My wife returned from a lovely weekend in the Catskill mountains of New York and shared an interesting conversation she had with a member of her workshop with me. The woman was a bit "crunchy," reveling in the surroundings eating her vegetarian meal, and pompously admiring her perfect health...
"I get all my health care from Borders (bookstore)," she said. "I mean, conventional medicine offers so little to people. Why go to a doctor? If people just ate the right foods, lived the right lifestyle... I mean, they bring so much of their illness upon themselves, living their lives in such stressful, toxic ways!"
My wife choked back her tofu. A pulmonologist seated at the table smiled politely, and calmly made a quip about the importance of seeing a doctor. She heard nothing of it. So my wife opened with both barrels...
"You haven't been sick, have you?," my wife asked. "No. Of course not!" said the woman. "And what will happen when you are diagnosed with cancer some day?" my wife asked.
Boy, did the room get quiet.
Nazi virtuosity. That's what this woman demonstrated. Such a proclamation reveals this woman's solipsistic perspective to issues faced daily by people with chronic illnesses. Is a child with Type I diabetes the victim of poor lifestyle or a genetic short-straw? What about the person with breast cancer, cystic fibrosis or a million other diseases? To think that we can control what life throws at us by always eating the right foods, exercising incessantly, living a calm existence without clutter or noise, is ignorant to the issues faced by anyone with a chronic ailment. Worst of all, comments like these are opprobrious epithets and serve no useful purpose when illness is involved.
Certainly, a proper lifestyle that limits alcohol and smoking, moderates dietary intake, and practices regular exercise has merit. These things might prevent or slow a disease. But we all will be afflicted with our own unique ailment - and I have yet to read about a clean-living individual who did not age and die - including the lamas, gurus and shamans. Sorry, friend. And after all the books I've read, there are no two patients that are the same, and I've yet to read about anyone's specific problem list and physical findings in a book at Borders.