Higher Living Reflections

The Interplay between Nature and Ourselves

Natural science does not simply describe and explain nature; it is part of the interplay between nature and ourselves. – Werner Heisenberg

I am a big fan of science and, by extension, western medicine. What makes the Universe ticks? What makes my body tick? From macro physics, Newtonian and Einsteinian, to the micro, quantum physics: Heisenberg and company. But despite my fascination, it makes little sense to me. My eyes glaze over when some brilliant brainiac tries to explain the principles.

I don’t need to be reminded that smacking my thumb with a hammer will not only cause excruciating pain but also could have dire consequences. Personal experience, more than once, clearly has proved that. That along with countless other experiences in combination with observation, such as watching a lightning bolt shred a tree and realizing that could be me, has caused me to come to accept that scientists and doctors, even if imperfect in their analysis, pretty much know what they are talking about and doing.

While I, thus, sing paeans to scientists and doctors, I also understand that I am more than a collection of chemicals, compounds, and molecules. Some inner decision-maker – The MY – commands my brain to order certain functions. It, in turn, sends electrical impulses that cause my fingers to touch keys to create text that if organized coherently allows me to expound on a topic that remains as nebulous as cosmic nebulae.

I live in a world where good stuff, some caused by me and some by others, happens. Concurrently, I live in a world where shit happens as a result of mine and others’ action. Then, there is stuff, good and not so good, that isn’t caused by human action. Sunrises and earthquakes, for example. Or viruses.

Yep, shit happens, but I could do my best to prepare for and avoid it. I could, for example, not build a flimsy shack atop the San Andreas Fault. But I cannot predict when an earthquake might cause a tsunami, which could upend the boat on which I am sailing. No guarantees. Such is fate.

That’s true on the grander, macro scale as well as on the micro: My innards where magical stuff happens. Like my immune system in all its infinite complexity going to work to defend the rest of my innards when assaulted by an alien force.

I recall my ninth-grade science teacher valiantly trying to instill within me some grasp of such stuff. It was not my most successful educational experience. Latin and Caesar’s Gallic Wars Commentary – Commentarii de Bello Gallico – were far more comprehensible and interesting. Subsequent teachers and, later, my doctors also tried to teach me about red and white blood cells and other such gizmos. I learned to simply smile and nod as if I got it.

Nevertheless, I walked away, especially from ninth-grade biology, with a fundamental appreciation for the larger scientific principles despite my inability to comprehend their details. One is my immune system, my body’s – MY – best defense against invading parasites.

A corollary to that principle is that even though my immune system has come stock and parcel with my entire body package at birth, I, nonetheless, can act to insure that it functions at its optimum even if compromised by unfortunate vagaries of life. In short, I can do my best to control my response to the aforementioned shit: Covid-19.

Yes, I can wash my hands until they’re raw, and I can avoid ingesting another’s spit. (Which is a far more effective term for what are being innocuously called “droplets” given the goal is to encourage people not to get too close when talking.) But I am also focusing harder on strengthening my immune system. The usual things: Healthier diet, additional supplements and vitamins, more frequent fresh air and sunshine, exercise, and so forth.

All good and laudatory, but that’s the easy part. I also fundamentally understand another principle: My immune system’s health is dependent on more than those. It’s far more complex, aided and abetted by unseen forces that influence its ability to do what no drug to date can do against Covid-19: Heal my body.

To be continued.

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  • Bonnie McCune
    March 30, 2020 at 2:32 pm

    I think we’re also very dependent on human contact, fresh air, sunshine and exercise for good health, all in short supply nowadays. I dread the sight of someone swerving away from me on the sidewalk, as if. . .just wait. . as if I had the plague. These things are all bound up in our beings, too, just like cholesterol and blood type.

  • Donna Taylor
    April 1, 2020 at 11:15 pm

    Good points Jerry, it is good to know that “the truth is out there” via science and medicine even if we cannot understand all the principles that explain observable cause and effect. But there is also the overlay of mystery. I’m always amazed that my heart keeps beating on regardless of my willing it to or even my awareness of it. But the combination of science and awareness can help us to take steps to boost immune systems, for example, as you point out.