I am sitting in the shadows of Mt. Mansfield, in Stowe, Vermont, waiting for my son to wake up. We're going to a sweat lodge in Weybridge, Vermont, that we built last weekend. This will be the second time this lodge has been used. We'll leave at 0930, so I better wake him up at 0900. It's 0830 now.
I just finished three intensive retreats (one partial week), the other two, a week, and more than a week. I wanted to talk about the power of community for healing, the way that we have so much more power for healing. When we had three people together it was more than twice as powerful as two people. Five people were even more powerful. We forget that in conventional medicine when we try to keep people alone in little rooms with us.
I wondered about the kind of world we would have if medicine were more like intensive retreats than it is. We would need to make a big shift in how we think about illness and practice medicine. Current medical practice is primarily aimed at doing whatever it takes, mostly with drugs and surgery, to create a physiological state in which we can’t see physical evidence of disease and the person stops complaining of symptoms. It’s an “anti;” approach. We use antibiotics, anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, analgesics, anti-anxiety agents, etc. Most of our classes of medications can start with the letter “a”. How would medicine look different if we saw illness as an aspect of life, part of the human stories that we live, and not necessarily an external evil attacking us that needs to be destroyed or attacked back. I suppose our current metaphor is the immune system, in which natural killer cells absorb invading bacteria. What this model fails to take into account are the many healthy relationships we maintain with micro-organisms. The environment is not as unfriendly as contemporary medicine imagines. I suspect that what we do with our antibiotics is to kill our friends and strengthen our enemies, perhaps a parallel to what has happened in the various Gulf Wars.
What amazes me is the current terror people seem to feel about germs. I'd like to stimulate some discussion around this. I know people who claim to have had various infectious that my medical training says is impossible. Some have been cured with homeopathic injections, others with months of intraveous antibiotic therapy, others with ceremony and ritual and no antibiotics at all. I think homeopathics have other effects than just ridding the body of germs, some of those effects being quite profound. I have injected Traumeel for joint problems and have been impressed with it and/or the placebo effect associated with it. I got some old ladies in Tucson off steroid injections (which I know are bad for joints) and onto Traumeel injections. Was it placebo or Traumeel? Only God Knows and she's not telling.
Anyway, does anyone know about this approach to illness of using cotton balls to look for germs and then devising remedies energetically (I assume they use a computer system that puts the desired energy into solution) though I don't know. Dr. Schultz is one of the people involved and then there is a person named David in Colorado who makes remedies also. I probably should have gotten more proper nouns from my friend, but didn't.
So here's my question, to myself and anyone reading this, and I found out, as I mentioned in my last post, that some people do read this, because Mothering Magazine read my blog, which actually really touched me. When are germs good and when are germs bad?
I suspect there are some really bad germs that are probably human created, like HIV or Ebola virus. I suspect we have done something to the environment to facilitate the creation of super bad bugs, because I don't think nature would be so stupid as to create something so lethal.
But what about worms, parasites, spirochetes, etc.? We know that children in Third World countries have virtually no asthma or juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. The argument is that their parasites shift their cytokine balance in such a way that they don't get these conditions because the resources are needed to fight bugs and parasites. However, children in New York City, which I suspect is the most germ-fearing city on earth, have tremendous high rates of asthma and JRA. Is it actually healthy to avoid bugs or does it hurt us in other ways? Are bugs our friends?
That's what I meant by the "anti" paragraph above. It seems we're against all life but our own and perhaps our own lives require the lives of our invisible friends to be whole. What if we need germs to be well! My New York friend talked about her doctor seeing spirochetes and staphyloccus in her live blood cell analysis. I had trouble believing that given my training. It seemed that she would be dead if she spirochete or staphylococcal septicemia. Nevertheless, I could believe that immune cells could float around in blood that have encountered these critters at some time and have memory of them. But that's not what the live cell analysis people were claiming.
Leo Omani, who is a healer on Wahpeton Dakota Reserve in Saskatchewan tells his children to tell their children to eat dirt because it will make them healthy. A lot of elders in Saskatchewan believe in the healing power for young children of eating dirt. Could dirt have had protective factors that made it less likely to get TB or smallpox?
I suspect that most of what we do with our medicines is kill the friendlies and encourage the growth of the super-bad-bugs. I know that the death rate from infection began to decline in 1856 with the improvement of plumbing and its implementation and that the slope for the rate of decline didn't change with the introduction of antibiotics on a widespread basis. The argument would be that those we save with antibiotics are balanced out by those we kill with antibiotics (Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, anaphylaxis, overgrowth of Clostridium, etc. etc.). I never cease to be amazed at how physicians hand out antibiotics. I suspect it would be better if they were over the counter like Mexico so that everyone could buy penicillin, ampicillin, etc., and might stop there, because the physicians hand out samples of things like Levaquin or even more powerful new drugs. They do this for conditions that probably won't respond to antibiotics anyway, though all patients expect them now. The name says it all -- "against life."
My friend in New York hesitates to even shake the hand of those who might have bugs. She wants everyone she knows to get checked for bugs and treated. Of course, the treatments might be helpful independent of the bugs, and perhaps homeopathy played a large role in her recovery. I don't know.
I do find my New York friends who are afraid to walk on grass for fear of bugs somewhat amusing. What a state when people are afraid of grass. (It might have deer tics hiding in wait to ambush the unsuspecting humans).
But what about all the bugs who do abound -- hepatitis C is an example of a virus that deserves respect. Those bugs can cause dreadful disease, though I know people who are living well with hepatitis C and have learned to accomodate it to them, and them to it.