Saturday, March 09, 2013

Take Time to Consider

Posts about sensitivity towards people with incurable diseases abound today. People posting about how someone suggested an alternative method of treatment and not taking pharmacological remedies because they are poison made someone feel hurt and misunderstood. These people would be healthy if they could and they use those poison medicines because the alternative is death. We all want to live. We all want to be healthy. That's not going to happen.

We are a divided people, divided about politics, health care, gender, economics, race, color, creed, legal status, immigration, food . . . everything. The smaller this world grows the touchier become its people. Information that would have once taken weeks or months or even years to circulate now takes moments and the emotional backlash is even faster. We are connected by technology and disconnected from our humanity -- and our commonality. Tolerance is now merely a word and it is used like a sword to cleave Us from Them. We have lost the human touch in this dizzying drive of technological advances.

We see starving children with the click of a few keys and in real time or on video in seconds. We see the devastation of war and blood of rebels flowing red and real across the screen. The final moments of a terrorist's death as his shattered skull and brains like pink and gray pudding spill onto the ground can be seen everywhere and people all over the world rush to click and link to share the carnage. We live in Rome and the coliseum is on our laps and desk in hundreds of colors through our technological window on the world, but what have we gained? 

What we've lost is far more important. We have lost compassion and understanding. We have lost our humanity.

Cacti have nothing on us when it comes to prickles. Like cats backed into a corner, our back fur is up, the claws are out, and razor sharp teeth are bared. We go from placid to spitting fury in seconds. Like. Comment. Recriminate. Attack, attack, attack!

Life and learning are evolutionary processes. We change with everything we read and every time we interact with someone. With technologiy, slander is common. Libel even more so. Lies are difficult to unravel even with light speed communication. The nuances of facial expression, body language, and tone of voice are lost. Miscommunication is the order of the day and we are alwasy set to Defcon 1.

In a kinder, gentler world not far in the past, diseases like lupus, fibromyalgia, and other diseases that come from the degradation and breakdown of the immune system were rare; our understanding of such devastating diseases was limited. These diseases are commonplace and I defy anyone to tell me they don't know or haven't heard of at least one person of their acquaintance who is a victim.

It all comes down to victims. Where once the idea of being a victim was anathema, we embrace being a victim. After all, being a victim ensures attention -- a lot of attention -- in this computer linked world where people go from calm to emotional meltdown in 35 seconds flat. I wish I had a car that had that kind of pickup and go. Do I want that kind of emotional speed? Not so much. I find it difficult to reason or engage the thinking and analytic parts of my brain when that much emotion is in force.

Everyone wants to be a victim. Victims get perks like millions of dollars in lawsuits. Victims get sympathy and hundreds or even thousands of Likes and Shares on Facebook. Victims accrue more friends who will spend hours interacting and spreading the word on Twitter, Facebook, and tens of thousands of blogs. Some are lucky enough to have sufficient video skills to make and post live time evidence of their life -- their pain and often their suicidal wishes and deaths -- on YouTube and hundreds of other video sharing sites. Victims are celebrities that people will talk about for days -- even weeks. The Internet keeps old news new and circulating. Victims are special.

But they're not. Victims are a penny (while we still have the penny) a baker's dozen. There's always a new victim just down the page as you scroll. And yet those same people refuse to accept being victims of cancer. They are cancer survivors.

For my friends, and I have several, who have immune compromised diseases, stop and think about the person offering you a different way to deal with your disease. If they are friends or family, they likely hurt because you hurt and they want to find a way to end your pain. That they don't know how to offer their suggestions in a more compassionate way, chalk up to the sterility of technological communication. The words would be the same if they held your hand and sat next to you on the sofa, but the concern in their voice, the love and caring in their eyes, and their body language would explain more than their words can say. They love you. They care about you. They want to help you. They spent time looking at and reading information about how to help you on the Internet. That they cannot share their findings in person should not change the message or their emotional investment. They care.

The Internet provides a million cures and solutions for every problem we face. Sifting through all the information is a Herculean task more difficult than taking Atlas's place holding up the sky. That takes experience and time -- a lot of time. Everyone has a different slant and all the technology that permeates our lives planted the seed of need to return to a simpler time when herbs, roots, bark, and berries could solve all our health problems. The cures -- or at least the results -- would not be as dramatic as those modern medicine offers, but would doubtless be gentler. These caring people are offering you a kinder and gentler way to be whole and healthy.

As humans, reaching each higher level on the social and evolutionary ladder makes us long for the simple golden days of our youth or of past generations. It takes time to get used to every advance in knowledge and technology. Nowadays, we have no time to get used to the advances because everything happens so quickly we have barely enough time to get settled and get our heads around what is new.  Civilization took millions of years to get to this point, but at no time -- at least in recorded history -- have changes happened so swiftly. Such tectonic shifts are unsettling to mind and body as we can see if we look up from the computer screen long enough to glance around.

The problem is that with all the time we save through technology, we have no time -- and even less attention for the details, research, and painstaking information mining. The FDA approves drugs for the consumer market with a glacial pace by contrast.

What we miss is the human touch. Connected by technology, we are isolated by that same technology. We are frayed to the point of breaking. Is it any wonder we cannot see the intent or the people behind the words?

Take care before you go to Defcon 1 and fire an emotional missile. Take a moment and think about the person you're targeting with your barrage of angry words and hurt feelings before you take them off your friends list. Does that person care about you? Do they care enough to want you to feel better and be able to go out and have fun or visit or just move about as you once did? Would they take away your pain if they could? If you can answer yes to any of these questions, might it also be true that the person cares enough to have taken the time to read and send information that purportedly offers a cure for your ailment or something that would alleviate your pain and suffering? Maybe you should thank them for their concern and for their time and check out what they've sent. You can still take whatever modern medicine you're on without taking offense at your friend's or family member's concern.

Someone posted, "What don't you get about incurable disease?" Leukemia was once an incurable disease. Some people still die, but being diagnosed with leukemia is less often a death sentence. Spanish influenzae killed thousands in the wake of World War I, but not any more. Polio crippled and children born with Down syndrome were mentally retarded. Not any more. Hundreds, even thousands, of diseases once thought incurable have been cured -- are being cured every day. Incurable simply means we don't have the answer today.  There might be an answer tomorrow.

As I have said so many times, it is always about perspective. If your mind is made up that anyone who offers you an alternative treatment to your disease is insensitive and intends to hurt you, then you will believe they are insensitive and feel hurt. You choose to be hurt and you cast the other person into hell. It's the perspective. You perceive -- you see -- what you want to see and are not disappointed when you get it.  The technological marvel of instant communication makes certain you get from calm to frothing rage in 35 seconds flat. Sometimes even quicker. The other person's perspective is one of desiring to help. What about their perspective?

Consider the person, not yourself, but the other person. Think about what their intent really is and accept their suggestions or offers of help in the same spirit in which it is offered -- in compassion and caring -- and love. You can get from outrage to love in 3 seconds when you stop to consider the other person. I doubt your enemies or a villain would take the time to look for, read, and send you what they perceive as help if they intend to harm or hurt you.  There are quicker ways to cause harm. All you need do is go online and click the like button or offer a nasty comment. Frothing rage will be yours in 35 seconds.

Stop. Think. Err on the side of calm. Rage can wait.

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