Over Lent, I recorded a couple of podcasts with Deal W. Hudson, host of the show “Church and Culture.”
Here’s Part 1, March 24.
Here’s Part 2, March 31.
At the end of Part 2, I give a bit of my take on, or perhaps I should say against, the cultural concept of “wellness.”
By which I mean the “Wellness” (the very word annoys me) Industry.
It drives me insane when the marketers get a hold of a simple, natural, instinctive human desire such as to connect or be healthy or enjoy the outdoors and turn it into a whole spectrum of consumer products such that no one can say hello any more except through FB, or take, say, a simple walk without thinking they need to first buy the right shoes, hat, jacket, water bottle, earphones, odometer and all sorts of other utterly unnecessary paraphernalia.
Huxley described this very phenomenon at the beginning of Brave New World.
Children in the totalitarian society he described are conditioned from birth, by means of painful electric shocks, to hate flowers and books.
Books and loud noises, flowers and electric shocks–already in the infant mind these couples were compromisingly linked; and after two hundred repetitions of the same or a similar lesson would be wedded indissolubly. What man has joined, nature is powerless to put asunder.
“They’ll grow up with what the psychologists used to call an ‘instinctive’ hatred of books and flowers. Reflexes unalterably conditioned. They’ll be safe from books and botany all their lives.” The Director turned to his nurses. “Take them away again.”
Still yelling, the khaki babies were loaded on to their dumb-waiters and wheeled out, leaving behind them the smell of sour milk and a most welcome silence.
One of the students held up his hand; and though he could see quite well why you couldn’t have lower-cast people wasting the Community’s time over books, and that there was always the risk of their reading something which might undesirably decondition one of their reflexes, yet … well, he couldn’t understand about the flowers. Why go to the trouble of making it psychologically impossible for Deltas to like flowers?
Patiently the D.H.C. explained. If the children were made to scream at the sight of a rose, that was on grounds of high economic policy. Not so very long ago (a century or thereabouts), Gammas, Deltas, even Epsilons, had been conditioned to like flowers–flowers in particular and wild nature in general. The idea was to make them want to be going out into the country at every available opportunity, and so compel them to consume transport.
“And didn’t they consume transport?” asked the student.
“Quite a lot,” the D.H.C. replied. “But nothing else.”
Primroses and landscapes, he pointed out, have one grave defect: they are gratuitous. A love of nature keeps no factories busy. It was decided to abolish the love of nature, at any rate among the lower classes; to abolish the love of nature, but not the tendency to consume transport. For of course it was essential that they should keep on going to the country, even though they hated it. The problem was to find an economically sounder reason for consuming transport than a mere affection for primroses and landscapes. It was duly found.
“We condition the masses to hate the country,” concluded the Director. “But simultaneously we condition them to love all country sports. At the same time, we see to it that all country sports shall entail the use of elaborate apparatus. So that they consume manufactured articles as well as transport. Hence those electric shocks.”
“I see,” said the student, and was silent, lost in admiration.
Here is my “health” regimen. For years I belonged to the working-class 24 Hour Fitness in K’town. I think it was 13 bucks a month. Now I belong to the working-class 24 Hour Fitness in Altadena, which through Medicare sets me back 20 bucks a month. Between that, frequent long walks, for a long time weekly stints of tennis, and some free weights at home, I have been perfectly healthy and presentable enough so that people don’t flee in horror for decades, knock on wood and all glory to God. I did have a small bout with cancer in 2000, went AMA, refused chemo and radiation and still have both breasts and my health, thank you.
The upshot is that at almost 66, I weigh the same as I did in high school, 120 give or take. I take no prescription medications–and that includes psychotropics. In fact, I have never taken so much as an antidepressant and trust me if anyone qualifies, I do. Ditto anti-anxiety medication. (Of course I was a falling-down blackout drunk for 20 years–but even then I took no “outside” medications, if only because I sensed that if I ingested one more “foreign” substance, I’d keel over and die on the spot).
I have no special equipment. I don’t own a pair of scales or even a full-length mirror, not that I don’t like to admire myself!
I’m not anti-medicine but I’m anti- thinking like or being treated like a lemming.
In fact, all of the above is in spite of, or perhaps because, of the fact that I also have a life-long, chronic illness: alcoholism. Because I’m grateful, I tend to my body without, I hope, being fussy or fetishistic about it. Because I’m grateful, I know the condition of my innermost heart is way more important than good physical health, which is in many ways a crapshoot.
Because of my alcoholism and the spiritual solution with which I’ve treated it for 31 years, I have a visceral, violent aversion to our profit-based, human-being-as-commodity “healthcare” system.
Recently, for example, I learned I had high cholesterol (though everything else is top-notch). My doctor sent an email saying I could pick up my Lipitor script at the pharmacy. Not a word of further info. No discussion of diet. No mention of the fact that once you start taking statins, you can basically never stop.
So as with my cancer, I’m doing my own research, my own praying, my own inner call-to-arms. I’m eating lots more barley, quinoa and other grains, lots more vegetables, lots more fish. And if I die of a heart attack (God forbid), so be it and maybe the good Lord was sparing me from Alzheimer’s.
Meanwhile I make sure to regularly get off by myself (this includes while I’m at home in my own apt), take long walks, ponder the mysteries of nature, human relations, and the universe.
While I’m on the subject, here is another pet peeve: at church when they quit offering the chalice during flu season. Are you kidding me? People of faith have died from cholera, bubonic plague, leprosy while serving the sick and suffering. We’re supposed to be willing to lay down our lives! [See. e.g,, this rousing biography of St. Camillus]. We’d take our own health over a chance to partake of the Blood of Christ? Wusses!
“Healthy people don’t need a doctor; sick people do,” said Christ. I know the ways I’m “well”–every one of them a boundless, unmerited grace–but I really know the many, many ways I’m sick. Grateful as I am for Kaiser, I thus appeal for real healing to the Great Physician.
And continue in many ways to be sick, and continue in many ways to suffer.
Because that is what it is to be a human being.
I’m reading Dr. Victoria Sweet’s Slow Medicine, a follow-up to her splendid God’s Hotel. Highly recommended.