Category Archives: Science

What is Truth? What is Real?

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Climate change?  Does it matter?   The storm surge from Hurricane Irma flooded my crawl space, water heater, and outside air conditioner, and I’m still cleaning up the debris.  kco091117 

Information.  Misinformation.  Disinformation.  News.  Fake News.  Opinion.  Generalization.  Prediction.   Propaganda.  Lies.  Advertising.  Gossip.  Second guesses. Stereotypes.  Assumptions.

I feel overwhelmed by the glut of demands on attention and allegiance.  What to believe?  What not to believe?   To believe everything and nothing at the same time?  To trust my own judgment or to doubt?  I long for escape, to screen it all out, to hear only the sounds of birds and wind through the trees, to see only the clouds floating by or the filigree of Spanish moss.  Nature speaks her own language, full of mystery, but without hypocrisy.

Consensual science says the climate is changing, and it’s man’s fault.  “Climate deniers,” some with the same education and backgrounds, say the whole idea is a hoax.

The public and the media seem obsessed with the president of the United States, as if he alone has the power to bring on the Apocalypse.

I look at my immediate, media-avoidant home and see the reality of today’s chores awaiting me. The frenzy that has gripped the world in fear of terrorism, Congressional bickering, North Korea, “climate change,” the latest hurricane, and what gaffe the “Orange Tweet” has committed now. . . all seem far away, surreal, and not my concern.

My “scientific inquiry” has a more practical bent.  How to repair the broken handle on my favorite plastic thermal mug, so that it will hold.  Scientific experiment number one only worked a few days.  Scientific experiment number two added rubber bands to hold the handle while epoxy dried.

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The word “science” comes from the Latin, “sciere,” “to know,”  but I contend knowledge is forever evolving and changing, based on new data, new perspectives. Lately, I’ve had to accept that much of what I thought I knew no longer applies.  Not only that, I’ve found those who speak with the most authority often believe they know more than they do.  Are they lying?  Not if they believe they know.  Who knows?

They say “knowledge is power.”  I’ve found knowledge also brings the responsibility for decisions about what to do with it.  Each action or non-action leads to unforeseen probabilities.  We can never know the paths not taken.

Lately, I’ve had to question everything I’ve been taught, especially within the field of medicine, but also regarding history and politics.  While they may seem to be different areas of concern, they have merged as two inextricably linked paradigms regarding the human body and mind, as they relate to the greater social family of humanity.

I feel a greater need to understand than to know.  To understand is eventually to love, according to one of my favorite philosophers.  To believe I “know” is an exercise in hubris, maybe, and this is where official “science” and I part ways.  How do you know you know?

Maybe I’m psychic.  Maybe I’m psychotic.  Maybe there’s no difference, from an internal perspective.  I’ve always relied on what I call a “vibrational perception” that tries to attune to “energy fields” of emotion:  the frenetic human angst in the city, the mood of a room, the quality of the sounds in the atmosphere, the body language of someone I’ve unwittingly offended.  I feel things I can’t verify.  I dream of things—usually minor things—before they happen.  I believe I live many lives, not in a sequential way, but in a group of parallel lives in a “spacious present” where “bleed throughs” regularly occur.  I believe time is an illusion, so we are all essentially immortal, thrust together in multiple contexts until we figure out how to get along.  I believe ghosts talk to me, although I’ve never seen one.  I feel them in my “vibe space.”  They like to mess with me.

I can’t “prove” any of this, nor do I care to try. Maybe it’s imagination, but imagination gives things their own validity. I still have a physical body in the physical world we breathing human beings agree exists, the “reality” that depends on physical senses for information.

I contend there is no objective reality, that we are all subjective, with unique perspectives, experiences, orientations.  I believe life is universal and provides the energy of the cosmos.  Some people call it god.  Some call it “qi.”  Some may not think of it at all.

I read today that many people feel a strong need to be “right.”  They screen out conflicting evidence and dig their heels into defending ossified conclusions.  That was my father’s way.  He was a proud “rational scientist,” scornful of the “emotional irrationality” of women, generally, and my mother, specifically.  To be wrong around him was a character flaw, never to be lived down, so it became an exercise in pride never to admit error.  Ghosts don’t exist, he claimed, until he became one, witnessed by a friend of science, after he died.

So who really knows?  Maybe we’re in the throes of a massive paradigm shift, in which the desire to understand begins to surpass the futile attempt to know.  I don’t believe the future is fixed or predictable.  There are many probable futures, I hope, but the present is a good place to start.

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Urban Gardening

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S. Squire Rooster and Lady Brownie Hen, standing around and on concrete block herb garden. Chickens don’t bother herbs, but they love worms, grubs, termites, roaches, lizards, and fiddlers. I keep my yard as free of artificial chemicals and traps as possible, but I can’t stop the county from dumping malathion on our heads.

August 18, 2017

As people starve in Venezuela and other places, I remind myself Americans don’t know what starvation feels like.  We suffer from the opposite problem, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, life-style-related diseases resulting from consuming too much of the wrong things.

 

My herbs begged for pruning the other day.  It took several hours to cut, sort, wash, chop, and store, but I got a half-gallon of mint-stevia tea and almost a pint of basil-chive pesto.  My mind is free when I’m doing finger-trained things like chopping herbs.  I thought about how easily herbs grow on my deck, and how even urbanites with window sills, balconies, or patios could grow food.

I thought about my “green footprint” and how all greenery—even so-called weeds—contribute to cooling the earth and re-claiming oxygen from CO2.  So even growing an herb or a potted tomato on the patio adds to your oxygen green print.  Citrus grows well in patio pots, too, depending on where you live.

When the government controls the food supply, it’s a set-up for famine.  Julius Caesar used that to advantage, and so have rulers the world over.  That’s what makes centralized power so fragile.  We’re seeing that now, with President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.   He has the military guarding the food.  I’ll bet lots of folks now regret leaving the farms to work in factories and oil refineries.  At home, they could grow their own food.

We have the same situation brewing in the USA, but here the strategy is more insidious. We can see it being played out in all the mergers and acquisitions in the food, drug, and poison industries.  Most notable is the planned purchase of Monsanto by Bayer, based in Germany.  So Monsanto will go underground, should these two poison giants (depending on your point of view) merge.  Second, a little different but no less significant, is the merger of Dow and DuPont, two chemical giants.  Dow has the trademark on Styrofoam and has its own versions of genetically modified (GM) corn and other patented plant products.

Finally, we have the impending merger of Swiss Syngenta, the world’s largest crop chemical producer, and China National Chemical Corp., a state-owned outfit.  More than half of Syngenta’s sales come from “emerging markets.”  At a $42 billion price, Wikipedia reports the purchase of Syngenta to be the largest for a foreign firm in Chinese history.

The farming industry (which is often distinct from and at cross-purposes with “farmers”) is supposedly opposed to the Montsanto/Bayer merger.  The opposition claims it will increase prices and reduce innovation.  The poison companies say they will increase research and development.  (That’s what scares me most.)

In the US, the ethanol mandate represents the biggest government power grab of the food supply to date.  GM corn manufacturers are now making “ethanol-grade” corn.  Well, folks, what does that mean to you?  It means to me that Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta, and other GM manufacturers are busy downgrading everyone’s food supply to generate electronic profits on Wall Street.  Of course Archer Daniels Midland, ConAgra, Cargill, and other Big Food are all for burning perfectly good corn whiskey in cars.  Cars consume it faster than alcoholics do, and the government gets more in taxes, so of course the FDA, CDC, and EPA are complicit.

So with the mergers of the world’s six largest seed, agrochemical, and biotech corporations, which are in the business of poisoning us from the ground up, it behooves all of us to start producing our own food, individual by individual, as space and sunshine allow.

 

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Deck herbs, some in concrete blocks, others in clay pots.  Cat litter boxes do a good job of catching water.  Can water and/or fertilize from the base.

Herbs are probably the easiest plants to grow, and many are perennial.  My chickens don’t like them, the deer don’t like them, and they are amazingly bug-resistant.  Stevia, chives, mint, oregano, and rosemary are all perennial.  The rosemary bush is taller than I am.  Since stevia was approved by the FDA as a natural sugar substitute a few years back, corporate marketing has improved its image. Less well known is that it’s a perennial extra easy to grow in a small clay pot.

So I harvested overgrown stevia, mint, chives and basil.  I made stevia-mint iced tea and basil-chive pesto.

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Set-up for making mint-stevia tea.  Mint is on the chopping board.  kco081717

I use a one-half gallon container for the tea, fill with cold water, let the water come to a boil, and turn the burner off.  I stir in the chopped mint and stevia, replace the lid on the pot, and let it steep all night.  In the morning I strain the tea and transfer it to the refrigerator container.

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Set-up for making basil-chive pesto.  Curved knife blade with rocking motion works best for fast and safe herb and veggie chopping.   kco081717

Making pesto is a breeze with a mini-food processor.  Pesto keeps weeks in the refrigerator and infinitely in the freezer.  I freeze fresh pesto and gouge chunks out of the mix as needed.  I use it in salad dressings, spreads, sauces, marinades, and Italian dishes of all kinds.

I use a standard blend of ingredients with whatever herbs I have.  Two to three cloves of crushed or chopped garlic, a couple of handfuls of chopped herbs, a handful of grated parmesan cheese, a handful of chopped nuts, and enough olive oil to make the processor work right.  I use soy sauce or olive brine instead of salt.  I like red pepper, too.  If you overdo the red pepper, extra olive oil helps a lot.

More traditional pesto recipes call for pine nuts, but they are expensive, somewhat hard to find, and not worth the price.  I prefer walnuts or almonds, but any nut will do.  Put them in the processor early, as they take time to grind up right.

Cheese is also variable.  Hard cheeses, like grated parmesan or romano, tend to last longer in storage, but I’ve used jack and cheddar, too.  Pestos are as versatile as your imagination.

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My version of pesto pizza.  Rye toast smeared with basil-chive pesto, topped with parmesan cheese and salad olives.  Broiled in toaster oven 3-5 minutes. kco081717

In Defense of Carbon

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Carbon is the basic building block of life.  It is an element, indestructible.  We have the same amount of carbon on earth now as always.  It goes through a cycle.  Because it is so versatile, it can join with numerous other atoms to create complex structures.

I’m a climate change agnostic.  I know the climate changes every day and every season.  Whether human beings are changing the climate in a significant way is the subject of heated debate.  I do know humans are poisoning the environment, but the most dangerous chemicals involved are not carbon dioxide or methane.  These two are naturally occurring substances that are intimately involved in the cycles of life and death.

Organic chemistry is based on whether the compounds under study contain carbon.  Photosynthesis is the means by which plants use energy from light to convert water and carbon dioxide to food for the plant.  In this process, water is hydrolyzed (meaning broken down into its constituent atoms) with the hydrogen joining with carbon to form sugars, such as glucose and sucrose.  The sugars contain energy that fuels plant growth, maintenance and manufactures the substance of the plant itself, like cellulose.

That plants can make their own food from light, carbon dioxide and water is a marvel of solar technology, because all food ultimately comes from plants.  The mechanism of photosynthesis, according to my botany text (Botany:  An Introduction to Plant Biology, 6th edition, T., Elliot Weier, et al., 1982) took almost 200 years to be understood, and it still contains undiscovered secrets.  Researchers are now working on harnessing the 100% efficiency of plants to make electricity.  In contrast, solar panels are only between 15-20% efficient.

According to Botany, a series of discoveries beginning in 1700 led to the eventual understanding of how photosynthesis works.  In 1700, a Flemish physician and chemist Jan van Helmont grew a willow branch in measured soil and water.  It grew from five to 169 pounds in five years, but used only two ounces of soil.  In 1772, Joseph Fleming noted a sprig of mint could restore confined air that had been made impure by burning a candle, but in 1779 Jan Ingen-House noticed air was only revitalized when the green portion of the plant was exposed to light.  In 1782, Jean Sonebier discovered carbon dioxide was necessary in the “fixed air” supply of the green plant, and in 1796 Ingen-House determined the carbon went into the nutrition and structure of the plant.  In 1804, Nicholas Th. de Saussure observed water was also involved in the photosynthetic process, and in 1800 chemists discovered that carbohydrates were formed.  Experiments using “heavy oxygen” (oxygen with atomic weight of 18 rather than the usual 16) proved the oxygen liberated in photosynthesis came from water rather than CO2.

The basic chemical reaction for converting carbon dioxide and water to glucose is:

6CO2 + 6H20 +686 kcal –> C6 H12 O6 + 6O2

The oxygen is released into the atmosphere.  Plants also release water vapor through evaporation, and this induces liquids and nutrients to move upward through the xylem (the plant’s substance, including transportation “vessels”).

The glucose produced is used directly, or stored as insoluble starch.  It’s used to make cellulose and other structural components, or is combined with nitrogen, sulfur or phosphorus to make proteins.

When a plant or any life form dies, the stored carbon is either consumed by another life form or it is released as CO2 and methane (CH4), among other substances.

Igniting the hydrocarbon molecules reverses the photosynthetic process in a one-to-one ratio.  CO2 and water are re-created, and the energy bound up in the molecule is released as heat or used to do work.

The chemical reaction when the simplest hydrocarbon, methane (natural gas), is burned is:

CH4 + 2O2 –>  CO2 + 2H2O

Natural gas, oil, coal, ethanol, and plastic, to name a few, have the same carbon and hydrogen building blocks, in different combinations.  All have high energy contents and produce CO2 and water when burned.

Ethanol—which is now a federally mandated gasoline additive—has a lower energy content than gasoline so lowers gasoline efficiency. Ethanol, also called “ethyl alcohol,” is old-fashioned grain alcohol, the same substance distilled by farmers in Revolutionary War days, and the stuff that led to the Whiskey Rebellion when the whiskey tax was passed in 1791.

Plastic has a high energy content and burns hot.  Plastic waste is accumulating around the planet, in huge ocean “gyres,” as well as other bodies of water, sewage and drainage systems.  Its breakdown products are associated with endocrine (hormonal) changes in people and animals.

The main weakness of the climate change initiative is that the focus on “greenhouse gases” diverts attention from more immediate and ongoing threats to the planet.  The use of single-use packaging, for instance, uses valuable natural resources, such as paper, and environmentally harmful industrial products, such as plastic, that end up in landfill or in rivers, lakes, and oceans.

The ethanol mandate, passed in 2007, is a particularly toxic piece of legislation.  Under this scenario, farmland is used to produce corn, soy, or other carbon-containing plant matter, to be distilled into alcohol for burning in cars.  Not only does this deplete soil that might otherwise be used to grow food, but it requires massive amounts of water, time and money, so is a pox on the planet and on the engines that use it. It is particularly harmful in small engines, like lawnmowers, so conscientious users must use ethanol-free gas to protect their engines.  That Archer Daniels Midland, the main corporate beneficiary of the ethanol mandate, is set up to distill ethanol for cars as well as ethanol for drinking, should provide clues as to how regressive this mandate is.

In summary, I contend that, “climate change” includes changing the political climate to recognize that growing trees is better for the planet than giving corporations “carbon credits” not to cut them down.

Political Climate Change

I’ve followed the “global warming,” then the “climate change” controversy for a number of years and have a number of reservations about the terms being used, the focus on “greenhouse gases,” and the almost religious fervor “climate scientists” adopt when pushing their agenda.

I’m an amateur scientist, at best, a “life scientist,” who still believes observation is the best science there is.  I can’t deny the environment is changing, becoming de-vitalized, and I also believe mankind plays a significant role.  That and other transgressions against fellow man and nature have made me ashamed to be human. I look to my pets and nature to restore my belief that nature will survive, even if humans poison or nuke themselves out of existence.  It may take awhile, and the earth may generate a variety of mutant life forms, but nature will win in the end. Best to make a friend of her.

While I am no scientist, I’ve taken more undergraduate and post graduate science courses than most Americans have.  I’ve taken biology, botany, inorganic and organic chemistry, physics, biochemistry, and a variety of medical science courses. I’ve done published research, too.  The last showed me the limitations of the “scientific method,” which assumes cause and effect and must control for variables. The primary rule in Western scientific research is that you can have no more than one variable.  You begin with a hypothesis that you want to prove or disprove.  You “control” for variables, meaning you have a treatment group and a “control group.” In other words, you create artificial circumstances to suit your study design and outcome you want or expect.

Contrast this with the Oriental pattern-based approach, which embraces variables and looks for patterns among them.  The presumption is nature is composed of interactive processes that enhance or mitigate each other.  Everything is connected in a large, multi-dimensional web.

When it comes to the environment, it’s impossible to limit research to one variable and determine cause and effect.  We know what came before, and we use computer models to predict what will come next.  We want to attribute causes to “climate change,” and have focused on CO2 and other “greenhouse gases,” specifically methane/natural gas (CH4).

I contend this is too simplistic.  First we are technically at the end of an ice age, so planetary warming is at least partly natural.  Carbon is the basic building block of life, an element, that can combine with many other atoms to create a variety of molecules.  The difference between inorganic and organic chemistry is based on whether the substance under study has carbon.  Methane/natural gas is the simplest hydro-carbon there is.  It is part of the life-cycle, and every decaying life form produces it.  Cow farts (which have been blamed for adding to greenhouse gases) and human farts all contain methane, as do other life form farts.  It rises from the marsh and from landfill.

Carbon dioxide, CO2, the demonized poster child of the “climate science” religion, is the chief nutrient of plant photosynthesis, the process that combines carbon from the air with light to create food for the plant, and thus for every creature that eats plants.  Carbon dioxide comprises significantly less than one percent of the atmosphere.  By comparison, oxygen makes up 21 percent.  If carbon dioxide is the primary culprit in climate change, then overpopulation, with more people exhaling CO2 and farting methane, is a significant factor in the production of greenhouse gases CO2 and methane.

No one of the scientists has addressed the fact that burning one molecule of methane/natural gas (CH4) produces two molecules of water for every one of CO2. Apparently none of the computer models programmed to track carbon emissions and predict climate change factors in the enormous amount of water added to the environment with the burning of fossil fuels.  Water vapor is another “greenhouse gas” in fact, as anyone who has ever visited a greenhouse knows.  What is the effect of cloud cover on the earth below?  What is the effect of all the mass of buildings, highways, and parking lots?  These have replaced forests and fields, which played a role in keeping the earth cool and absorbing rainwater before it flooded.  Has anyone accounted for the thermals (vortexes of hot air rising from cities) creating fronts that change weather patterns all around?

The Industrial Revolution begun with the cheap abundance of coal and is intricately intertwined with its advance.  This closely followed major other changes in paradigms, specifically Isaac Newton’s discovery of gravity, and the subsequent mechanistic view of the universe.  The mechanistic paradigm brought “determinism,” which separated life (and god) from science.  The idea that the universe functions like a machine, with everything governed by knowable physical laws, contradicted the Biblical presumption of free will.

We have made a quantum leap from Newtonian physics with Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and quantum mechanics.  At the atomic and subatomic level, there is enormous variation and spontaneity within a larger order.  All of a sudden, free will becomes scientifically valid again, the experimenter does influence the experiment by expectation or desire, and cause-and-effect paradigms begin to lose relevance.

I’m more concerned about the effects of environmental toxins than the buildup of greenhouse gases.  The industrial revolution has led to unsustainable levels of toxic waste in air, water, and land, and we continue to dump poisons way worse than carbon dioxide into the world environment.  We are poisoning ourselves along with the insects, but insects reproduce faster and develop immunity quicker than human beings do.  Plastic, also containing hydrocarbon chains, release toxic chemicals, especially when heated, that Americans blithely drink in their bottled water.  We’re increasingly afraid of tap water because of contaminants in pipes and groundwater that we’re only beginning to recognize.

Yes, we are devitalizing and perhaps even killing the earth, but we need to broaden our scope to look at multi-factorial contributors.  It’s not a government problem to solve.  We should look to ourselves as individuals, a nation of excess and waste. Don’t depend too much on salaried scientists, whose primary obligation is to their government, university, and corporate employers.  They agree with each other in finding simple targets and ignoring the greater industrial pollution that continues as fast as it can generate profits on Wall Street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of Life

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May 28, 2017—The following thoughts give an overview of my reasons for skepticism about Western, allopathic medicine and the paradigm it represents.  I claim the overriding belief in external agents for healing or symptomatic relief ignores the basic dignity of the individuals in question and the “vitality” that keeps us going.

The body is a marvelous homeostatic instrument, for which health is the natural state.  This understanding pervades Oriental medicine, which is based on the concept of “qi” (“chi”) or life force.

I’m an amateur student of Oriental medicine so can only describe it in general, simplified terms.  Essentially, it holds that there is a continuum between spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical levels.  Problems begin as spiritual.  If not resolved at that level, the problems become increasingly “dense” until they show up in the physical body.

In Chinese medicine, the idea of qi underlies and informs the entire system.  This sets Oriental medicine at odds with the Western, mechanistic viewpoint we Occidentals take for granted.  With the advent of the industrial age, the “scientific method,” and the requirement for “objectively verifiable” evidence, we’ve come to rely on instrumentation and a cause-and-effect sequence for assessment and treatment of any given condition.  The body is treated as though it’s a machine, with the resident human being largely a passive recipient of the diagnoses and treatments decided by the technician/physicians who administer them.

While the official stance of “science” receives almost religious devotion and some legitimate respect, it is exceedingly limited in what it can do.  “Science,” which relies on measurable “proof” has yet to prove that life exists.  Nor has it located the “mind,” although most believe the “mind” is in the brain.  The scientific method relies on studies that theorize causes, then set up conditions that limit variables to one, to determine whether there’s a significant correlation between cause and effect.

My unorthodox approach to life, health, and medicine stems from a fundamental belief in the power of the life force.  I call it “vitality,” but others may refer to “qi,” “quality of life” or use any number of terms to describe this battery that keeps us going.

Whether individuals survive physical death, and if so, in what capacity, is a question no one can answer, although religions and philosophers of all persuasions have tried.  What is life, anyway?  Is it a candle flame that can be extinguished?  Is it an essence, like “qi” that joins the “qi” of the cosmos, to be re-born in another place and time?

I won’t try to answer these questions but raise them simply to note that a belief in life beyond death strongly influences how I live mine.  Certainly others wrestle with the question, especially as they get older and wonder what lies ahead.

I became a psychiatrist partly to help make philosophy practical, but the profession—and Western medicine as a whole–is going in the opposite direction.

“How so?” a reasonable person may ask.  The most obvious answer is that it devalues the most basic principles that keep us healthy or make us sick.  Western medicine systematically undermines the individual’s faith in his or her own body’s self-correcting mechanisms.  It pits mind against body, which is deemed untrustworthy, a thing to be feared, unreliable.

The intangibles that formerly distinguished psychiatry from other medical specialties, the “quality of life” issues—now take a back seat to “evidence-based medicine” and the vain attempt of psychiatrists to align with the more “scientific” practitioners.

The antidepressant Prozac (fluoxetine) was introduced in 1989, two years before I graduated from medical school.  This began the separation of psychotherapy and other “talk therapy” from “medical management” of emotional problems.  While other antidepressants, anti-psychotics, anti-anxiety agents, and mood stabilizers had been on the market for decades, Prozac began the trend toward a raft of new, patented, drugs that could treat symptoms while ignoring the larger life pattern that led to the problems.  “Talk therapy” was shifted to psychologists and social workers, with the move heavily supported by government and insurance reimbursement criteria.

Since that time, the avalanche of patented drugs, technologies, diagnostic tests, and other interventions has made the “health care industry” one of the most profitable sectors in the United States.  Costs for the individual have skyrocketed, such that few can afford medical help without insurance.  Now, the government has made insurance mandatory.  No one seems to recognize that insurance does not equal health care.  In fact, insurance impedes, rations, and delays health care, and it raises the price for everyone.

Medical care costs twice as much in the US as anywhere else.  Medications are significantly more expensive.  A continuing medical education article I read says medical error is now the third leading cause of death in the US, after cardiovascular events and cancer.

That medicine and psychiatry seem obsessed with finding or creating problems already puts patients at a disadvantage, in a defensive position.  Psychiatrists don’t get reimbursed for “no diagnosis.” They must find or invent a diagnosis, a label, to justify the time they spend.

No wonder Oriental medicine has such appeal for me.  Here, diagnosis is based on patterns of disharmony within the body and mind.  The hands-on approach is individualized and personal.  The patients and the practitioners are partners, with the belief in the treatment’s effectiveness–“the placebo effect” in Western terms—a desirable component.  In short, it respects the dignity of the vital forces that medicine presumes to reinforce.

I hear people say that “health care is a right.”  We also have a right to refuse health care, especially when it’s forced on us by hostile, predatory forces.  We have the right to eat nutritious foods, life a balanced life, and keep stress levels low.  We have the right to maintain our vitality and health they best way we know and to choose who and what to trust for help when we need it.

 

Following Formalin

 

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Introduction:  I wrote the following speculative fantasy in February, 2010, before I researched formalin on Wikipedia last week.  “Formalin,” I learned, is an aqueous form of formaldehyde, the simplest aldehyde in chemistry.  Formalin contains 40% formaldehyde, 10-12% stabilizer, usually methanol, and the rest water.  90% of formaldehyde occurs naturally, through decaying organic matter.  It does not build up in the environment because it is quickly broken down by sun and bacteria.

Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen, but used extensively in industry.  Major products are composite wood products, like laminates, particle board, hard plywoods, and fiberboard.  Its use in embalming is well known.  It is also used as a pesticide in animal foods, and as a disinfectant.

The primary effects of formaldehyde toxicity are respiratory, with burning eyes and nose.  It can worsen asthma.  Long-term exposure is linked to leukemia.

The formaldehyde toxicity associated with FEMA-provided trailers in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina, was possibly caused by the high concentration of new particleboard in poorly ventilated trailers.

Industrialization has raised the amount and diversity of environmental toxins to immeasurable proportions.  From the particle board in kitchen cabinets to the PVC in water pipes, we are living in increasingly toxic conditions that we only worsen with our wasteful, consumerist culture.

While others worry about “climate change,” I’m more concerned with the growing generalized effects of environmental toxins, not only on humans but on all life.  Flint, Michigan is unlikely to be the only city in the US with poisonous water.  Industrialization has led to contamination of water everywhere, differing only in degree.  Even bottled water—and maybe especially bottled water—leaches hormone-altering plastic into the water.  Single-use packaging is particularly hard to justify.

“STRANDS OF CONSCIOUSNESS” FOLLOW FORMALIN

            February, 2010–Seth in Jane Roberts’ Seth series talks about “strands of consciousness” reaching out and entering others, but they are no more invasive than the leaves on a tree and depend on each other for survival—their very existence.   Every atom and molecule participates in a dynamic that can take it from rock to human to animal to insect to marsh grass, to every corner of the earth and dimensions unimaginable.  The atoms and molecules have a kind of memory of their histories, traces, and essences, that contribute to the greater understanding of the whole.

Man is not diminished but expanded by that, because he feels less alone and more connected to the larger dynamic.  We have created god in the human image, without recognizing god is as impersonal as a housefly, as placid as a mountain, as enduring as the galaxies, as strong and gentle as a spider’s web.

A dust particle in the air attests to god’s expansive creativity, and the dust will respond to the sun’s rays in its own way, as will the air molecules that hold it aloft.  All are expressions of the infinite creativity of god –All That Is, in Seth’s terms—the multi-sexual expression of pure energy.  The human division between life and death is arbitrary.  A “dead” human is teeming with other life forms, bacteria and the like, so it is only dead from a human perspective.  The other life that feed on it and helped it survive—as normal flora does—lives on and may not even notice the human identity’s passing.  Until the formaldehyde hits, that is.  Then all bets are off.

“But hey,” says the Cosmic Improv Group, that army of nags inside my imagination, which has lots of strands of consciousness invested in keeping me alive awhile, “Formaldehyde has feelings, too.”

“You betcha,” I reply.  “Not to demean formaldehyde, but I’d rather not party with it, if it’s all the same to you.  Let it play its role with other people.

“Formalin, actually,” say the medical experts.  Formaldehyde has carcinogens and toxins that are believed to be carcinogenic, as I recall, but don’t trust memory on this.  Formalin is supposed to be better on living bodies for preserving dead ones.

Go figure.  All this so the body won’t stink while people gawk over the plastic model of the deceased soul.  Be careful not to shed your tears on the make-up.

But the formalin goes into the ground, and into the sewer systems with the mortuary’s waste, and with the body’s interment.  People dry their tears and start fighting over the estate, and life moves on.

The formalin continues in new forms underground, freed from human bondage, and off to have new adventures.  Because it has the authorities’ seal of safety—was that the FDA, DEA, Cancer Society, Dow Chemicals, Pfizer?  Who decided formalin is less toxic than formaldehyde?  It is allowed free rein in the environment and can join its fellow non-toxins in joyful salute to the demise of mankind.

Now, that was not my strand of consciousness, certainly.  Why would I go off on a tangent about formalin?  Well, I was trying to understand formalin’s point of view, actually, to send a strand of consciousness to the probable life of a formalin molecule, and to enter its world.

Was that invasion?  No.  It was an appreciation for the greater unity that created my consciousness, the tools to make it conscious, and the formalin molecule, too.  I guarantee no formalin molecule is equipped to write about its own life, so who will do it if I don’t?

My experience is minimal, so my imagination limited.  The few anatomy cadaver dissections I participated in in medical school.  A month of a pathology elective, in my senior year, where I spent most of the time studying sliced placentas.

But hey, I’ve probably inhaled more formalin than most people, so its molecules have entered my body and communicated in the way only formalin can.  We just don’t know all the ways it can communicate with us.

 

 

 

The Mind-Body Connection

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From “The Foot Book: Healing the Body Through Reflexology,” by Devaki Berkson, 1977

Anyone who has a neck has a mind-body connection, assuming the mind is in the brain, which has not been proven.  In fact, with the medical mucky-mucks pontificating about “evidence-based” medicine, I have to ask what evidence do we have that the mind exists at all?  In fact, what evidence do we have that life exists?  We can’t measure either of these on our fancy instruments.

Albert Einstein, who sought in vain for a unified field theory to link the different universal forces, like gravity, and strong and weak nuclear forces, took life for granted, as Western medicine and science do.  Oriental philosophy does somewhat better, with its acceptance of “qi” or “chi,” loosely translated as “life force.”  Philosophically, I prefer the Oriental paradigm, which assumes a living cosmos, emanating from the inside out, like a holograph.  Embryos grow from the inside out, as do plants from seeds.

While people know the brain is in the head, they forget that nerves extend from the brain to almost every cell in the body, in a feedback loop that transmits information and directions back and forth with dazzling complexity.   Chemical messengers and neurotransmitters number in the thousands.   Only a few have been studied, and even these are poorly understood.

The so-called “scientific method,” a construct of the mechanized Western model, assumes cause and effect, yet it requires limiting any “scientific study” to one variable. This creates an artificial situation which attempts to control for confounding factors and leads to skewed results.  Alternatively, the Oriental model, which sees disease, for instance, as a pattern of dis-harmonies, is inclusive.  It presumes there are no single causes and that dis-harmonies create patterns of dis-equilibrium. Disciplines like acupuncture strive to re-balance “qi” to improve health and quality of life.

Ear acupuncture and reflexology are based on the idea that there are correspondences between points on the ears, hands, and feet and the various organs and structures in the body.

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Acupuncture does not lend itself to the “scientific method.”  Because it is holistic, it cannot be reduced to “cause and effect” studies.  Also, studies into acupuncture can’t be double-blinded, as the acupuncturist presumably knows which points are the “real ones.”

However, as East and West develop more ties, acupuncture is receiving more attention and acceptance, especially for such conditions as pain and substance abuse.

Reflexology, which is a specific form of massage, does not get as much attention, but it has the advantage that anyone can do it.  I make no claims about its healing properties, but I can vouch for the fact that foot and hand massage feel good and constitute a safe form of touching in a skin-starved society.