21 November 2007

faith and healing ...

Posted by at 2:40 PM Read our previous post

I've been recuperating from a medical condition for three months now. Grateful to be finally feeling better, and having promised myself that as soon as I felt enervated and focused enough I would attempt to do a few watercolors (as a kind of reward), I started working on a couple of them yesterday. I'll probably post fotos of them when they're done.

I felt like jotting down some thoughts here that I've been ruminating on during this time of convalescence.

I've come to the conclusion that most forms of medical practice rely heavily on the patient's "faith" in the efficacy of the procedures undertaken to counter his illnesses. In other words, I think that most medicine is a kind of placebo science. This point is highlighted in a short story I encountered recently (and which I included in one of my Brainstorming Simian Hour mixes—#3):

My father was a traiteur, a healer. "That's a fact," he said when I asked him about it. "It's an old, old tradition, passed on to me by Jacob Patou while he was on his deathbed. Some day, before I die, I'll pass it on to you. It's an honor to be chosen, son. It's got little to do with me or you, though; it's in His hands. And theirs—them that come to be healed. You've got to be a believer to be healed. And a believer ain't scared of what'll happen. He knows in his heart. It's in his eyes. The eyes will always tell you." . . .
I think he's essentially right. Faith of some sort is required in order for the chosen treatment to have the desired positive effect on our psyches and thus facilitate our recovery.

This, however, is part of my unique dilemma. What happens when a heathen like me is treated using means that I am inherently deeply skeptical about? Naturopathic remedies: Chinese medicine, homeopathy, acupuncture, chiropractic, "cranial/sacral" therapy, energy-work. My rational mind suspects all of the above to be founded on irrational superstitions and/or outright guile. This being the case, what chance does any one of these "therapies" have of being effective on one such as me?

I realize that the answer is less-than-inspiring, yet I still found myself willingly subjecting myself to some of these follies early into my malaise. Why? Because a drowning man will reach out for even the edge of a sword (as an old saying goes). But without the requisite faith, it is only an act of desperation and, ultimately, a waste of time and money.

This all reminded me of someone's comment on a blog that I read recently, where he (she?) implied that the story of Paul's healing of the town cripple (Acts 14:8–10) showed a kind of "faith" in things that had gone before. The commenter implied that the old man had "faith" in Paul's abilities as a healer, and because of this faith, he was healed. I disagree with that interpretation. As I read the story, the man had faith in being healed, not in Paul. Paul was just the travelling healer that happened to be nearby at the time. In fact, the story seems to imply that the townspeople had no idea who Paul was (they even hail him as a god when the healing has been accomplished—they obviously had no clue as to what Paul was really about).

Scientists have known for many years that the mind/body complex is a reciprocal synergistic relationship. Retaining a certain level of optimism and positivity is the crucial thing. Faith in a particular "method" is not what's needed. Faith is simply a rational trust in an outcome. I am convinced that faith has almost nothing to do with belief in things past.

Funny how thinking about one thing can spark insights into another.

What has helped me the most in this period of illness has been both a sense of acceptance of my condition and keeping as positive an outlook as possible within the limits of my humanity. Meditation helps with both.

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