I‘ve always trusted my instincts, but I had no idea how much grief they have saved me, quietly guiding me behind the scenes in all my decision-making, until this disease hit me. It is quite possible that instincts that have caused me to do, and not to do, some things, even though consciously I was motivated to do otherwise, could actually have saved my life.
To explain this, here’s a bit of background on some of the things I’ve done, and not done, more or less instinctively without really understanding why, in the last few months and years:
Looking back at all these ‘instinctive’ changes1, all of which had people doubting my sanity, I realize that my body was telling me I had to start taking much better care of it, and of myself, and that that was what drove all six changes. When I started the blog I knew something was very wrong, but wasn’t sure what it was — just that I needed to figure it out and take action, soon. Leaving my conflicted job was a necessary and liberating step, but I knew myself well — I needed to work quickly to find something else that was more meaningful and less stressful, since I could not afford to retire early. All the leads I have balked at since were exciting, potentially life-changing, important opportunities — all of which carried with them enormous stress, which I have always handled badly. At the time I thought I lacked courage, but now I realize I wasn’t equipped for the journey, my constitution wasn’t up to it, and my body was telling me so every way it could. What appeared to be procrastination, or opportunity squandered, was in fact the instinct of self-survival doing my ‘thinking’ for me.
Giving myself a break, in 2005, becoming much more humble and focused about what I hoped and planned to do to make the world a better place, may have kept me from nervous collapse. At the same time I realized I could not allow myself to get back into jobs that were too taxing (area 4 on the chart above), unfulfilling (area 5 on the chart above), or unappreciated (area 2 on the chart above). After two years of area 2 consulting work, however, it was my instincts, not my supposedly smart mind, that told me that this wasn’t working out — that it wasn’t my lack of drive and perseverance, but simply the fact that what I had to offer was way too far ahead of the market to be recognized and valued properly, and that consulting, for me, would inevitably be 10 parts anxiety and frustration for each part satisfaction.
The bad news earlier this year caused me a lot of stress at a time I was already coping with all the stress I could handle (yes, even some things I haven’t told you about, dear readers!) But I didn’t consciously give up soft drinks, caffeine and (most) alcohol. My instincts were at work, preparing to enable me to mitigate the debilitation that this stress was already starting to wreak on my system, by recruiting my diet in the healing process before the disease had even hit. Likewise the exercise, which I just suddenly ‘felt like’ doing, and which, by strengthening my body in the two months before the colitis hit full force, also allowed me to cope much better with the last agonizing month.
So my instincts were right all along, and they have saved me big time. Now it’s time for ‘me’ (my brain, anyway) to start doing its share of the healing work. This starts with the realization that the body (especially the digestive system) is a massively complex system — far beyond the ability of the conscious mind to ‘manage’ or even fully understand. While most doctors at least have the integrity to admit they haven’t the foggiest notion what causes ulcerative colitis (or any of the other thousands of auto-immune deficiency and hyperactivity diseases that are one of the top health scourges of our time), coming up with some hypotheses about possible contributing and catalyzing causes (causes plural — there are no ‘single’ causes in complex2 systems) is a necessary first step to identifying preventative and therapeutic treatments (treatments plural — same reason). Who knows, while the doctors are busy doing what they must, contending with patients’ symptoms by using simplistic trial-and-error treatments, we could ultimately put them out of business by making their remedial work unnecessary — finding preventions for everything from digestive illnesses to respiratory illnesses to allergies to AIDS to the rash of inadequately diagnosed immune-system disorders to, perhaps, even the ‘psychological’ disorders that are plaguing us all in this time of endless coping and forced adaptation and struggle.
My hypotheses, which are initially instinctive to me, will disappoint a lot of people. I don’t think it’s likely that the causes of these diseases are principally genetic (though a predisposition to contracting them may be — that’s not the same thing). I also don’t think it’s likely that the causes of these diseases are bacterial, viral, parasitic, or prionic in origin (though exposure to such agents could catalyze onset of the diseases). I believe the causes are likely to be environmental, the chemical cocktail of artificial toxins we eat, drink, wash, breathe, brush up against and otherwise take into our bodies every second of every day. Those who are skeptical that the same poisons that are destroying the soil, the water, the atmosphere and global ecosystems everywhere are also destroying our bodies’ microspheres, should review the case against tobacco.
It is quite likely that even when these hypotheses of environmental cause of most remaining illness and disease have been compellingly argued, we will not be able to do much to prevent or ‘cure’ our bodies of what we have been doing to them. We’re too late to save our planet from the scourges of global warming. And we’ll likely be too late to save our bodies from the painful, wasting deaths that the same man-made toxins are quietly wreaking on them.
But at least we’ll have tried, and at least we will know. We will know that the executives of ExxonMobil and Monsanto and Koch Industries and Phillip Morris and the rest of the world’s megapolluters will ultimately be remembered in history as the most monstrous, willful and indifferent mass murderers of this civilization they have so effectively and greedily exploited. Just as Big Tobacco, with the armies of expensive lawyers and the politicians in its back pockets, will never pay for its crimes against humanity, and just as ExxonMobil will for the same reason never pay for the Exxon Valdez or any of its other environmental holocausts, we are going to have to settle for knowing, not retribution, compensation or even remediation from the corporate monsters killing us all.
So, back to what I know, what I don’t know and what I imaginatively or instinctively hypothesize about ulcerative colitis, starting with three hypotheses:
This is the internal analogue of the way we use and treat the land, the external space under our ‘civilized’ care. In gatherer-hunter societies we allowed biodiversity to proliferate, we ate a staggering variety of different foods, and we at them with everything that came with them — all the bacteria, micro-organisms, parasites and ‘dirt’ attached to them. As a result, our bodies evolved to cope with this astonishing array of nutritional choices and ‘unfriendly’ substances, in minute amounts, learning to use exactly what it needed, urge the body to crave more of those needed things, and to neutralize what hurt it. Before we messed with the program, our bodies became exceedingly good, over a few million years of practice, at doing this, without the need for antibiotics or medical ‘experts’. And while few early humans lived to old age, this is because they were eaten young, in the interest of the greater Earth organism, not because they were sickly — anthropologists increasingly agree that prehistoric humans lived a much healthier, more disease-free, and usually longer, life than most civilized humans ever have.
The digestive system is the very definition of complexity: It contains more nerve cells than the nervous system, so many different enzymes and sub-processes that most of them have not been (and may never be) mapped (the genome is a snap by comparison), the enteric nervous system, chemically very similar in makeup and function to the one managed by our brain, and billions of highly specialized organisms, each evolved for some essential purpose needed to sustain human health. But today, food processing, the elimination of over 90% of varieties of food we have eaten for millennia (in the interest of agricultural efficiency) and the soaking of our foods and drinking water in chemicals deliberately designed to impoverish the richness and diversity of organisms we consume, means that this incredibly intricate and finely-honed system is largely unused, standing around ‘unemployed’ looking for something appropriate and useful to do. If you’re unemployed long enough you lose your craft, and when essential micronutrients or undesirable microorganisms finally come along now they can surprise our bodies, which may no longer be able to know, from practice, how to handle them properly. Mistakes occur and are compounded and crises are created as a result. The system staggers and breaks down from disuse caused by the malnutrition — the lack of practice — we give it. Exactly in the same way the land we plow into monoculture and soak with artificial fertilizers breaks down, unable to restore itself, starved of natural nutrients, impoverished, blows away in the wind and runs off in the rain, unable to support life at all.
When I was in my teens, before the discovery of retinoin, the drug of choice for runaway acne (which I suffered from) was tetracycline, a potent antibiotic that I consumed, on doctor’s orders, several times daily for a decade. The drug slowly cleared my acne but wreaked havoc on my digestive system, causing chronic diarrhea and frequent digestive system upsets. I was warned not to take it with milk products or antacids which would lessen its effect. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that that ten years of self-poisoning has contributed to my current condition.
Those are my first three hypotheses. There will probably be more. Since this is a complex system problem, I will never be able to prove or disprove them, but, through careful self-experimentation, I can develop persuasive evidence that, at least in my case, they appear to be valid (or invalid). I will end up with a credible theory of the causes of my disease, and, from there, I can develop an appropriate treatment program that will deal with the causes, not the symptoms.
This will be a lifelong program. We can never hope to understand let alone undo all the damage we (civilized humans) have done and are still doing to our bodies, but we can learn and remediate and improve, one tiny bit at a time. My dear readers have provided me with over 100 possible elements to a treatment program, and I will work through them painstakingly. The ones at the top of the list are holistic and modest in their claims, embracing complexity. Those at the bottom of the list are the ‘miracle’ cures, drugs, herbs, magical ‘expert’ spiritual healing and other techniques that promise, all by themselves, to solve the problem, and criticize all ‘competing’ therapies. The pushers of such miracles don’t get complexity any more than doctors, and I am highly suspicious of them (especially when the pages are full of price lists, or the information is ‘secret’ and only available by buying the book or the magic ingredients).
Ultimately I believe this is the only way out of the trial-and-error one-size-fits-all anti-life warfare of modern medicine, the learned helplessness that has incapacitated us from taking charge of and responsibility for our own health and well-being, and the relentless poisoning of our ecosystems, macro and micro, by greedy, indifferent corporations hiding behind the inherent complexity of ecosystems that will never, to the satisfaction of our carefully-rigged laws, be able to bring them legally to account.
The shock and awe drug (prednisone) I have been persuaded3 to take is just beginning to work, I think. The pain has, for most of the day, subsided from 5-7 levels to 3-5 levels and the insomnia relents for a precious 3-5 hours per day, so I feel at least sane again.
Forward, ho, small steps at first.
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My Bio, Contact Info, Signature PostsAbout the Author (2016)
--- My Best 100 Posts --
Preparing for Civilization's End:
What Would Net-Zero Emissions Look Like?
Why Economic Collapse Will Precede Climate Collapse
Being Adaptable: A Reminder List
A Culture of Fear
What Will It Take?
A Future Without Us
Dean Walker Interview (video)
The Mushroom at the End of the World
What Would It Take To Live Sustainably?
The New Political Map (Poster)
Complexity and Collapse
Save the World Reading List
What a Desolated Earth Looks Like
Giving Up on Environmentalism
The Dark & Gathering Sameness of the World
The End of Philosophy
The Boiling Frog
What to Believe Now?
Conversation & Silence
The Language of Our Eyes
Cultural Acedia: When We Can No Longer Care
Several Short Sentences About Learning
Why I Don't Want to Hear Your Story
A Harvest of Myths
The Qualities of a Great Story
The Trouble With Stories
A Model of Identity & Community
Not Ready to Do What's Needed
A Culture of Dependence
So What's Next
Ten Things to Do When You're Feeling Hopeless
No Use to the World Broken
Living in Another World
Does Language Restrict What We Can Think?
The Value of Conversation Manifesto Nobody Knows Anything
If I Only Had 37 Days
The Only Life We Know
A Long Way Down
No Noble Savages
Figments of Reality
Too Far Ahead
The Rogue Animal
How the World Really Works:
If You Wanted to Sabotage the Elections
Collective Intelligence & Complexity
Ten Things I Wish I'd Learned Earlier
The Problem With Systems
Against Hope (Video)
The Admission of Necessary Ignorance
Several Short Sentences About Jellyfish
A Synopsis of 'Finding the Sweet Spot'
Learning from Indigenous Cultures
The Gift Economy
The Job of the Media
The Wal-Mart Dilemma
The Illusion of the Separate Self:
Did Early Humans Have Selves?
Nothing On Offer Here
Even Simpler and More Hopeless Than That
What Happens in Vagus
We Have No Choice
Never Comfortable in the Skin of Self
Letting Go of the Story of Me
All There Is, Is This
A Theory of No Mind
The Ever-Stranger (Poem)
The Fortune Teller (Short Story)
Non-Duality Dude (Play)
Your Self: An Owner's Manual (Satire)
All the Things I Thought I Knew (Short Story)
On the Shoulders of Giants (Short Story)
Calling the Cage Freedom (Short Story)
Only This (Poem)
The Other Extinction (Short Story)
Disruption (Short Story)
A Thought-Less Experiment (Poem)
Speaking Grosbeak (Short Story)
The Only Way There (Short Story)
The Wild Man (Short Story)
Flywheel (Short Story)
The Opposite of Presence (Satire)
How to Make Love Last (Poem)
The Horses' Bodies (Poem)
Distracted (Short Story)
Worse, Still (Poem)
A Conversation (Short Story)
Farewell to Albion (Poem)
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