Tag Archives: Health

Paint Me a Masterpiece by Gordon MacKenzie

This is an excerpt (the last chapter) from the book called: “Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace” that was written by Gordon MacKenzie.  While MacKenzie uses the word “God,” I believe you could substitute whatever entity or title you wished, your own belief in what constitutes the “Source,” and the message still rings true.  Enjoy.

Paint Me a Masterpiece

In your mind, conjure an image of the Mona Lisa.  Visualize that masterpiece’s subtleties of hue and tone as clearly as you can.

Next, shift to the image of a paint-by-numbers Mona Lisa.  Envision the flat, raw, colors meeting hard-edged, one against the other.

Now let me relate a fantasy about masterpieces, paint-by-numbers and you. It goes like this:

Before you were born, God came to you and said:

“Hi there!  I just dropped by to wish you luck. And to assure you that you and I will be meeting again.  Soon.  Before you know it.

You’re heading out on an adventure that will be filled with fascinating experiences.  You’ll start out as a tiny speck floating in an infinite dark ocean, quite saturated with nutrients.  So you won’t have to go looking for food or a job or anything like that. All you’ll have to do is float in the darkness.  And grow incredibly.

And change miraculously.

You’ll sprout arms and legs.  And hands and feet.  And fingers and toes.

As if from nothing, your head will take form.  Your nose.  Your mouth.  Your eyes and ears will emerge.

As you continue to grow bigger and bigger, You will become aware that this dark, oceanic environment of yours – which, when you were tiny, seemed so vast is now actually cramped and confining.  That will lead you to the unavoidable conclusion that you’re going to have to move to a bigger place.

After much groping about in the dark, you will find an exit.  The mouth of a tunnel.

“Too small,” you’ll decide.  “Couldn’t possibly squeeze through there.”

But there will be no other apparent way out.  So, with primal spunk, you will take on your first “impossible” challenge and enter the tunnel.

In doing so, you will be embarking on a brutal no-turning-back, physically exhausting, claustrophobic passage that will introduce you to pain and fear and hard physical labor.  It will seem to take forever.  But mysterious undulations of the tunnel itself will help squirm you through. A nd finally, after what will seem like interminable striving, you will break through to a blinding light.

Giant hands will pull you gently, but firmly, into an enormous room.  There will be several huge people, called adults, huddling around you, as if to greet you. If it is an old-fashioned place, one of these humongous people may hold you upside down by the legs and give you a swat on the backside to get you going.

All this will be what the big people on the other side call being born.  For you, it will be only the first of your new life’s many exploits.”

God continues:

“I was wondering.  While you’re over there on the other side, would you do me a favor?”

“Sure!” you chirp.

“Would you take this artist’s canvas with you and paint a masterpiece for me? I’d really appreciate that.”

Beaming, God hands you a pristine canvas.  You roll it up, tuck it under your arm and head off on your journey.

Your birth is just as God had predicted, and when you come out of the tunnel into the bright room, some doctor or nurse looks down at you in amazement and gasps:

“Look!  The little kid’s carrying a rolled-up artist’s canvas!”

Knowing that you do not yet have the skills to do anything meaningful with your canvas, the big people take it away from you and give it to society for safekeeping until you have acquired the prescribed skills requisite to the canvas’s return.  While society is holding this property of yours, it cannot resist the temptation to unroll the canvas and draw pale blue lines and little blue numbers all over its virgin surface.  Eventually, the canvas is returned to you, its rightful owner.  However, it now carries the implied message that if you will paint inside the blue lines and follow the instructions of the little blue numbers your life will be a masterpiece.

And that is a lie.

For more than fifty years I worked on my paint-by-numbers creation.  With uneven but persistent diligence, I dipped an emaciated paint-by-numbers brush into color No. 1 and painstakingly painted inside each little blue-bordered area marked 1.  Then on to 2 and 3 and 4 and so on.  Sometimes, during restive periods of my life, I would paint, say, the 12 spaces before the 10 spaces (a token rebellion against overdoses of linearity).  More than once, I painted beyond a line and, feeling embarrassed, would either try to wipe off the errant color or cover it over with another before anyone might notice my lack of perfection.  From time to time, although not often, someone would compliment me, unconvincingly, on the progress of my “masterpiece.”  I would gaze at the richness of others’ canvases.  Doubt about my own talent for painting gnawed at me.  Still, I continued to fill in the little numbered spaces, unaware of, or afraid to look at, any real alternative.

Then there came a time, after half a century of daubing more or less inside the lines, that my days were visited by traumatic events.  The dividends of my noxious past came home to roost, and the myth of my life began horrifically to come unglued.  I pulled back from my masterpiece-in-the-works and saw it with an emerging clarity.

It looked awful.

The stifled strokes of paint had nothing to do with me.  They did not illustrate who I am or speak of whom I could become. I felt duped, cheated, ashamed – anguished that I had wasted so much canvas, so much paint.  I was angry that I had been conned into doing so.

But that is the past.  Passed.

Today I wield a wider brush – pure ox-bristle.  And I’m swooping it through the sensuous goo of Cadmium Yellow, Alizarin Crimson or Ultramarine Blue (not Nos. 4, 13 or 8) to create the biggest, brightest, funniest, fiercest damn dragon that I can.  Because that has more to do with what’s inside of me than some prescribed plagirism of somebody else’s tour de force.

You have a masterpiece inside you, too, you know.  One unlike any that has ever been created, or ever will be.

And remember:

If you go to your grave without painting your masterpiece,

it will not get painted.

No one else can paint it.

Only you.

***

Photo: This masterpiece was painted by Claude Monet and is called “The Japanese Footbridge.”  Oil on canvass – 1899.  I took this pic when the portrait was on display in the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.

“Angel Dusting”

I remember when all employment practices, like hiring, firing, policy formation, etc., were handled in the “Personnel” office.  And then the wave of new management-speak began and the name was changed to “Human Resources.”  My colleagues and I were quite offended.  To us, we had gone from being “persons” to “resources.”  Just another log to throw on the corporate fire to be burned out, burned up, and our ashes discarded.

Then all of us employees became “Human Capital.”  Now management was using banking terms to describe people.  This was, perhaps, a little better in that the connotation was that employees were an “investment.”  This term evolved when employers realized half of their workforce was getting ready to retire, and they needed to invest in new logs to burn.  Some employers may have actually valued the loss of institutional knowledge that was going to be exiting when all those bodies walked out the door, never to return.  I can’t say for sure.  The places I’ve worked always seemed to value replacing long-term employees with unskilled cheaper ones.

I always love it when new terms like this are coined.  Sometimes they’re good and sometimes they are bad, but they are almost always entertaining because those creating the new terminology don’t always understand the messages they are conveying.  But I also love it because I can see other applications of the new phrase.  That’s where some of the real fun begins.

The one I heard yesterday was “Angel Dusting.”  And I absolutely love this one, seriously.  The context in which it was applied was in the way manufacturers of body-care products mask the toxins they are conning us into spraying on ourselves.  Or maybe “masking” is not the proper term, maybe “hyping” is better.  You see, these manufacturers put all forms of toxic compounds in things like lipstick, body wash, fragrances, sun screen, shaving cream; you name it.  Beauty products manufacturers don’t even have to disclose what all is in their concoctions and potions. They get to hide the bulk of their ingredients in the name of preserving “trade secrets.”  Tune in to the Heavy Metals Summit if you’d like to learn more about these toxins.

The “Dusting” occurs when the companies add a dash of vitamin A or E, or oatmeal, or vanilla, maybe an essential oil, and even yogurt.  But that’s all they add – a dusting.  These additives are in such small quantities that they have no beneficial value at all.  It’s a great marketing ploy, and it steers you away from all the bad stuff in there like parabens, synthetic colors, undefined fragrance, phthalates, triclosan, sodium lauryl sulfate, formaldehyde, and toluene.  Check out this article: “10 Toxic Beauty Ingredients to Avoid.”

The connotation of “Angel Dusting” is that they give just a minute amount of the good, to get you see past or accept the huge quantity of bad.  And, I can see this term being applied in all sorts of situations.

How many of us have put up with an extremely bad job, or bad boss because of the small perks that come around every once in a Blue Moon.  Or personal relationships.  They could even be abusive relationships, but we get a “dusting” of good, just enough to keep us holding on.  Believing that things are all right or that they will get better.  Flowers after a verbal or physical assault.  Promises of treating us better, of respecting our needs or desires.  The narcissist that dominates and controls while gaslighting you (another fun term) into believing they are the nice, sane partner in the relationship.  All the while, we are being poisoned.  Having the energy drained from our bodies, our spirits crushed.

Perhaps it’s a phony spiritual leader, dusting us with promises of acquiring wealth, happiness and spiritual union, all for a donation of $99.99.  The language sounds so sweet, so believable.  There are testimonials from saved souls – more dusting phonies on the payroll.

How about legislation that is named in the opposite of what it actually does.  My favorite is the Patriot Act.  It allows highly questionable government intrusion into personal privacy, basically violating constitutional rights in exchange for a mere dusting of the idea of increased security.  Maybe it has worked in small measure, but at what cost to liberty – but angelically, you are a “patriot.”

Unfortunately, it takes time for the toxicity to increase to the point where we finally realize we are poisoned.  Detoxing is extremely difficult and the long-lasting effects of the toxins can be catastrophic.

In terms of environmental pollutants this can lead to the devastation of entire landscapes, displacement of families, and the need for Superfund cleanups.

In terms of personal exposure to toxic chemicals, it can manifest as autoimmune diseases, severely impairing the quality of life and leading to early mortality.

In terms of spirituality, well just remember Jim Jones, Jonestown in Guyana, and the poison Kool-Aid.

In terms of lawmaking or executive action, it can be when we realize the action taken was all to benefit a special interest at the expense of everyone else – the public treasury already raided, billions of tax-payer monies gone, like the banking bailout.  Too big to fail, right?

In terms of relationships, it can destroy trust and self-esteem and set us up for a life of loneliness and alienation – and that’s if the poisoning was mental.  Physical abuse, perpetuated and repeated with doses of retaining Angle Dust, can be fatal.  The victim wasn’t able to escape in time.

“Angel Dusting.”  What a concept.  A way to profit off of poisoning the healthy by adding a minuscule speck of honey to entrap us . . .  I bet you can think of some more applications of this term.

***

Photo:  A beautiful lake in northern Montana.  It was one of the most amazing places I’ve visited.

Toxic

Toxic is a word I seem to be hearing a lot more lately.  It’s original meaning applied solely to substances or chemicals that were dangerous to people.  But it has now been widely applied, in the figurative sense, to include such things as relationships and workplaces.  When you think about it this way, there are many types of “toxins” when it comes to individual beliefs or behaviors including hatred, envy, bigotry, racism, and sexism, just to name a few.  I could be wrong, but I don’t image that a single dose of a particular person or a job could outright kill you, but maybe the stress of such encounters could, over time.  Of course, there are those jobs that can expose a person directly to toxic substances, and those could definitely kill you and kill you instantly.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has numerous definitions of what constitutes a toxic or highly toxic substance.  OSHA relies on the LD50 for it’s classifications.  This stands for the Lethal Dose or amount of a solid or liquid material that it takes to kill 50% of the test animals it’s used on.  This same measurement, frighteningly enough, is used when testing medications.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be a test subject, voluntarily or involuntarily, taking a 50-50, live or die gamble on handling or ingesting some chemical at work, or a medication my doctor prescribes, especially if the lethal doses they are talking about are only in milligrams or parts per million.

I wonder if there is an LD50 for doses of people or personalities 🙂

Now I usually don’t endorse programs or products and the like, but I have to say that I’ve enjoyed a couple of series this past week.  I watched the docuseries on Netflix called “Rotten,” which addresses multiple issues with modern agricultural industry practices including international market coercion, blind-eye regulation or unregulation, monocrop culture, use of toxic chemicals and crime.  I’ve also been watching the docuseries “Broken Brain” that is examining the effects of multiple environmental insults on the body, the diseases that manifest, and a functional approach to cure.

The common theme is these programs, and more and more literature I see as well, is that humans are starting to reap what they’ve sown.  We have violently exploited and poisoned the planet, and vast arrays of illnesses are starting to increase exponentially as a result.  The outdated algorithmic medical model of name it and pick a drug to treat symptoms is failing because it is simply not getting to the cause of these illnesses.  And because the causes can be multiple toxin exposures over time, it may not be easy to put your finger on the exact source and where to target treatment.  So, when I see people talking about eliminating the negative or toxic influences in their lives, and by that they usually mean toxic relationships, we might want to add to that list detoxing our planet and our bodies.

As you may have noticed, I have a number of categories of postings on my blog.  Soon, I’ll be adding a new one – “Environmental,” where I hope we can explore some of the issues where we can all truly make a healthy difference in the way live, breath, work and relate . . . it starts by shinning a light on them.

***

Postscript:  I kicked off this section by reblogging a piece from Nipslip titled: “Having an Eco-Conscience. Does it Matter and Is It Even Possible.

*  Photo Credit:  I found this photo on the Internet in the public domain and was unable to locate a source to give an attribution, but this one is not mine.

Another update:  There is a free web-presentation series coming up on Heavy Metals beginning January 29th through February 5th, 2018.  You can register to watch these presentations at the “Heavy Metal Summit: Detox Demystified.”

Update – January 30, 2018. I have to give Netflix credit again for launching another docuseries “Dirty Money,” which is exposing corporate fraud.  The first episode exposed Volkswagen’s deception on how their diesel cars, advertised and sold as “clean” were, in fact, some of the worse polluters adding to the toxins we breathe.

Update – February 3, 2018: You might want to reconsider what foods you are eating, especially cereals and snack foods that are composed largely of major mono-cropped grains.

“A FDA-registered food safety laboratory tested iconic American food for residues of the weed killer glyphosate (aka Monsanto’s Roundup) and found ALARMING amounts.”

Check out the article: “Monsanto is Scrambling to Bury This Breaking Story.”

Update – August 19, 2018:  I’m back to endorse another docuseries put together by Netflix.  It is called “Afflicted” and it follows the lives of seven people struggling with environmental or mysterious illnesses.  This includes Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, also called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, Electro-Magnetic Sensitivity; Toxic Mold Syndrome; and Lyme Disease.  All of which can be tied to our ever increasing poisoning of the planet.

These disease processes can be devastating for the sufferers and their families.  And for most, the mainstream medical community has abandoned those afflicted.  When they figure out a way to make a profit, I’m sure they will rise to the occasion.

The hyperlink above will take you to the trailer if you’re interested.  Kudos to Netflix for taking on this subject matter.

 

Move Your Body, Move Your Mind

Yesterday, I didn’t post anything in my category “Daily Musings.”  And that’s ok.  As writers, we don’t always get things on paper, or we may be working on multiple projects and simply not make it to the blog.  Of course, there are times when the well just goes dry.  No words.  What do we do then?  It’s pointless to get frustrated, so you might as well free up your mind by doing something else.

In the book, “Brain Rules,” by John Medina, he talks about how our evolutionary past affects our thinking and creativity today.  The first of his twelve rules is to exercise, and he outlines the “performance envelope” where “our brains are designed to solve problems, related to surviving, in an unstable outdoor environment, and to do so in nearly constant motion.”  Yes, motion.

From an evolutionary view, our brains developed while we were on the move – walking as many as twelve miles each day.  Constant motion was necessary to forage for food, water, and to scurry away from predators.  While these skills may have deteriorated in an age where some only get their exercise by walking to the vending machine, no longer fearing that saber-tooth tigers might surprise them on the well-worn carpet path to the office break room, multiple studies have borne out that exercise increases our cognitive abilities.  And it doesn’t matter what type of exercise as long as gets the blood flowing.  More circulating oxygen to the brain transforms to increases in substances promoting and enhancing brain activity and even stimulating the grown of new brain cells.  This is why sitting in a class room or an office has the opposite effect of making our brains grow tired and numb.  Moving increases brain power.  Moving stimulates creativity.

Now you don’t have to walk twelve miles every day, but motion is good.  Any motion.  I’ve found its best to carry something to jot down those ideas while I’m on the trail, or use the voice recorder on the cell phone.  Because once I start moving, and take my mind off writing, words just magically appear.

Yesterday it was 4 miles out in the woods. I wrote a lot in my mind that will hopefully be on paper soon.  Today, my chosen activity was cleaning house.  And as I did, numerous ideas for numerous stories kept popping up in my mind.  So many ideas and words that my house cleaning was disrupted by many returns to the keyboard.  Or maybe I just didn’t want to clean.  I don’t know.  But, if you want to forage for words, move your body . . .

***

Seeding, Misleading, Switching, and Stealing: The Vocabulary of Competition in Today’s Pharmaceutical Industry

* Disclaimers:  The image for this post was found on the internet in the public domain and it is in no way identified or affiliated with any entity or particular drug manufacturer.  While the article references specific companies in relation to a Wall Street Journal publication, it is in no way implying those companies, or any other specific companies, have engaged in the practices identified by Dr. Kessler, former Commissioner of the FDA, which are described in this article.

** This article was published in the editorial sections of the Columbia Missourian on July 12, 1995 and in the Columbia Daily Tribune on July 18, 1995.  Please see my Daily Musings post called “Detours” for an introduction to this flash from the past.

Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that several pharmaceutical companies increased their donations to the GOP to influence legislation that ultimately saved them $1 billion dollars.  It seems Abbott Laboratories, Bristol-Meyers Squibb and American Home Products donated more “soft-money” to the Republicans this past year than the previous six years combined in an effort to eliminate rebates to the government from the sale of infant formula to the Women, Infants and Children program.  Paying off legislators, however, is just one method of dominating the pharmaceutical market, and these corporations go to great lengths to promote products that are much more lethal than infant formula.

More than $58 billion a year is reaped by the U.S. pharmaceutical companies, but each individual company commands only a small share of this monetary battlefield.  Merck and Co., for example, controls the largest market share, dominating only 6.2 percent of the industry.  The fact that each drug manufacturer controls such a small portion or total pharmaceutical revenues fuels fierce competition to influence your physician to prescribe, or misprescribe, medications.  David Kessler of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research cites increasing evidence of illicit drug marketing practices that mislead or literally buy physicians’ prescribing practices.

One such technique is called a “seeding trial.”  The company identifies physicians, not based on qualifications, but by their habits of prescribing competitors’ products.  These doctors are then enticed to prescribe a given medication by signing them on for a drug trial of no scientific value.  Already FDA-licensed, these drugs require no additional studies.  The only criteria for participation is the physician’s willingness to write prescriptions.  Little to no data is collected, and no control groups are used to compare effects of medications.  The physician is paid a flat fee for each patient enrolled, which usually varies from $85 to $500 a head.  Essentially, these false studies are designed to change a doctor’s prescribing habits to a medication with no appreciable benefits to the patients involved.  In a marketing memo intercepted by the FDA, one company highlighted the importance of one such trial in this manner: “If at least 20,000 of the 25,000 patients enrolled remain in the study, it could mean up to a $10,000,000 boost in sales.”

This type of payment for questionable research has resulted in other problems.  In his article “Institutional Conflicts of Interest,” Ezekiel Emanuel documented that institutions and physicians receiving royalties and payments associated with drug research were more likely to fail to provide informed consent; to ignore adverse reactions and complications endangering their subjects; and to introduce bias into the collection and interpretation of data.  If drug companies are eliciting false drug trials and physicians are altering results based on payment for these studies, how can any patient trust that [they are] being prescribed the correct product for [their] ailment?

If physicians cannot be coerced into false studies to change their prescribing habits, then drug companies simply misrepresent the benefits of their products.  Unsubstantiated claims of superiority, minimizing or failing to mention risk and adverse reactions or presenting pharmacokinetic distinctions with dubious relevance are all part of a well-orchestrated false advertising campaign.  A study conducted at the University of San Diego School of Medicine demonstrated that, at best, pharmaceutical representatives were only 89 percent accurate in their advertising statements.  This 11 percent falsification of data could be all it takes for your physician to prescribe a lethal combination of medications.

If “seeding and misleading” can’t get your physician into the manufacturer’s camp, then how about the “switch campaign?”  Insurance companies encourage the use of cheaper generic drugs to hold down health-care costs.  To avoid this loss of revenue, however, pharmaceutical corporations offer direct payments to physicians to “switch” to another dosage form of the same product or to another product in the same therapeutic class.  No real benefit surfaces for the patient, but now there is no generic substitute for the switched classification and no loss of profits for the manufacturer.

If all of this doesn’t make you reach for your antacid, then consider the newest trend in the pharmaceutical industry: stealing.  Drug companies are trying to create alliances with insurers that will allow them to guide the patients’ care, provide their medications and bypass the physician altogether.  A nurse would monitor the patient by phone while hospital and physician visits are discouraged.  The drug company would provide only its products, eliminating the physician’s option to decide form a wide range of medications.  I guess “stealing” prescriptive authority is certainly one way to eliminate the competition, but then again just who is practicing medicine here, and whose interest do you think these companies are representing?

In the Nov. 15 issue of Hospital Practice, Robert Schrier documented a drug-dosing crisis in America that accounts for 60,000 to 140,000 unnecessary death each year.  Adverse reactions resulted in 10.8 percent of all hospitalizations and 14 percent of all in-patient hospital days, and once hospitalized there was an additional 18 to 30 percent chance of experiencing and adverse drug event.  Medication producing dizziness and sedation in the elderly population caused 32,000 hip fractures last year, and potentially life-threatening mixtures of medications were found in 88 percent of all elderly patients prescribed three or more medications.  Prescription medications, taken the way they are ordered, account for more deaths each year than guns (35,000), than high risk sexual behavior (30,000) or even motor vehicle accidents (25,000).  In fact, each year prescription medications kill more people than the entire 16 years of the Vietnam War, during which we lost 57,147 Americans.  With these types of statistics, it is not very comforting to know that our drug manufacturers are illicitly influence the way our doctors treat our ailments.

***

Kessler, D. A., et. al. (1994).  Therapeutic Class Wars – Drug Promotion in a Competitive                        Marketplace.  The New England Journal of Medicine, 331(20), 1350- 1353.

 

Photo:  This photo was found on the Internet in the public domain.  No other attribution could be found.

Update June 3, 2018: It looks like nothing has changed since 1994, except there are probably more zeros after the profit margins of Big Pharma.  Check it out: “Why Prescription Drugs Cost So Much.”  All links are subject to link rot.