A letter to the NC General Assembly
We seem to be evolving into a nation of binary people. Binary in the sense of our emotional, tactical and strategic response to our surroundings: On one end we have the Concerned and on the other we have the Unconcerned.
Of course you realize I say this in jest, but what if I was right? Are you willing to risk your comfort and explore a possible reality with me?
Please place your religious ideals aside for a few minutes and read on:
- There is no God
- No-one will inherit the earth, we have no idea what the future holds.
- Human beings randomly crawled from the primordial soup some billions of years ago and have evolved to the most intelligent form of life on the planet. When I speak of intelligence I mean cognitive ability and nothing else.
Since we became self-aware we have been unable to escape our internal reality: That we are born alone and will die alone. All of the space in-between (a brief 70 +- years) is filled with experiences arising from the environment around us. We learn –or not that our actions influence our environment and well-being; receive –or not, instructions on how to behave in society and together: “Trudge the road of destiny”.
Non-sense you say: “we trudge the road together”!
Two weeks ago, as I flew home from a medical conference in Denver, this essay was tumbling around in my mind. I was not sure of the words, but I felt an overwhelming drive to write something about how I currently perceive my world: The one where I wake in Raleigh North Carolina each day, aching from diabetic neuropathy, reflexive sympathetic dystrophy and drained by my hepatitis C, a condition undoubtedly resulting from poor lifestyle choices in the 1970’s.
I am observing the adults in my Country of origin become firmly rooted in social belief systems. It appears they are evenly divided between the concerned and unconcerned. At the same time, few fall completely into one group as they seem to be willing to sacrifice their beliefs when under personal threat. The ruggedly independent who celebrate life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the absence of stringent regulation will sacrifice their black and white thinking to help a nephew or niece who has become dependent on drugs or alcohol. Those who consider themselves intolerant of in-equality and weep over those experiencing disparity in health-care or lack of opportunity will often appear to live up to their values until they too fear losing something of greater importance.
I have a friend who calls this: “Integrity in the moment”.
Since we are tolerant of a change in our own life circumstances to the point of willingness to think in numerous shades of gray when it comes to self-interest and the safety of our loved ones; how is It we cannot apply this flexibility to everyone?
My father asked me if I had ever sacrificed. His opinion at the age of 86 was that his was the last generation to truly be willing to have such willingness. He and his friends in WWII who walked from one end of the Philippines to the next risked their lives daily. I always thought this was for God and Country until I learned much-later that my Dad joined the Army –in his words “to find chicks”.
So what I consider the truth today is that few human beings are willing to strictly abide by their convictions. Yet, in my opinion; to ease the pain of ‘oneness’ we find some common characteristics that we share with others and join that group: Until we become threatened that is.
So, for all of you Republicans, Democrats, Tea Par-tiers; Independents; Christians, Jews, Muslims, Atheists, Agnostics, or (insert category here): Are you willing to try something new?
How about belonging to one group:
How about owning some truth:
- We are a fickle species.
- We are capable of changing our behaviors and attitudes.
- We are not God if there is one.
- We believe in knowledge.
- We believe that knowledge is best obtained through scientific methodology
- We would like to live forever, never be hungry, never be lonely, and always be loved and recognized as an individual.
- When we put our defenses down we realize that each one of us will die and we might experience times when if not dead, we will wish were dead.
Now, stop here for a moment. Yes I know you have an important business meeting but please stop for a moment and read on.
- If you own these truths you might feel a bit uncomfortable right-now: Perhaps afraid for yourself, perhaps sad for others who might suffer. In fact, all of a sudden you realize that We All Suffer.
- What separates you from those who you call entitled. What separates you from the arrogant wealthy movie star; very, very little; perhaps nothing at all?
So on the flight home from Denver, I met a guy who said his nephew had been living a year in North Carolina. He said he had just got a factory job but could not afford his medicine. He said he was a diabetic who did not have his insulin.
As my mind jumped between my judgment and intolerance of numerous human character defects; across a spectrum of political beliefs there was a man about to die from diabetic ketoacidosis. He had lost 50 pounds in weight and for reasons that were none of my business no medicine.
I just hung up the phone after speaking with his aunt: I gave her the number of a community health center where the young man can access a primary care medical home and learn –if he desires- to take care of himself. That is the problem in the moment.
Realizing that I am one of those fickle human beings described above I needed to stop thinking and do the next right thing.
The next right thing will always be: To decrease suffering for another. When I am so sick that I am unable to help another or take care of myself then the next right thing is to?
Ask for help!!!!
So, as the North Carolina Legislature places health and well-being above all else, they will have my respect. That said, since they are human, and I am a human, if any one of them needs some groceries they are welcome to split what I have in my refrigerator.
At age 10 a man tackled my ‘entitled’ drunken mother as I jumped from our kitchen table on-to his back with a steak knife ready to cut his throat.
At the age of 13 I said “I will never drink alcohol or take drugs”
At the age of 19 I acquired hepatitis C (guess how)
At the age of 25 I had to borrow money for insulin (help of another)
At the age of 31 I stopped drinking and drugging (help of many and my higher power)
At the age of 36 I had asked a team of people to help people suffering with lung disease become more independent and comfortable: Literally healing people into their inevitable death. I did not have to ask: ten years later; the team simply told me how much they loved me.
There have been times in my life when others would throw me away and times when they called on me to feel safe. At what point should I be judged by others. Isn’t it our duty to love unconditionally in the moment: To believe in our truth that people change, life is precious and it is not ours to judge?
Moving forward NC Legislature, I hope you all will sit back and reflect on the importance of your actions. How many tomorrows are you sacrificing that do not belong to you.