Friday, November 23, 2018


Much of philosophizing about "religion" is vague, theoretical, and irrelevant, but my own jump in thinking is related to science. so I can make it here-and-now explanatory.  I'm talking about the shift from seeing "life" as a privileged class of entities, each self-contained though related to the generations, and arranged in a hierarchy of lives based on complexity and similarity to humans (anthropocentrism), to a sheet of existence patterned by interrelationships.  I'll consider a little demo based on my episode with a prescription provider this week.

A time glimpse.  In the Forties when I was a child, the doc was a neighborhood feature.  He lived a few blocks away and saw patients there.  He was an MD, highly respected and active in the community.  If you needed observation overnight, you slept in his family's spare bedroom.  When I had pneumonia, he came to our house, flipped me over in my bed, pulled up my nightie and gave me a shot of penicillin in the fanny.  When I had tonsillitis, he cut them out at his house with my mother standing by while I was etherized.  My mother felt she owned me, since she made and controlled me, so was it was product evaluation when he stood me naked on a table and said I had a sway back but high arches.

So my basic position on my existence as an entity was that I was faulty and belonged to my mother, who passed me to my husband when I married.  (My father was present but irrelevant.)  When I was married, I was a subsidiary of my husband whose value partly depended on me.  I came through with hard work and vision, but wasn't glamorous enough to suit him.  We both moved on, but I was set free.  And much less conventional.

But I was bonded to this landscape which meant accepting its terms, which can be harsh.  With Bob in the Sixties there were two local doctors: Doc West, a crack calf-roper in spite of the danger to his surgeon fingers, and Doc Marquette, a liberal humanist.  Both worked too hard and both eventually left.  The Indian Health Service had a rotating panel of docs, some time-limited.  None were native.  All were MD's.

In Portland at Animal Control my research was about the area, a confluence of two major rivers, as an interwoven complex of many kinds of life from Douglas fir to rickettsia, a form of life I had never known existed.  Because Portland was a port city, we knew that worldwide entities came and went, often through ship rats.  I didn't know until yesterday that leptospirosis, which we were warned about as AC officers and which is a worldwide soil bacteria often caught by dogs, is theorized as an historic first-contact plague that killed a major proportion of indigenous people on the east coast. We're more inclined to think of smallpox.  Brucellosis, a related zoonose, has been controversial in the management of domestic versus wild animals, notably between cattle and bison.  This was a hot topic in the environmental movement.

About this time Hans Selye's ideas about stress became popular, which led to ideas about resilience, which had a parallel in religion when it is taken as "how to live", so that harmony of heart, clean eating, and respectful movement through the world became keys to ecology, fittingness which is the real evolution rather than power.  And so on.  But the mainstream in the Western world has maintained the original idea of entities, each separate, interacting in a context.  They are fish in water where fish interact with water but cannot control what it is.  Instead they sell water rights.

There is one part of context that humans control and that is the Rule of Law.  Laws about health are meant to protect the community more than individuals.  That is, they are focused on plague, contagion, and -- now that we are a monetary capitalist culture -- on cost.  One is urged to get a flu shot because it is more cost effective in terms of emergency rooms dealing with severe cases.

Montana is a place where nature has coped with illness and insufficiency by letting individuals (fish, bison or humans) die, thereby keeping the community healthy and reproducing.  Humans are not happy with this, but we are not coping in a thoughtful way.  We let the babies in Yemen die of starvation that is unnecessary except politically.

When I was with Bob in the Sixties, it was common for professional health workers to be paid big salaries in independent practices.  A few used their wealth to dabble in art, to become "wheeler-dealers" with galleries.  They were a little shady in this fluid field, and that leaked over to their practises.  The next wave was consolidation of hospitals in the interest of saving money and supplying the major equipment had had become crucial.  Doctors slipped into being salaried employees.  Control went to administrators.  No longer were doctors patrons of art except in terms of high prestige decoration of institutions.

As more and more medical conditions became chronic and sustainable by constant monitoring and supplies of meds, the money moved to pharmacy who wanted to employ dispensing agents.  Newly created were the roles of "physician assistant" and "nurse practitioner" who did not so much diagnose or do surgery as sustain the stream of care for lower pay.  They were extensions of the pharmacist and insurance company.  People didn't die, but they sometimes lost quality of life, the most brutal example being dialysis.  Defining quality of life and accepting death are two concepts of concern to humans that are resisted by most providers of health care, particularly at the sub-professional (non-MD) levels.  Goals are community-conventional rather than independent-individual.

When I began googling through entries about the quality of health care, I was a bit horrified to discover that Montana is considered the WORST of all the states at detecting, regulating, and supplying good doctors.

Here's the evidence:

There are two ways I cope with this shortfall, except for brush-bys like this week's.  One is that I'm separate, individual, and in the sheet of life my behavior doesn't affect my "loved ones" because my extended family is detached and dispersed.  I have no children.  If I die my niece will have to cope -- if she wants to.  Montana is pretty efficient about absorbing the effects of ornery old individuals because there are so many.

The other factor is letting go of the fear of death.  I'm afraid of pain, dishonour, and other stuff that is a product of being alive, but death is only a freedom.  No more decisions, no more struggle, no more resisting control, no more cost.  Just gone.  If people I love are suffering, I let them go.  They are already deeply embedded in me.

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