree than we live our lives consciously, mindfully.  The epic showdowns between conscious evil and conscious good make for great, even necessary, storytelling, but does not reflect the less sexy, more mundane bulk of our own struggles for increasing consciousness, the prerequisite for any life truly lived.

In the order of consciousness, self-awareness is a prerequisite for any fruitful other-awareness.  Without self-awareness, we will be mired in unending unconscious, biased projections of our self onto the world of other people and things that make up our shared reality.  My love of science is congruent with a desire to have an accurate understanding of our shared reality.  Still, science falls disturbingly silent in addressing one’s inner life, and the ultimate, inescapable assumptions or projections onto other people.  My working assumptions, based on my experience of my own inner life, is that people want to be accepted for who they are, positively appreciated, and want to contribute to a better world, our shared reality.  I willingly project empathy and lovingkindness into the world, in hopes of a better world for all of us.  If this is not what you want, feel free to let me know.    	 Better To be Slapped With The Truth Than Kissed With A Lie -- Russian ProverbIf I stray from these working assumptions, feel free to gently remind me of my deepest commitments.  If I stand clearly apart from these working assumptions, feel free to tell me like it is in no uncertain terms.  As the Russian proverb goes: “Better to be slapped with the truth than kissed with a lie.”

 

 

POEM: Succor Punch: Owed to Water

Water is
Liquid liveliness
On the surface
So abundant
Yet its unique
Properties for gotten
Pre-sumptuously owin’
The establishment
Of hour get-up and go
Taken
For granite
In difference to animating schemas
And listless graces
Making passable
Setting in motion
The commencement of
Every unfinished sentience
In ungraduated wisdom
Wading fore
A singularly strange sappiness
Perfectly suited too
The fluidity of life
A veritable firmament
Unearth
Melting arts
Unequalled
In the eyes sickle
Of all that is mined
And how to trust awe that won thaw
And whose falter
A mist
Viscous rumors
Holding heat
And reflecting lightly
Upon a painful temp
Such is life
Nigh and lo
Knot becoming
More dense
When faced with extreme code
Mysteriously arising
Unfathom-ably
Too lie on the surface
An enigmatic float
In a provocative parade
Of ineluctable chemistry
Dis solving orthodoxy
Putting a damper on bottom-feeding doctrines
And brown-nosing pax
Getting over simplifications
For what we moist dew
To reach
The molting point
A decidedly impossible sublimation
From solid to ethereal
Buy passing juicy rationalizations
To eternal quest in
So wet behind the years
De-man-ing an evolution
From unsurvivable fits
And try cycles
Spoke like a child
Turning around
Agin and agin
In a dizzying dis play
A baby threw out
With the bathwater
To except that
God reigns
On the just and unjust
As many will refuse
To fall
For such
A succor punch
A luscious liquidity
In which offed times
Wee can’t seam to a fiord

This poem is an ode to water.  Water is one of the most familiar substances on earth, covering approximately 3/4 of the earth’s surface.  Yet, water, one of the most chemically simple compounds, behaves very strangely, differently than predicted from its chemical structure.  Water doesn’t behave like other fluids; in fact, compared to similarly sized molecules, water should be a gas at room temperature.  Water, unlike most liquids, gets less dense when it freezes, causing it to float.  Water is sometimes referred to as the universal solvent because such a wide variety of compounds are able to dissolve in it and it is the most common chemical solvent on the planet.  The presence of these and other mysterious characteristics of water make life possible on earth.

As a scientist and a poet, I find water is a powerful metaphor for the mysteries and nature of life.  How is it that such a common, even mundane, substance incarnate such an incalculably improbable set of chemical characteristics that makes life possible?  Through science, humans have made incredible discoveries about how our universe works.  Still, scientists must stand silent in answering how life originated, or why life exists.  Life exists; this we know.  Answering why life exists transcends science.  Scientist are often like fish in a sea of meaning who are not simply blind to meaning but must willfully and ideologically ignore its claim on them; this is popularly called being objective.

In Buddhist tradition, creation stories are not considered that important because they consider how we got into our problems as much less important than how we get out of them.  This seems to be a very practical approach, if perhaps a little incurious.  Scientists share this practicality.  Nonetheless, nothing is even a problem unless we are functioning in a world infused with meaning.  Where does meaning come from?  This strikes me as essentially the same question as where does life come from.  Buddhism incorporates meaning into its practices based on the direct observation of mind, where there is thousands of years of agreed upon coherency forming the tradition, of which participants are invited to confirm for themselves.  While many of the truths of Buddhism have been confirmed by science, the defining truths related to meaning can only be confirmed (or denied) though direct personal experience.  Such “facts” lie outside the purview of science.

Science helps us accurately define the if-then conditions of the world — if this happens, then that will follow.  Strangely though, as fish in a sea of ifs, scientist cannot or will not see that the defining nature of humans rests in choosing one course of action over another, which resides in a world of meaning, something/somewhere transcendent of the causal chain of events that science works to describe.  If remains an eternal hypothesis which science cannot test.  Scientists can study Buddhists, but they can’t study Buddhism with science — at least not the reductionistic science favored in Western cultures.  The practicality shared by Buddhism and science is a commitment to rigorous observation.  Buddhism points its rigorous observation to inner as well as outer life.  Science limits itself to the outer world; the inner world is off-limits.  The inner world of meaning and choice is willfully ignored, sometimes simply assumed to be irrelevant, or worse yet, denied to even exist.  The inner world may be mysterious and elusive, but its secrets are definitely much less likely to experienced if one isn’t even looking there.

Philosophical ponderings and panderings aside, contentions between religion and science, physics and metaphysics, lie in misunderstandings in each respective realm of inquiry.  We are served by scientific literacy and its delineation of many useful facts.  We are served by fluency in our inner life and exploring the humanity of others.  And still, the realm of meaning begs our attention and intention: who, or what, shall you serve?

 

 

 

 

POEM: Ebola US Over

Ebola US over
When fear metes science
When we no what too due
Still, rabidly executing our will
As wee act in sanity
Cheap as rationed rationality
Upscale absurdity
As some fret butler
Frankly red-faced, not giving a damn
As long as they are on the winning genocide
As good as dread
Only wont
Too feel safe
Feverishly incubating terrors
In the timed, spaced continuum
Of the perpetual see of terminable daze
Enduring weaks
Of what dismay
Or may knot
Deliver us
Into harm’s weigh
Stamping out indignantly
Aversion of reality
We cannot except
Fomenting in a culture
Fixed on negative results
Mirrorly symptoms apprehended
Temperatures rising
Going viral
As the unexplained hemorrhages
Everything alarmingly scene
As through
A prism of fear
For which there is no anti-dote
Forever catching
US on the flip side
Little escaping what is in
Our nature
Passing
On that sore option
Liquefying our cells
Or seizing only
That which is key
To the beginning of our end
In courage unbolting
And open fortitude
That other wise will
To our enemies heel
Yet for all won knows
Bolus over with a feather
Joining farces with that gag reel
Fore what bitter medicine than that
Given the bird
That can’t swallow
Or a flee
In deed doggedly drug
A collar
Not worthy a copper or gumshoe
So give it a rest

I wrote this poem a while back, just after the first Ebola case showed up in the United States.  I have training and experience in public health, and I worked in the 1990’s in combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  Communicating risk accurately is difficult, particularly in an environment of fear and histrionics. Also, it doesn’t help that the scientific literacy level of the American public is disabling in this matter.  As a scientist and poet, I hope that this poem offers some insight into such conundrums.

Fear and ignorance are a lethal combination, and they have a nefarious synergy with infectious disease outbreaks.  Ignorance often leads to a dangerous undervaluing of prevention early in an epidemic.  Then, when the epidemic becomes visible, closer to home, fear often demands actions that are often useless or counterproductive.  If confusion prevails amidst a population, infectious disease can flourish, as energies are squandered on off-mark enterprises and scientifically-validated methods are not sufficiently adhered to, often because of ignorance and suspicion, even if plenty of fear and concern is present as a motivator.

The Ebola virus is particularly lethal, yet it is not easily transmissible nor transmissible in people without easily-identified symptoms (though not necessarily Ebola-specific symptoms).  The chains of Ebola transmission can be broken.  We need to persistently apply our abundant knowledge about Ebola, with a measure of courage, to defeat it.  If our unfounded fears overwhelm our capacity to address Ebola in a rational manner, then the legitimate fear that Ebola poses us will become unnecessarily magnified into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

May we drum up the courage and resolve to fight Ebola based on what we know well rather than that which is uncertain and subject to fear-mongering.