Optimists think we haven’t yet reached the tipping point for our demise as a species and this planetary age.
Pessimists think we’re well past that point and now are hurtling with ever-increasing speed toward our next global nadir.
Both and/or neither could be true. In any case, there are certain fundamental issues that we would be smart to address regardless of what our future big picture contains:
Pollution. No amount of it is acceptable. The only people who benefit from pollution are those who are creating the means to produce it. Everything and everyone else suffers. In traditional societies, such behaviors would be unthinkable. In our society, we accept these things as inevitable and unavoidable. They’re not.
People are suffering. We have the means to relieve their suffering on nearly every level. All it takes is to stop talking, start deploying and reactivate a sense of caring.
The human race has been consistently abusing the Earth to the point that we are destroying nearly all life. It’s the height of perversion for humans to cry out for diversity while we’re actively destroying so much biodiversity on our planet.
Our extreme situation has come around under the cloak of business, that catch-all get-out-of-jail-free card that allows for and completely justifies all behaviors that would be absolutely untolerated under any other circumstances.
Can we turn all of this around for the better?
Would it hurt anything or anyone to at least try?
Are business and life itself at fundamental odds with each other? In the way that many have been conducting business, the answer is yes.
Are there other ways? The answer also is yes.
We’re here to talk about traditional medicines. Can our medical practices promote a healthier environment, biodiversity and social diversity?
Well-being has come to mean the luxury of fewer and fewer people at the expense of everyone and everything else. This luxury is largely created with resources that previously belonged to all of us.
One of these resources is health and healing. Until very recently, physicians and other healers occupied a natural position of authority in society. They were the leaders of human systems, emissaries between worlds, those who could be counted on to be real, no matter what, no matter how bitter the medicine went down.
Technocracy and its business practices have bound these emissaries between worlds in chains. They have tried to enslave what cannot be seized by human will or capacity to further their own ends. Medicine cannot be fully governed by human laws. It transcends what is human in order to benefit what is human. Ideally and traditionally, in finding this benefit, the natural world also benefits at the same time.
Toxic cynicism has pervaded and perverted technoculture. Cynicism is the energetic root of the multi-layered pollution that is not so slowly poisoning us. Cynicism serves only one purpose, although that purpose is often masked by the technique of cynicism itself: to elevate the position of the cynic.
So-called spiritual leaders have become the corrupt puppets of corrupted institutions by promoting passivity and bliss states rather than practical solutions to help improve the conditions of life on earth. Many physicians and other healers have played their parts in the mechanisms of how this all works out. I won’t go into the details here, but if you’re one of these people you know exactly what I’m talking about.
As ethical physicians and healers, we have the choice to continue to remain passive in the face of what is going on, or we can spark ourselves into a mode where we can guide the way.
The times call on us to take immediate, proactive and above all creative actions, ones that call us out of our egoic positions and into deeper authentic and respectful collaborations with those who we formerly competed with or against.
Perhaps we could reset the definition of medicine to re-engage its original sense of bringing human beings and the natural world together again in the best possible ways so that all can improve, strengthen and become better.
Some are currently more successful than others in this task. My hope is that we can share our successes and our failures here so we all can learn the whys and the hows of how to potentiate our efforts and wisdom and move our collective vision ‘forward.’
It’s crucial to widen the current depth and breadth of the scope of medicine to include all that medicine really is and always has been until recently. Our world has gone dangerously off course because we’ve forgotten the laws we were given in the beginning that ensured we would stay on the right track as a species.
Professional specialization has become a tool of enslavement that prevents us from seeing the big picture of medicine and participating with that big picture in useful and regenerative ways. It’s time for the senior practitioners of all medical professions to stand up, come ‘forward’ and speak out.
Even big business is moving in the direction of rebuilding itself to include more dimensions of social and environmental responsibility into its matrix. Although many of us understand that these moves are trivial, inconsequential and completely inadequate, we can offeset these observations with the fact that incremental, sometimes even infinitesimal change can and does iterate into very large change over time with successive iterations. In other words, even though the changes seem small, they may be just enough to get the job done.
If even these monolithic institutions are getting a clue about social and environmental responsibility, thinking more long-term, becoming ever so slightly more trustworthy, transparent, accountable and collaborative, what does that say about us as physicians and healers who aren’t doing the same?
It’s easy to counter this and say that these behemoth companies are only maturing because they’re being forced to do so, that they’re doing the same thing now that they always have done-following the money. Yet this shows how truly dire our world situation has become. Global pressure is forcing these companies into doing business in a more enlightened way. Again, what does this tell us about us as medical practitioners and how we’re thinking and operating in this world?
We can learn something from these megacompanies.
We tend to think of medicine as being very personal. Some aspects of it are. What if we could use medicine in really unconventional ways to treat non-personal issues as well? Can we use the practice of medicine to address our interpersonal, social and environmental challenges? What would that be? What forms could it take?
Maybe we can begin to diagnose and treat the illness of our world with our medicines.
Native and traditional healers from many parts of the earth have been standing up, coming forth and speaking out about what the human race has been doing to itself and our planet for decades now, and probably much longer, though not much evidence is left of their wise forewarnings. So far, humanity hasn’t heeded this guidance in any meaningful way. Individuals and small communities, perhaps, but we’ve seen essentially no serious effort to change course and improve our world situation.
Time now demands cooperation. This means we may be able to pull ourselves through what is happening-if we can do it together.
There is a Central American native teaching that each culture and language has specific keys that nobody else has. Every one of these keys is an essential piece of a global puzzle, a thread in the universal fabric that is essential to the healthy functioning of our planet, its societies and all of its citizens. It will take all of these keys to get us through the door of what is to come.
We appear to be at that door right now.
In the business world, some companies-really big companies-are learning how to work together, merge and become superpowers. We can do the same thing with traditional medicines. Not to become a financial superpower, but another kind of superpower. One that can do things that all the money in the world can’t do. That power is in our hands to create and partake in, but we need to risk and come out of our comfortable, self-assured little specialized silos and into the light of day in order for that to happen.
If we want to survive, thrive and lead as traditional medical practitioners, we can do it together. We can unlock this puzzle of self, community and world healing all at the same time.
How? What if we change the basis of our decision making toward something more fundamental? What if we start listening to and acting on more elemental forces than we’ve been aware of for the last few centuries?
What if we found a new guiding principle?
And what if our new guiding principle turned out to be our old guiding principle, the one that we lost long ago?
That principle, in one way or another, was nearly always a process of listening to the Earth and/or other forces that were beyond human, other than the petty and short-sighted games we invent for ourselves. Maybe we can begin to respect the Earth and these forces rather than continuing to take them for granted. They are, after all, the very basis of the healing that happens when our medicine works and people heal. Maybe, just maybe we could pay a little tribute to what’s really going on behind the scenes and the smoke in mirrors of medicine.
Industrial and technological societies treat the Earth like it’s always going to be there, like there’s always more that we will be able to take from it. What will happen when that’s no longer true? And are we any different with our expectations of and assumptions about our patients, our medicines and healing?
What have we given back lately?
It’s time to rethink the way we think of the past. When something comes before us in time, it remains ahead of us, not behind us.
Our ancestors were the architects of our future. We threw away their architectural plans long ago because we thought we could do it better, do it our way.
It's starting to seem like we were wrong.
There were people in our deep history who knew how to listen to the Earth and then translate that understanding to the rest of society. This is what guided us in the past. Institutional religion and the misapplication of science killed that practice and replaced it with a shallow and self-serving doctrine. We’re living the end result, which ironically, these institutions themselves predicted, articulated, scribed and taught even as they made it happen each step of the way.
The end is not a catastrophic intervention by some divine power. It’s the natural result of the stupidity of our plan.
We can’t wait for some ’program’ to be developed and implemented to turn events in a better direction. Time and again we’re shown that government, when it is not outright sponsoring calamities, is completely ineffective at best in solving them. In the US, it is impossible to have a coherent long-term vision because of our regime-flipping every four years and the fact that each team wants to win every point it can for its own team, rather than moving all of our interests ‘forward’ as a whole. Waiting for the program, waiting for the funding, waiting for the science, waiting for the technology are all just endless and fruitless forms of passivity and self-victimization, excuses for our surrender to the inertia of our fear and our convenient faith in the lies of technological monoculture.
The dark side of nationalism is on the rise all over the world, pulling us straight away from any meaningful global solutions. We are further stymied by ever-increasing state control and regulation that seem to be applied only in the places where we don’t need them rather than where we do.
Governments seem to be pointing us in exactly the opposite direction from the ways that would benefit us the most.
Soft and well-meaning non profit groups lack the power to leverage the kinds of meaningful action it takes to create positive change at the pace we need to be working at. The urgency we face today is just too great.
So it’s up to us. All of us. Especially the healers. Why? Because traditional healers are systemic thinkers. And since our global issues are deeply intertwined and embedded with each other, it takes systemic thinkers to be able to weed out this mess and make it right.
Traditional healers are practical. Really traditional practitioners aren’t swayed by ‘data’ and its paltry manipulations. We trust only what we feel, see, hear, smell and taste. That’s it.
Covid has taught us without question that health and the economy are inseparably commingled. Health cannot be taken for granted. Without it, nothing else can happen. Maybe we should start prioritizing it.
In a culture that is obsessed with safety while creating its opposite, even the slightest surprise can induce an immobilizing state of shock. If we want to move ‘forward,’ we’ll want to foster deeper levels of resiliency to protect ourselves against this state of frozen rigidity and fathomless passivity.
The problem is that we keep generating human solutions instead of listening to the Earth and doing what it asks us to do. Each human solution that we generate makes the process worse. The reason is that each solution is our solution, self-generated, which is the problem itself.
The times are calling for new rules in the world of medicine. These new rules require us to include and incorporate multiple worldviews, all worldviews, on one level playing field with equal respect for all. The stakes have never been higher.
Business is more nimble and able than government in times of crisis. Business reforms itself to the demands of the moment or it dies along with the last moment’s moment.
Traditional medicine is more nimble than industrial medicine. We have the ability and the power to reform ourselves to the demands of the moment because that’s how we practice our medicine.
Maybe we could begin to look for solutions in the old way, in the way we know how to do from practicing traditional medicine. Our solutions can, and perhaps must, come from the Earth and the elemental forces of nature. It’s up to us to interpret and translate those impulses as accurately and succinctly as we can to those who surround us and to those in positions of worldly power.
Beyond that, it’s up to the rest of humanity to respond.
Traditional medicine practitioners can become a conduit for natural information and natural solutions to the problems we face today. This is a much more solid plan than looking to the large institutional structures that have created many of the problems we’re now grappling with and historically have done everything they could to wipe out our practices. Remember, if we’re practicing traditional medicine right now, we’re doing it because market forces, also known as human need and demand, have insisted our practices into being. Only our licenses, not our practices, are generously and benevolently bestowed on us by our governing bodies. Our practices happen because we put in the work and people want what we do.
We have all the tools we need to innovate a completely new form of delivering traditional medicine. This is a traditional medicine that is challenged and strengthened through dialogue, rigorous testing and practice. We have a strong infrastructure of relationships with our patients, our suppliers and each other. Through the Covid crisis, we have proven beyond all doubt that we can innovate under pressure in spite of governing institutions doing everything they can to shut us down.
Traditional medicine will be here no matter what political and governmental shifts occur in the coming years. We’re stable. We’re the ones on the ground getting direct real-time input and feedback from the population every day. If we cut ourselves off from that feedback, we go out of business in a hurry. Practitioners of traditional medicines are subject to brutal competitive forces that are constantly attempting to uproot us and make us go away, but we don’t and we won’t go away.
We’re here to stay. We always have been and we always will be.
We can and will regenerate ourselves, our patients, society, humanity and the earth with traditional medicines.