INFECTIOUS DISEASE ALERT — Negativity is Catching !

Back from an excellent vacation in France.  ( FYI the French are as reasonable and pleasant as any New Yorker–take that for what its worth).  But the point of this posting is what happened to me in Provence.  I caught a 24hr bug–negativity.

My wife pointed it out.  We had met another couple who seemed pleasant and funny–at first.  The fellow was a surgeoin I'll refer to as "Phil"  and we seemed to have much in common.  He was from the Bronx and I had done much of my medical training there.  We both liked vodka.

We also connected regarding our complaints about the state of medicine, government regulations, insurance cutbacks in our fees, stresses of defensive medicine, concern about the future of our profession.  It seemed rather innocuous at first. 

 He did have a certain way of speaking that was laden with sarcasm and head-shaking.  He drifted into a barrage of complaints about many aspects of life in general including several which didn't seem particularly worthy of complaints–how much he spent on his three daughter's weddings, the membership at his golf club.  I must have gotten caught up in his stream of consciousness rant because  only later did I even realize that his negativity was inappropriate.  The vast majority of human beings  on the planet would have loved to have had his "problems".

I assume I found myself falling into a similar pattern of speech and body language and I wasn't particularly feeling well after our discussion.  The feeling was subtle but visceral.  It was a form of physical distress which was generalized.  It was not focused on any particular part of my body–but it was present.

It was my ever observant wife who pointed out that I was beginning to speak like "Phil".  She quickly pointed out that my negativity was annoying and didn't even sound like "me".

That point of awareness hit me hard.  I had become infected with Phil's negativity bug and I didn't even realize it.  It was alike a stealth attack and until my wife diagnosed it, I was a victim of it.

And yet I have no one to blame but my own lack of awareness.  I should have been more attuned to what was going on within my own consciousness.  My physical distress should have alerted me.  My"dise-ease"  threatened to become a disease.

It brought home to me the power of negative energy in our own lives.  We all know on some level that negative, sarcastic, critical individuals do spread their attitudes to others.

We just need to be more aware of how subtle these attacks can be and how vulnerable we all are.

The treatment is clear.  Remain vigilant about our own feelings, both mental and physical.  Our bodies are the manifestations of mental and emotional states of being. Observe how negative, pessimistic individuals are capable of infecting those around them.  It can happen in the workplace, in the public arena, and in personal relations with family and friends.

Self-awareness precedes self-healing.  It was a lesson I will not soon forget.

D O C T O R S, N U R S E S & Respect for All Beings

An article in the NY Times by a nurse Theresa Brown was deeply disturbing to me. 

As a nurse Ms. Brown observed situations in which physicians have blamed  nurses for a whole host of medical or interpersonal problems and, in general, demeaned their professionalism.

Nurses, as I see it, deserve the utmost respect for what they do.  Their practical knowledge helped me through my early years of training as well as in private practice.  Their compassionate commitment to the well-being of their patients consistently puts many of my medical colleagues to shame.

I am reminded of my own medical education and the frequent attempts of senior residents or even attending physicians to demean the knowledge or ability of medical students who were, by definition, less knowledgeable and more vulnerable than themselves.  In fact early on in my training I rejected the attitude of surgical residents as bullying and condescending and found the internal medicine residents more collegial and considerate.  My choice of a career path was, therefore, internal medicine and later gastroenterology.

I have always found such attidues particularly obnoxious and despicable and was particularly outspoken when it was directed towards me.  I am by nature a rather easy going individual, but nothing inspired my ire more than being talked "down to".  I believe my reaction often surprised those senior physicians who were used to getting away with it. 

I have always regarded every human being I meet as worthy of respect…..until proved otherwise.  It seems an inherent and obvious truth that this should be the way we treat each other.  The Golden Rule often stated but often breached seems to me to be the basis of all human interaction.

Unfortunately it is not adhered to as it should.  I have noticed that physicians from other cultures and countries (southeast Asia, Eastern Europe) tend to be particularly fond of deriding those they consider below them intellectually or socially.  Perhaps this is a cultural phenomenon. Still, there is no reasonable excuse for any of it.

I would like to make it clear that I am quite capable of disliking individuals whose words or deeds I find obnoxious, hurtful or hateful.  But that is stictly based on my reaction to them as an individual.  I try never to prejudge anyone beforehand.

So I regret nurse Brown's personal experiences with doctors.  They call into question the professionalism and humanity of the physician (or any human being) who would act in such a manner.

RESPONSE TO THE KILLING — The Tribal Gene & Revenge

In a follow-up to my prior posting regarding the killing of Bin Laden there appears to be an aspect of the response which touches on the notion of the tribal gene.

I have referred to this in prior postings.  It suggest strongly that our species acts in collective ways that might not be present if based on how an individual might act.

The classic story of the death camp official who could easily prod Jewish children into the gas chambers could be a loving and caring parent  of the same age children at home.  Those Jewish children were deemed not to be human.  He was following orders, the orders of the tribal leader–orders he fully embraced!

History is replete with examples of mob psychology, of collective killings, pogroms and genocides when propelled by the perception of being the will of the group.  War is based on the same notion–that soldiers can be trained and "brainwashed" to view the enemy as not human and therefore deserving of death.

To some extent the collective response to Bin Laden's killing reflects that concept.  As a collective, as members of a tribal unit, be it a religion, private club, or national feeling, we are different.

Our beliefs and actions are no longer are own.  In fact we may not even feel responsible for actions taken as part of the "mob".

This is all understandable.  It very likely has genetic antecedents.  Adult chimp males have been observed marching single file in the woods on quests to seek out, kill others from outside their tribe and act as a unit.

We have inherited that propensity. 

It is important to realize this aspect of ourselves.  It might help us fight an enemy combatant, but the same instinct can lead any of us  into acts genocide and ferocious acts of violence. 

 But not you?  Never!  You protest.  You are more enlightened about all of this than the others.

Let us pray you are correct.

DEATH OF BIN LADEN — Justice Without Joy

Much has been written about the response of Americans to the killing of Osama Bin Laden.  How are we to react to this event?

Certainly any reasonable human being cannot help but feel some deep satisfaction that the perpetrator of mass murder should cease to exist.

But somehow a true joy eludes me.

If killing Bin Laden would miraculously bring back all of those who died as a result of his evil, I would certainly rejoice.

Yet eliminating one maniacal murderer doesn't really solve the problem.  It still exists, perhaps will grow and watchful attention should immediately resume. We are reminded of other mass murderers, fanatic, genocidal killers–they are human like us.  We share some DNA with them.  It gives us pause to reflect on what underlies their crimes against humanity.

Much hard work, planning, espionage went in to finding and killing him.  For this I am enormously grateful.

The knowledge that others share this  philosophy of hatred, of the senseless destruction of nonbelievers tempers any feelings of joy with reality.

Granted, the temporary relief of tension and fear might explain the exuberance of youth during these celebrations of his death.

But those of us who understand the big picture are relieved but not joyful.


*** The presence of divinitybecame almost palpable.  I knew that life in the universe was not just an accident based on random processes.  This knowledge came to me directly, noetically.  It was an experiential cognition— Edgar Mitchell, former astronaut Apollo 14 after seeing the Earth from Moon


***Does it sound to you as though it would need a miracle to make randomly jostling atoms join together into a self-reproducing molecule?  Well, at times it does to me too—Richard Dawkins, biologist/atheist/skeptic


***…merely to create a bacterium would require more time than the Universe might ever see if chance combinations of its molecules were the only driving force…..In short life could not have started by chance—Gerald Schroder, physicist


***Life is the transmutation of energy and matter.  Solar fire transmutes into the green fire of photosynthetic beings—Margulies and Sagan, biologists


***The probability of life originating from accident is comparable to the probability of the unabridged dictionary resulting from an explosion in a print shop—Albert Einstein, physicist