“My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.” ~ Desmond Tutu.
I greeted my two near death experiences with song. When I went into labor with my first child, the only way I could handle the pain that I thought was about to kill me, was by singing ‘Nearer my God, to thee’ as I was on my hands and knees, trying to subtract minutes from a digital clock to figure out how close the contractions were. I didn’t die, and I went on to give birth three times more.
Many years later, a friend persuaded me to join her on a trip to Universal Studios. She was a fan of the daredevil rides. Me, I was happy to watch from the ground. Apparently, that was not an option. Nor was sitting sensibly in the back of the ride. And so I found myself front and center of the duelling dragons (or some other such scary roller coaster), eyes tight shut, singing that Ozzie Osbourne song: ‘Mamma, I’m coming hoooooooome!’ I survived that experience, and since I didn’t see other dead bodies being dragged away decided perhaps the rides were not fatal, and actually enjoyed the thrill!
This was not the first time I had been the unwilling partner on a daredevil ride. In nursing school I had accompanied another friend on some scary roller coaster (not half as technologically advanced as the Disney or Universal Studio versions). She was eager, I was keeping her company. She threw up at the end of it, I was fine! It is always interesting to learn that experiences which you may not sign up for, turn into ones you never forget. My own origin story owes itself to my mother being volunteered by her mother to attend a newly formed young people’s group at their local church, and there she met my father.
Some recent shows about the universe, our galaxy, the hosts of planets and stars that abound out there have got me thinking. What are the odds that of all the millions of possibilities out there, ours is the only habitable planet, the only one with the ingredients necessary for life to evolve, for humanity to exist. And what if this is all an experiment? What if we are being studied, like pathogens in a petri dish, to see how we handle the challenges and opportunities? How are the statistics stacking up?
I like to teach nursing students about the secret of life. It can be summarized in one word: perfusion. This is the act of delivering blood to a tissue or organ. Blood which is rich in nutrients and oxygen, which is delivered with the right amount of force (hydrostatic pressure, caused by the pumping of the heart) to permit the nutrient rich fluid to bathe your tissues and allow for healthy cellular activity to take place. Without a healthy heart, healthy lungs to provide the oxygen, healthy digestive system to absorb the necessary ingredients to supply the cells, health kidneys to eliminate the waste products, healthy brain to keep the heart pumping, the lungs breathing, etc., etc., life does not go on. It helps to introduce the nursing student to the interdependence of all of our bodily functions. You can break things down into each system, the disorders, the necessary interventions, but if you fail to see the interconnectedness of all of the parts, you may miss a potential complication looming. We are all familiar with having to take a medication for one problem, only to find that we are taking two more to counter the side effects. Helps to keep those poor struggling pharma companies in business!
But until we see that the whole body is more than the sum of the parts, that what affects one small area can have ramifications for the rest, we cannot be whole or healthy. They call it the holistic approach to health, taking into account not only the whole body, but the whole backstory: what is going on in your life? How is your support network? How do you handle stress? How are your finances? Are you able to make healthy choices? How is your emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing? Failing to consider a person’s whole life will ultimately doom any treatment plan prescribed neatly by a hurried healthcare provider. I was recently very happy to hear a friend say that he preferred to see the Nurse Practitioner in his Primary Care Physician’s office, for she listened to him, spent time getting to know him, before collaborating with him on a plan of care.
Suppose we were to view our planet as an organism, a whole being. Perhaps then we would take better care of those distant parts of our body that we think are not crucial. When poor arterial circulation affects the lower extremities of the body, it may first manifest as a tiny pinprick on the undersurface of a toe. It may hardly be visible, but it signifies the onset of gangrene, the beginning of death of tissue (lack of perfusion). When we turn our backs on those areas of our planet where pinpricks of gangrene are appearing, we doom the whole body to a slow and painful death.
There are always areas of hope, people that are working for the good of the whole. People who recognize that unless we actively participate in the healing of our planet, our future is very uncertain. We cannot hide from the daily news of catastrophic climate events; from floods to fires; overheating to melting glaciers; these are no longer once in a century events, they are monthly. And yet we have leaders who seem to be more interested in their next election rather than the future of their grandchildren.
If this is just an experiment, I fear we are failing. We already have scientist planning an exit strategy, looking for a new planet to destroy. Have we not learned our lessons? It is time for us all to view our planet holistically, and unfortunately, holisticism is not a word (holism is though). But I loved the thought of holistic humanism, a philosophy where we can see each other as symbiotic cells of one organism. The good of the whole is dependent upon each one of us living for the good of each other. One day.
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!