Things Are Not Always Like They Seem
James Webb Telescope
For those of you interested in astronomy and the James Webb telescope, you probably read about the six big galaxies, recently discovered that “shouldn’t be there.”
A recent article in The Atlantic concludes like this: “As I’ve talked with astronomers about what Webb has found so far, one word keeps coming up: shouldn’t. Galaxies shouldn’t be this way; the cosmic dawn shouldn’t be that way. (Yet) I find these shouldn’ts delightful. They hint at the well-intentioned hubris of humans, especially the most curious ones, those who wish to determine exactly how something works and why. But of course, the universe says, speaking to us by way of a giant telescope floating a million miles from Earth, This is how it is.”
Coincidentally, on the weekend, I took time to listen to a fascinating interview with the amazing Krista Tippett, and Dr. Vivek Murthy. Dr. Murthy is the US Surgeon General, for the second time. As an outstanding public figure, the interview, like the James Webb telescope news, was filled with surprise. His book, Together, uncovers that the most common condition ailing America is not heart disease or diabetes. It is loneliness. This shouldn’t be either, and yet it is.
Dr. Vivvek Murthy
When Dr Murthy began his first tenure in 2014, he indicated his focus areas, as the “nation’s doctor,” to the US Senate. He expected to concentrate on obesity, tobacco-related disease, mental health, and vaccine-preventable illness. However, he also travelled the country to talk to the American people. He wanted to know what they needed. Everyplace he went across the country he asked: how can we help?
What he hadn’t anticipated and what wasn’t even recognized as a complaint or an illness was repeated over and over again from every walk of life: loneliness. This was something he had never considered a public health priority. Yet, it became what everyone wanted to talk about. Every age group; every political party; CEO’s; urban and rural.
And the antidote is social connection. What he has learned is this: “When we strengthen our connection with one another, we are healthier, more resilient, more productive, more vibrantly creative and more fulfilled.”
Siddhartha Mukherjee, the Pulitzer Prize-winning, author of The Emperor of All Maladies states: Murthy’s book makes a powerful case for the role of community and human connection in medicine. He provides cogent and compassionate insights about how to heal the art of healing.
We are interested in curing, here in the West. And when it doesn’t happen we think we have failed. Healing on the other hand is something quite different. Healing is coming to terms with things as they are.
Murthy, is a scientist, and a physician, with a string of accomplishments and accolades a mile long, As well, he holds the top Doctor spot in the US. When he talks about the crisis of loneliness and rebuilding social connections, he is not coming from a place of positive thinking or a wellness retreat. He is coming from science, research, experience and a mindset that deeply understands the non-negotiables of health – caring and love, for individuals and our larger communities and countries.
He says this: “…and so this is about more than diagnosable mental illness, as important as that is. This is about improving our overall level of wellbeing. And this is where social connection is one of the most powerful tools that we could foster. And it’s so — it seems so simple that just building relationships could contribute to those outcomes that we almost don’t believe it. And if I told you, Krista, if I said, “Hey, I went into my backyard and I made this pill and it’s pretty amazing and it’s free. And if you take it, it will actually improve your health. It’ll make you feel better. It will improve your performance at work. It will improve your grades…
Tippett: Boost your immunity.
Murthy: …Everyone will be happier.” Yeah. You’d be like, “Hey, sign me up. I’ll take that tomorrow.” It turns out that’s what social connection is, and we just have to make that a priority and build — rebuild, I should say — the social infrastructure in our country.”
Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one. You need one because you are human.” Jane Howard, Families.
1:) Here is a favourite song of mine about friendship and caring for each other. Le Choeur des Jeunes de Laval L’amitie
2:) Vivek Murthy, MD wrote a book. Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World. I just picked it up today from my library. You can take a look at any of the Amazon’s or your library, if it interests you. Here is the link to Krista Tippet’s recent interview On Being Podcast
3:) The word salutogenesis comes from the Latin salus (meaning health) and the Greek genesis (meaning origin). The word caught my eye in an article by Nigel Crisp, in Prospect Magazine, How Aristotle Can Teach Us to Build a Better Society over a year ago.
There is a long (but often neglected) western tradition of interest in salutogenesis, the origins of health, which is concerned with understanding the causes of health as opposed to pathogenesis, the origins of disease. This is in some ways the precursor to what is today called “social prescribing,” an approach which sees clinicians prescribe gardening, swimming, singing and other activities instead of (only)pharmaceuticals, making use of the health-creating benefits of each. This is not about prevention of disease but the creation of health—the causes of health not the causes of disease. It takes the positive, not the negative approach to creating the conditions for people to be healthy.
4:) Wishing you all a lovely week. I hope what is needed happens. And what happens has the best outcome possible. HB; PW; SB; SA; VM and so many more. Thank you for your kindness in stopping by here and reading my musings and scribbles. Warmest greetings, Trudy
PS The banner photo is one I took six?? years ago in Mexico on an amazing photography trip with wonderful people.
“Healing is coming to terms with things as they are.” What a different world this would be if we sought healing rather than cure. And yes, loneliness is epidemic and though the solution lies in community and connection, how to arrive there is not always so evident. I’ll check out the Tippet interview, thanks for that Trudy, and for all of this, as ever. love Jan
Thank you Janice. It is the getting there that seems to be the stumbling block. It means taking risks, showing up and being the first to issue an invitation or a phone call. That is not always easy. Action is always the hard part. Warmest wishes, Trudy
Thanks again, Trudy. This blog is marvelous and hits my heart. During Covid-19, loneliness prevailed, and now we need to make ties between each other again. Living well with illness is not other than well-being, isn’t it?
You are right dear Yoshie, on all counts. Living well is about well-being in our day-to-day living. It is about not putting our lives on hold until better times but diving in right now, with things as they are, to see what we can do to create and find those moments of purpose, meaning, joy, service and fun. It is about playing an active role in our own lives to do the things we can do. And it is keeping each other company through our joys and sorrows. We need each other. Thank you and warmest wishes, Trudy