Tag Archives: Nature

Transformation or Illness: How Would We Know?

I picked up a fun book tracing a historical perspective on the advancement of medicine, and it naturally included a section about the Hippocratic Oath (400 B.C.).  Hippocrates was the ancient Greek physician credited as being the father of Western Medicine.  He is famous for dismissing beliefs, more ancient than he was, that advocated the supernatural origin of disease.

The oath, which has frequently been summed up as “first do no harm” is actually quite lengthy.  It has been modified multiple times over the centuries and, as it turns out, was not, most probably, written by Hippocrates.

Another irony is that, while Hippocrates disavowed supernatural origins of disease, the original oath translated from Greek, begins by invoking supernatural beings: “I swear by Apollo the Healer, by Asclepius [God of Medicine], by Hygieia [Goddess of health and cleanliness], by Panacea [Goddess of remedies], and by all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will carry out, according to my ability and judgment, this oath and this indenture.”

The Hippocratic Corpus is a collection of texts associated with Hippocrates’ teachings, only part of which was authored by Hippocrates.  And perhaps in another irony, the Paneth Codex, another medical text that was completed long after Hippocrates had passed, contains some of his writings while using depictions of demons as metaphors for disease.

It seems that it was hard for even the most objective early practitioners of medicine to fully eliminate the supernatural from the corners of their medicine cabinets.  And maybe for good reason.  For the supernatural, once identified and defined, can become quite natural.

So just what is the supernatural and what is natural or normal when it comes to defining illness?

My background and careers are largely based upon science and logical reasoning.  Yet, I’m still willing to keep an open mind and recognize that science and human genius can’t always explain things.  As most people would attest, we’ve seen or experienced things that simply don’t fit neatly into the boxes and shelves of the “normal.”

To say it differently, I believe in the metaphysical realm.  I also believe in mind-body connections and what’s happening in the mind can find ways of manifesting itself in the body.

While I was working at a major research hospital, the doctors and nurses frequently described and linked personality types with specific diseases.  And not always in the most positive terms.  A more neutral example might be that “Type A” personalities were more likely to have heart attacks than “Type B” personalities.

Which brings me to today’s pondering.

Is every so called “unnatural” or “abnormal” condition truly an “illness?”  What’s the interplay between mental and physical illness?”  And what if instead of an illness that required treatment, people were really, in some instances, going through an evolution that should be allowed to progress?

And I guess before I dive in too deeply here, I should clarify that I’m not a mental health professional, nor am I a medical doctor.  If you’re needing a medical opinion, consult your primary care physician, and if you wish to learn more about mental health from a real professional, check out the site of my blogging friend Dr. Perry.

That disclaimer aside, most illnesses would fall outside the definition of normal and some seem relatively simple to diagnose and identify their causes.  Some are genetically related and some follow the pathogen-induced pathway.  Sounds simple, you’re born with the genetic makeup that can be expressed as a physical ailment or you encounter a virus or bacterium and you contract a disease.

But many people have “bad genes” or have close encounters with pathogens and they don’t become ill.  Why?  They are usually said to have healthier immune systems.  What makes a healthy immune system?  Besides good nutrition and exercise there are plenty of correlations to good mental health, positive thinking, and being happy to having a healthy immune system and healthy body.

The idea of illness originating in the mind, or from a body being out of balance might coincide more with some Eastern medical practices, while germ theory most follows Western medicine.  Although I will give Western medicine credit for having researched some things like meditation and meridians and finding scientific bases to support traditional Eastern or more holistic approaches to treatment.  And many Western pharmaceutical treatments come directly from old-fashioned herbal remedies from the Shamans of old.

So if one is encountering an illness, or deviation from normal physical or mental health, something not occurring naturally, then, despite Hippocrates’ claims, could there be a “supernatural” cause, and just what would that mean?

The definition of “supernatural” doesn’t only include references to spiritual entities, but it more basically means transcending the laws of nature or being attributable to an invisible agent.  So, before the advent of the microscope, a simple bacterium or a virus would not have been visible in the observable universe and an illness caused by such would have been a supernatural occurrence.  Consequently, depending on the limits of scientific measurement at any point in time, many causes of diseases could, by simple definition, be supernaturally caused.

And when referring to the supernatural, does it have to be an external source?  What about the person’s own spirit?  Can’t a damaged soul be expressed as a physical ailment?

Or maybe an enlightened soul is causing a physical evolution?

My daughter sent me an interesting article the other day called,  “Shamans Believe Mental Illness Is Something Else Entirely.”  The article focused on a West African Shaman of the Dagara people who proposes that some mental ailments, like depression and schizophrenia may actually be a step towards transformation – even meaning the birth of a healer.

The Dagara believe that some of what we in the West call mental illness is really what happens when people encounter, and don’t how to deal with, psychic phenomena and the spiritual world.  In their tradition, these individuals are seen as a bridge between physical and spiritual worlds.

This Shaman is said to have taken an 18-year-old suffering from hallucinations and depression back to his village.  After 8 months of healing rituals this person was acting quite “normal” and returned to U.S. society to earn a degree in Psychology at Harvard.

While this may be an isolated example, it’s an amazing concept to contemplate.  And I’m not saying that such non-traditional approaches would be a panacea for mental health treatments.  I’m just saying there is still more unknown than there is known.

Given our acculturation, if we were undergoing a positive physical, mental, or spiritual transition we might very well be totally confused as to what was happening and think we were ill.  Our doctors might be unable to come up with a definitive diagnosis and resort to traditional treatments or try to repress the evolution.  You might be labeled as being mentally ill, which could, in turn, send you down medical corridors forever obscuring the inner butterfly emerging from the cocoon.

As more advances are made, and as more ways to measure the currently unmeasurable become available, finer distinctions may emerge as to what constitutes good or “normal” health.  For the supernatural may be commonplace and just another source for healthy growth and development.

***

Photo: The book I picked up is titled: “The Medical Book” and it was written by Clifford A. Pickover.  This picture is a portion of a photo used in the book and comes from the Paneth Codex, completed in Bologna in 1326 A.D.   The book begins in the time frame of 10,000 B.C. moving through medical advances until 2008.  Medicine, indeed, has come a long way from bloodletting starting in 1500 B.C., and I believe it still has a long way to go.

I can personally attest to the advances made in the treatment of asthma since the 1960s when many doctors believed that asthma was a mental illness.  I had many a scary trip to the emergency room as a child, and when in full respiratory distress was even administered Thorazine, an antipsychotic medication, and knocked unconscious.  Oh, the many things we’ve been fortunate enough to survive:-)

Hypocrite: I feel compelled to mention that the word “hypocrite” does not originate from “Hippocrates,” even though it sort of sounds like it does.  Hypocrite comes from the Greek word hypokrites, meaning “an actor,” and translating more literally to “an interpreter from underneath” because actors at the time traditionally wore masks.  Figuratively, it meant someone who wears a mask to pretend to be someone they are not.  In early religious texts, its appears as “ypocrite” referring to those acting like they are morally good to deceive others.  Today, of course, we accept the meaning that it’s a person acting contrary to their stated beliefs.  In a loose sense, that could apply to Hippocrates – denouncing supernatural causes of disease while swearing to supernatural beings to practice good medicine 🙂

Update December 1, 2018: I stumbled upon another article today about this same subject and the Dagara. “A Mental Disease by Any Other Name.”

 
Link Rot Warning: No one can guarantee how long a link on the Net will last.  The US Supreme Court got into trouble over this.  One of the judges quoted from an Internet site, but after a couple of months the site was no longer there for reference.  I also once went to check out a link promoted on our local TV weather channel only to discover it had been hijacked by a porn site – Yikes!

Casting a Net with Language

Lightening + Edard Abbey Quote

***

Photo:  A lightening bolt during a monsoon rain reaches down to the mountains.  Only appearing for an instant, the image was caught by repeatedly opening the shutter.  It took about a hundred shots for the timing to capture that less-than-a-second flash of light.  The difficulty in catching the image seems to parallel the quote.  It can take many casts of a net made of words to catch simple facts in an ocean of information 🙂

Wavelengths

Have you ever noticed how you might be thinking about something, maybe even putting pen to paper to memorialize those thoughts, and then suddenly someone else says something that is exactly what was in your mind?  As if they had reached inside your head and grabbed it.

Or maybe, you had just read something that really intrigued you and suddenly material on that same topic starts popping up everywhere?  A friend recommends a book – same subject.  You see an advertisement for a TV documentary – same subject.  A billboard along the highway – same subject.  A blog post from a friend mirrors that same subject.

Affirmations from the world around us.  We’re on the same wavelength.

And none of this is related to some mainstream news cycle.  Maybe it’s about showing gratitude.  Or demonstrating generosity.  Or learning to smile at the beauty that surrounds us.

This seems to happen all the time, if we’re paying attention, and it happened again just the other day when my blogging friend Searching for Grady posted to her blog.  It’s a piece she calls, “Migratory Spirits” about the twelve virtues.

And it just so happens, I’m reading a book about the twelve virtues called, “The Lakota Way: Stories and Lessons for Living.”  The author, Joseph M. Marshall III, dedicates a chapter to each virtue.  Providing the Sioux word and pronunciation, and then telling some traditional stories to illustrate the concepts.

So we have:

Humility – Unsiiciyapi  (un-shee-ee-cee-yah-pee) to be humble, modest, unpretentious;

Perseverance – Wowacintanka (wo-wah-chin-tan-gah) to persist, strive in spite of difficulties;

Respect – Wawoohola (wah-wo-o-ho-lah) to be considerate, to hold in high esteem;

Honor – Wayuonihan (wah-you-v-knee-han) to have integrity, an honest and upright character;

Love – Cantognake (chan-doe-gnan-key) to place and hold in one’s heart;

Sacrifice – Icicupi (ee-chee-chu-pee) to give of oneself, an offering;

Truth – Wowicake (wo-wee-jah-keh) that which is real, the way the world is;

Compassion – Waunsilapi (wah-un-shee-lah-pee) to care, to sympathize;

Bravery – Woohitike (wo-oh-hee-tee-keh) having or showing courage;

Fortitude – Cantewasake (can-te-wah-sha-keh) strength of heart and mind;

Generosity – Canteyuke (chan-te-you-keh) to give, to share, to have heart;

and,

Wisdom – Woksape (wo-ksa-peh) to understand what is right and true, to use knowledge wisely.

Isn’t it amazing how these ideas seem to travel.  I don’t think it’s solely because of the Internet or modern communications either.  While we might look at these systems as being more dendrites in the collective nervous system, ideas seem to travel with or without exterior electronics.  We are all connected.  We may have just not realized how widespread collective thoughts manifest.

There are no coincidences.

I find it encouraging that at a time when there seems to be more division and hatred spreading like a cancer, that the twelve virtues have emerged.  Perhaps as the antibodies to defeat such infections.

May the thoughts and the actions from the virtues gain lightspeed 🙂

***

Photo: The sun rises over a rock formation in the Badlands.  A universal symbol.  The sun rising, a new day, new beginnings, a fresh start, we’ve embarked on a new journey.  These thoughts arise in everyone’s minds, synchronously, without the need to speak.  Perhaps a look into another’s eyes, the nod of a head.  Just knowing.

Fire and Air – Part 3

This will be the final part of my Yellowstone travelog.  The Upper Geyser Basin.

I think the most popular image of Yellowstone that comes to mind is that of Old Faithful.  Because of this, I know I was quite astounded to see all of the other features of the park, each with their own unique beauty.  Some of the other hydrothermal features are so much more colorful.  Just check out the pics of Morning Glory Pond.

I’ll start with a small gallery covering Old Faithful and then have a bit larger one of the remaining features of the Upper Geyser Basin.  Old Faithful is so popular they have built bleachers around it that are packed with people from all over the world for those intervals of 90 to 120 minutes to watch it go off.  Apparently, the geyser’s eruption-timing has become less predictable over the years and the boiling water spout is not as high as it once was – still spectacular nonetheless.

Old Faithful is apparently a juvenile.  It takes a 100 years for a cinder cone to grow by an inch, so some of the geysers are thousands of years older than Old Faithful.

I didn’t record the name of every hot spring, chromatic pool, and geyser, but I did for some of the main ones.  And I included some pics of the Firehole River that runs right through the middle of this geyser basin.  The combination of water, geothermal heat, minerals, sunlight, and bacteria is amazing 🙂

Old Faithful

Remainder of the Upper Geyser Basin

There were other parts of the park that I visited that I didn’t include in this travelog and other parts I still haven’t seen.  Just hitting the main features was a lot.  I’ll have to go back again 🙂

I still have at least one more chapter to write in the “Contrasts” series, but we’ll be in a different location for Chapter 6.

***

 

Fire and Air – Part 1

We had Earth and Water yesterday, so it’s on to Fire and Air – Yellowstone’s geyser basins.  Or at least a couple of them.  Today I’m posting pics from the Norris Geyser Basin, which has, to my understanding, just recently fired back up to full power.  It’s divided into two areas and the boardwalks will keep you moving.

It’s amazing when geothermal energy collides with water and minerals 🙂

Porcelain Basin

Black Basin

***

Earth and Water

As I mentioned yesterday in Contrasts, Chapter 5, I would have to post some additional photo galleries of Yellowstone.  I decided to break them up a bit because I took so many photos and there are just so many diverse areas to see in this park.

Today’s theme is Earth and Water.

Contrasts – 第5章 – Wild Spaces

Lodgepole pine forests, alpine meadows, sagebrush steppe, rolling grasslands, massive watersheds and wetlands, 2500 miles of rivers and streams, 600 lakes and ponds, majestic canyons and waterfalls, geyser basins scattered about a giant volcanic caldera, the Continental Divide, and home to a wide diversity of wildlife including endangered species.  Ready?

I’m finally getting to the contrast that inspired this series of blog posts.  Yellowstone.

Why?  The San Diego Zoo, at the start of the series, represented the epitome of a zoo’s potential.  Beautiful grounds.  Botanical paradise.  Humane habitats constructed to be as natural as they could be, considering they are still prisons for the wildlife residing there.

Asphalt pathways.  Directional signs.  Herds of people grazing on hot dogs, candy, and sodas.  The animals scarcely move, except to pace the perimeter of their enclosures.  The mammals lose the luster to their fur.  The color fades from the birds’ plumage.

Depressed.  Spirits broken.  Many lose the ability to reproduce.  Many die early deaths.

Contrast Yellowstone.  It is zoo-like in the number and diversity of wild species, but there are no cages.  People and animals can mingle with no bars, no fences, no nets, no plexiglass, no moats, no enclosure of any type between them.  Nature trails through the middle of it all if you want to hike.

And there is no urban jungle surrounding this pristine landscape.  No smog, no freeways, no towering buildings, no two million human residents.  Although archeological evidence shows people have inhabited this area as long as 11,000 years ago and 26 Native American Tribes have connections with the park.  And there are those four million tourists of modernity that can come and go in a year.

What behavior could we observe there?

I have to tell you it’s a bit strange.  For one, I understand the dilemma that park rangers face.  A lot of people just don’t get it.  These are wild animals.  Beautiful and magnificent.  In the wild.  And the people are in their territory and seem to be unconscious to the fact that they are in the wilderness, the real world.  It’s not a human-made park, and you just can’t walk up to a Grizzly Bear and expect not to be killed.

The animals, having become accustomed to large groups of people who are prohibited from killing them, are not fearful, do not take refuge, do not hide.  Of course, some, like the bear, never would have anyway.  This is their land.

They’re alive, vibrant, free.

They roam where they want.  Raise families.  And balance.  Yes balance.  If you’d like a good vision of that balance check out my post “Of Wolves and Hominids.”

The situation is bound to result in some collisions.  Bumbling people long removed from living in nature, believing food comes from grocery stores, now surrounded by nature. The source of all life.

You can get close, but not that close.

So, bring a camera where you don’t have to get too personal.  Your cell phone camera ain’t going to cut it, except for some landscape shots.   You’re not going to get a selfie with a Bull Elk or a Bison.  Because by the time you’re close enough with your phone to get that great profile shot, you’ll be on your way to the hospital or to your burial.

Next, slow the fuck down.  Please pardon my language.

This isn’t New York City, or any city for that matter.  You’re not driving to work.  There’s no trophy waiting for you when you reach your destination somewhere in the park.  You are surrounded by your destination.  You’re already there 🙂

If you try to hurry, you’re going to miss what’s around you.  And you’ll miss a lot.

If you try to hurry, you’ll find yourself stuck and angry, and you’re not going to enjoy the experience.

The park is huge – 2.2 million acres!  The speed limit is 45 mph at the fastest.  There is a lot of road construction as they try to upgrade to accommodate the crowds.  Tour buses drive 32 mph.  Bison, Bears, Elk and Pronghorns will cause traffic jams.

Chill.  Open your eyes.  Enjoy the beauty.

A great deal of what I witnessed it terms of human behavior was people trying to drive insanely fast just to get to the next pull out.  Then they would pop out of their cars – clown car images :-), snap a few pics, mostly selfies, although admittedly there was a great backdrop, and then pile back into their vehicles and speed to the next pull out and repeat.

Pull in.  Pull out.  Pedal to the floor.  Document.  Record.  But fail to actually see and experience.

Rather, one should breathe in, breathe out.  Stop and appreciate the beauty.  My god, it’s incredible.

Walk around a little and feel the earth beneath your feet.  Touch the tress and lichens.  Listen to the Ravens.  Smell the rivers and streams.  Taste a wild Thimbleberry.

A crowd of stopped vehicles could tip you off to a good wildlife spotting.  But remember the proximity rule.  I saw a crowd of fifty people surround a Grizzly Bear.  One step too close, or too much crowding could have provoked it.  And they can move fast.  I took a couple of shots from a safe distance and moved on.

The day after I left, a man was gored by a Bull Elk.  That’s not a good way to enjoy nature.

Plan enough days to see the many attractions.  I planned a week and I used every minute of it.  I had no idea just how many hydrothermal features there were to see – some 10,000 of them, including 500 geysers.  It would take months to see them all.

In addition to the familiar hot springs and geysers, there are mudpots (springs acidic enough to dissolve the surrounding rock), travertine terraces (hot springs boiling through limestone and depositing the calcite in layers), and fumaroles (steam vents).

Many of these features are rainbow colored by microorganisms called thermophiles.  Microscopic in size, trillions of them amass and produce the varying colors.  The temperature determines what organisms grow and those determine the pigments released.

One of the most spectacular features is the Grand Prismatic Hot Spring in the Midway Geyser Basin.  I did a separate post just on that one because of its intense beauty.

There are some great trails and day-hikes and you should check a couple of them out.  At least hike by the Falls at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  But also realize you can cover quite a distance just traversing the boardwalks weaving through the geyser basins.  I got in seven miles on one of those days.

And don’t stray off the boardwalk thinking you can sneak a little closer to that hot spring for a better shot.  There have been fatalities where that fragile crust of land gives way and swallows a person in 200 degree, plus or minus, earth, steam, and boiling acidic mud.

If you can, stay in a lodge in the park.  I was 30 miles outside the park and once getting to the entrance, there was another 25 to get to the center loop that links you all of the park’s quadrants.  I averaged driving 200 miles round trip each day I was there.  But it was worth it for all that I took in.

Get out early if you want to see Grizzlies and Elk.  That’s when they’re on the move, and with less people stirring, you have a better chance at getting that once-in-a-lifetime photo.

Accept the fact that you’re not always going to get a pic.  Yes, I saw wolves in the Lamar Valley – with the help of another visitor’s high-power spotting scope.  He was generous. Not everyone will be.

The wolves were way out of range for my 400 mm lens to capture more than a smudge of an imprint.  A few pixels in that high-resolution frame.  But I was thrilled to see them and that image will always remain in my mind.

Well, now I may be getting too touristy in my descriptions and tips, and be wheeling away from the theme of contrasts, but I think you get the idea.

This isn’t the city.  You can’t behave like it is.  This is the real world with a few paved roads running through it.  It’s spectacularly beautiful.  It can kill you if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Enjoy 🙂

***

Prior Chapters of Contrasts:

Contrasts – Kapitel 1

Contrasts – Hoofstuk 2: Which Animals Do You Watch?

Contrasts – κεφάλαιο 3 – Cabrillo National Monument

Contrasts – Chapitre 4 – Two Museums

As I’ve been going through my pics, I realized I have so many that I’ve decided to post a couple of different galleries.  Today, we’ll have a look at some of the wildlife.  Even an amateur like me can get some great shots at Yellowstone 🙂

 

A Few Seconds of Peace

I am currently working on a gallery for an upcoming post, and I didn’t realize just how many pictures I need to sort though.  Yes, one of the pitfalls of digital cameras, I push the button too often 🙂

So while I’m working on that, here are a few of short videos for peaceful reflection.

Something about water  . . .

 

 

 

Feature Photo:  Horseback riding in the Great Northwest.

Skeletons in the Closet

I don’t think I have a closet big enough for this skeleton 🙂

This T-Rex cast is on display at the Smithsonian.  But it’s a good way to call attention to my update of yesterday’s post on the contrasts between museums.  I updated that post by adding a small gallery of pics from the San Diego Museum of Natural History.  A great museum in its own right.

I suppose we all have a few skeletons that we may not wish to unearth.  Buried away in those dark recesses.  Those catacombs and ossuaries of the mind.  Sealed over.   Blotted out of our memory.  Perhaps believing we were isolating a contagion.  A virus that could cause madness if inhaled.

But then again, maybe those bones can be unearthed.  An archeological expedition into our own minds.  We can metaphorically expose them in our current atmospheres and learn and grow from that past, even though that history may not be as ancient as museum artifacts.

Self examination.  Introspection.  All part of gaining true wisdom.  For the answers lie within.

Excavations like meditations.  Removing the layers of past years and lifetimes.  Clearing the cobwebs of societal illusions.  Finding that inner essence.  For the awakening of our souls.

Though self-exploration may be difficult, may we all find peace on our inward journeys 🙂

 

Halcyon Days

You’ve probably heard this expression before – oh those good old “Halcyon Days.”  It’s a phrase filled with the nostalgic remembrance of the endless summer days of our youths.

But I have a few more references for you today.  The first is to an on-line publication of that same title that you really need to check out.  It is absolutely beautifully done, and I’m honored to have had one of my poems picked up in its Autumn issue – “An Oil Painting for the One I Love.

The next is to the original source of the term, which ascribes to days in the depths of winter’s grasp.

Greek legend has it that Aeolus, the ruler of the winds, had a daughter named Alcyone.  Alcyone married Ceyx, the king of Thessaly.  Ceyx suffered the fate of drowning at sea and Alcyone, in her grief, threw herself into the ocean.  But instead of drowning, she was transformed into a bird, the Halcyon, and carried to her husband by the wind.

The Halcyon was said to make a floating nest in the Aegean Sea and, while brooding her eggs, she had the power to calm the waves for fourteen days.  This would occur every year around the Winter Solstice, usually 21st or 22nd of December.  The Halcyon is now commonly linked to European Kingfisher.

As time passed, the association with the brooding time of the Halcyon faded, and the phrase was just associated with the calm days of summer, as was used by Shakespeare in Henry VI:

Assign’d am I to be the English scourge.
This night the siege assuredly I’ll raise:
Expect Saint Martin’s summer, halcyon days,
Since I have entered into these wars.

Somehow, the phrase evolved into its present meaning of those happy endless days of our youth.

So, while I’m looking back in time today, I’ll draw another reference to a few more of my past blog posts that were pleasantly, and excitedly, picked up for publication.  I haven’t reminisced like this since my post 100th!!!

The following articles and poems were picked up by The Urban Howl:

Luminous, published under the title: Release Yourself From Your Thoughts – Be Luminous & Divine.

The Bear, published under the title: Bear Wisdom – Venture, Awaken & Emerge From the Den.

Hiking Through the Rhyolite, published under the title: If Your Soul is Open, Nature’s Spirits Will Speak to You.

Monsoons and Mountains, published under the title: Surrender Control & Let The Wind Take You To A New Adventure.

And,

Torrent, published under the title: The Torrent: Facing Our Greatest Fear & Risking Living.

I hope you have many Halcyon days to remember, and maybe this year around the time of the Winter Solstice, we’ll all have some 🙂

***

Photo: I was perched in these mountains last month.  Definitely a calm and endless day of joy.

A Little Magic

What happens when you mix the edge of a clear mountain stream with a bucket full of multicolored sedimentary stones, add a tablespoon of current reverberating off the bank, and then a dash of the afternoon sun’s refracting photons?  Well this . . .

River Rock

Photo:  Somewhere in Montana 🙂