Here are two recent headlines that made the front page of major news outlets:
– The Week
– Daily Mail
Wow! Amazing! What wonderful news!
Maybe not. This “great” news reveals a fundamental problem with the state of medical research: we’re treating symptoms instead of the problem.
An Automobile Analogy
Let’s say your car is making weird noises — whirrs, clicks, bangs, and wheezes that just don’t sound normal. You’re not a “car guy,” so you take it to a mechanic. You explain what the symptoms are (with sound effects) as best you can. He opens the hood, takes a few minutes to look it over and then asks, “When’s the last time the oil was changed?”
You try to recall the last visit to the local lube shop, but come up blank. “I don’t know,” you reply, “It’s been awhile. Why do you ask?”
After checking the odometer and the sticker on the windshield, the mechanic calmly explains, “Well, it looks like your last oil change was about 15,000 miles ago. The manufacturer suggests changing the oil every 3 to 5 thousand miles. I think we’re probably looking at rebuilding the engine, which is gonna take some time. That’s not going to be cheap.”
Not willing to admit to a tragic mistake, nor pay a huge bill, you shoot back, “Look, I’m not here to be told how to maintain my vehicle, I just want you to make the funny noises go away!”
“But… you see… I can’t just…” he stammers.
“Make the sounds go away!” you demand.
The mechanic, needing to feed his family, devises a devious plan. “OK. We can do that,” he promises. “We have a new product that will make it so you never hear another funny noise again!” Instead of rebuilding the engine, he installs special acoustic insulation that blocks all outside noise to the inside of the car. He claims, “With this new fix, you won’t hear a thing!”
Satisfied with his solution, you drive away happy, but deceived that your broken car is fixed. A month later your engine completely seizes up and dies. Bringing an end to your car and this analogy.
What’s the bare minimum to get it running again? (Image source: stock.xchng)
How This Relates to Medicine & Health
Sadly, this is how we often approach our bodies. We expect medicine to quickly fix what we’ve been breaking over a lifetime. We don’t want to be told that our methods of living are wrong. We want to take a pill and continue uninterrupted on the course we’ve been heading. We want a magic Band-aid instead of a real cure.
So, medical research and treatments often focus on alleviating symptoms rather than curing fundamental problems, because that’s what we want. We may use drug regimens, liposuction, and cosmetic cover-ups to make the symptoms go away, but we have ignored why those symptoms are happening in the first place.
This is foolish.
Attack the root
Symptoms are indicators that something bigger (and probably worse) is going on. Acne and obesity are merely warning signs. We can take down the warning signs, but that doesn’t get rid of the danger. No matter how many coats of paint we put on the outside, the inside is still rotting away. I hope that we eventually wake up and learn to recognize what is really happening. Let’s start attacking the root of the problems we experience, not just the symptoms.
The heart, the heart,— there was the little yet boundless sphere wherein existed the original wrong of which the crime and misery of this outward world were merely types. Purify that inward sphere, and the many shapes of evil that haunt the outward, and which now seem almost our only realities, will turn to shadowy phantoms and vanish of their own accord…
– Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Earth’s Holocaust,” Mosses from an Old Manse
Try to name an example of when common sense would have been the best course to follow. Certainly, you can. Every one of us has a good story about someone not using common sense. (If you’re short on examples, try The Darwin Awards or People of WalMart.) In general, following the advice of common sense is usually best practice, but not always.
By definition, common sense is not best or wisest, but merely common, meaning it occurs more often. Common sense is the collective set of norms, mores, and good advice to which statistically most people adhere. If we asked 10,000 people if lighting fireworks indoors was wise or not, probably some idiot would say yes, but most people would have the sense to say no. So common sense (e.g. the consensus of the majority) usually serves us well, keeping us out of dangerous and/or embarrassing situations.
However, the mob is not always right and occasionally an uncommon sense is superior. Common sense is what separates the majority from the idiots and geniuses.
When I was in high school, my dad sent me to pick up a large load of wood mulch at a nearby landscaping supply yard. He let me borrow his truck and trailer, which I had driven only a few times. As I was returning home on a four lane highway with the huge load of mulch in tow, the trailer began swaying back and forth, causing the truck to fishtail. As an inexperienced driver, I resorted to my common sense and hit the brakes. To my surprise, this actually made the situation worse. The truck and trailer swayed back and forth even harder. Pushing the brakes did nothing. I was completely out of control, being pushed sideways down the road at 45 MPH. The truck and trailer eventually whipped around completely and came to a stop in the ditch, narrowly missing a mailbox and light pole. The rear bumper was bent up and I was shaken up, but very little damage was done.
Obviously, my common sense had failed me, so later I asked my dad, who has driven with a trailer many times, what I should have done in that situation. He replied:
Slam on the gas.
His answer seemed crazy. Hitting the gas in an out of control vehicle was contrary to everything I had been taught about driving, but he explained the reason this would work. When I hit the brakes, the weight of the loaded trailer had pushed against the hitch, lifting the back tires of the truck up slightly. Since the tires were not well connected to the pavement, my brakes no longer worked very well. It was like pulling the hand brakes on the front wheel of a mountain bike while going full speed. To stop the trailer from swaying back and forth, I needed to get it moving in the right direction. The trailer needed to be yanked forward into a straight line again. Stepping on the gas would stop the swaying action.
That bit of uncommon sense held the essence of true wisdom. I felt like I was the Karate Kid and my dad was Mr. Miyagi unlocking the secrets of “paint the fence” and “wax on, wax off.”
“Show Me” Scene from The Karate Kid
When venturing beyond the confines of the common sense domain, knowing which end of the bell curve you are entering into can make all the difference. Hitting the brakes is almost always the right answer, but sometimes the best thing to do is to slam on the gas. Having wisdom is knowing when to ignore common sense, proceeding though it may seem crazy. The wisest people often look like fools.
Note to Reader: This is entry is meant mostly to serve as a reminder for myself, but if you find it helpful, that’s great. I was struck today (while shaving) that above all other things I am called to love. That’s my job. I’m not a musician; I’m a professional lover. For me to succeed […]
Note to Reader: This is entry is meant mostly to serve as a reminder for myself, but if you find it helpful, that’s great.
I was struck today (while shaving) that above all other things I am called to love. That’s my job. I’m not a musician; I’m a professional lover. For me to succeed at my task, I must love endlessly on the people I meet along my path. Nothing else should carry as much weight in my life as the understanding to love the friends, family, neighbors, enemies, orphans, widows, aliens, and outcasts that God puts in my life. In doing so, I serve Christ and fulfill his desires for my life.
I recently was in Orlando with my friends Lynn & Allison, Hoss, and Katie to work on my Christmas album. One of the songs that will appear on the album is “Go Tell It On The Mountain.” I’ve really been wrestling with the last verse.
He made me a watchman upon the city wall,
and if I am a Christian, I am the least of all.
In the weakness of my humanity, I could easily misinterpret the idea of being a watchman to mean that I’m an over zealous policeman, proudly standing guard over my society, all too eager to implement my understanding of swift justice whenever I deem necessary. All too often I find myself (and sadly, the church universal) somehow perverting my responsibility as a Christian to mean that I am to be the tattle-tale hall monitor of life, ratting out people, boycotting corporations and celebrities, enforcing the rules, keeping everyone in line with laws, doctrines, and my own interpretation of God’s directions.
This is the flesh speaking.
This is nothing more than the Liar using my base nature in a sophomoric knee-jerk response to add to the inevitable disharmony of life. What is truly ironic is that my self-righteous response is actually creating disharmony under the guise of Spirit-filled justice. If I buy into this, I am being fooled into perpetuating an “Us and Them” worldview that does not honor God. Like Peter, I am sorely mistaken that my motives are the desires of Christ’s heart, when in actuality I am being like Satan and impeding the work of Christ.
The only true conquerer of evil is to love like God. That is the message of Christ. To live a Christian life is honor Christ by loving others. Am I the least of all?
“Remove my spirit from darkness.
Love, become my hammer.*”
–lyric excerpt from “Ride A Black Swan,” Mary Star of The Sea, Zwan
*I found out that the lyric is actually “Love, become my heaven,” but I like my version better.
On a completely unrelated note, I found this link to pics of tiny cars. Makes me smile. I’d love to zoom around town in one of these things. The one pulling a small camper kills me. Link to the smallest cars you’ve ever seen.