Concerned about Healthcare? Watch this!

Last week I had my first meeting with my new primary care doctor. He works with Qliance Medical Group here in Seattle. I cannot tell you how pleased I am with their services. I have already recommended here looking at what they do.

On March 26th, Dr. Garrison Bliss, who founded Qliance Medical, spoke to the Washington Association of Health Underwriters about the situation of healthcare in the US, and what to do about it. If you are concerned about healthcare, for yourself or for the nation, or for both, I strongly recommend listening to this talk. Listen here.

Below I have paraphrased a little of what he said, as a teaser. The talk is really excellent.

Bliss asks, Why do we have the healthcare system we have? His answer: we designed the system to work this way, albeit not with the intention of producing the results we have produced.

He asks, with the current system, who wins?

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Revised on Problems with “Compumorphizing”

(We revised and re-posted this on April 21st.)

In response to my posting on Jill Bolte Taylor’s TED Talk, my son Nicolas posted a comment. “Papa,” he said,

“I know that this take on the human being as processor (Pentium 17) really gets your Heideggerian goat. If I recall correctly, this is the approach that has taken over university philosophy departments, leaving guys like Rorty to sneak Nietzsche into literature classes. I wonder if you would say why you so dislike the compumorphizing interpretation? What kinds of problems do you see this interpretation producing in the world? (My italics.)

I am going to attempt to answer the biggest questions I think Nicolas is asking.

In my interpretation, he is touching on one of the central questions of the great spiritual and intellectual traditions. His question, ‘What kinds of problems are produced by poor interpretations about what human beings are?’ sits alongside what I consider the most important questions for us as human beings: Who are we? What are we doing here? and How best to use the short time that we have here?

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Remembering Francisco Varela

Thanks to the passionate involvement with certain questions and communities of my wife Shirah and my friends Jon and Tova Ramer, I had the opportunity last week to visit with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Bishop Desmond Tutu (at the Seeds of Compassion Event, in the company of a lot of other people).

Video feeds of the many parts of this extraordinary event are already available on the Internet. Go here. I particularly recommend the video of the morning of Tuesday April 15th. You have to scroll down in the window entitled, “EVENT GUIDE” to select it.

Francisco Varela, of blessed memory, “sat beside me” while I was there. I kept remembering him. Fernando Flores introduced me to Varela. As a scientific advisor to the Dalai Lama, Varela was instrumental in starting the fruitful exploration being supported by the Mind and Life Institute.

Here is Francisco talking about his life’s work:

“I guess I’ve had only one question all my life. Why do emergent selves, virtual identities, pop up all over the place creating worlds, whether at the mind/body level, the cellular level, or the transorganism level? This phenomenon is something so productive that it doesn’t cease creating entirely new realms: life, mind, and societies. Yet these emergent selves are based on processes so shifty, so ungrounded, that we have an apparent paradox between the solidity of what appears to show up and its groundlessness. That, to me, is a key and eternal question.

“As a consequence, I’m interested in the nervous system, cognitive science, and immunology, because they concern the processes that can answer the question of what biological identity is. How can you have some kind of identity that simultaneously allows you to know something, allows cells to configure their own relevant world, the immune system to generate the identity of our body in its own way, and the brain to be the basis for a mind, a cognitive identity? All these mechanisms share a common theme.”

And here he is speaking about his dream of a peaceful future of survival and dignity for everyone on the planet:

“If everybody would agree that their current reality is A reality, and that what we essentially share is our capacity for constructing a reality, then perhaps we could all agree on a meta-agreement for computing a reality that would mean survival and dignity for everyone on the planet, rather than each group being sold on a particular way of doing things.”

Argh, but we miss you, Francisco.

I Suggest: Read Glenn Greenwald’s Blog

Today I added a link in this blog to Glenn Greenwald’s blog. Over the past months I have been deeply impressed with what he pays attention to, and with the quality of his comments on the situation in the US and the world. Last week I followed carefully his direct criticism of the recent duplicity of the newly appointed Attorney General of the United States, and decided to cite his blog in mine. Today Greenwald has done a scathing characterization of the state of the media in the country, and I want to call attention to it.

This is not a political blog. I am committed not to speak casually about things to which many people that I appreciate and respect are paying serious attention, and I am also committed not to “vote” or pass around opinions in this blog. On the other hand, I consider the construction of the public agenda (which is what I understand politics to be really about) fundamental to the question of “Social, Commercial, and Technological Invention” that is, after all, what I said was the focus of this blog.

Here is how Glenn Greenwald begins his posting on the media today:

The U.S. establishment media in a nutshell

In the past two weeks, the following events transpired. A Department of Justice memo, authored by John Yoo, was released which authorized torture and presidential lawbreaking. It was revealed that the Bush administration declared the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights to be inapplicable to “domestic military operations” within the U.S. The U.S. Attorney General appears to have fabricated a key event leading to the 9/11 attacks and made patently false statements about surveillance laws and related lawsuits. Barack Obama went bowling in Pennsylvania and had a low score.

Here are the number of times, according to NEXIS, that various topics have been mentioned in the media over the past thirty days:

“Yoo and torture” – 102

“Mukasey and 9/11” — 73

“Yoo and Fourth Amendment” — 16

“Obama and bowling” — 1,043

“Obama and Wright” — More than 3,000 (too many to be counted)

“Obama and patriotism” – 1,607

“Clinton and Lewinsky” — 1,079

Ouch.

In a book review (also in today’s Salon) entitled Can Stephen Colbert save America? Louis Bayard quotes Stephen Colbert from his White House Correspondents roast, on the subject of how the media works at the White House:

“Here’s how it works,” Colbert explained. “The president makes decisions. He’s the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put ’em through a spell check and go home … Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know — fiction!”

I pray for the continued health of Mark Twain’s spirit. The rest of the book review is worth reading as well.

To see Greenwald’s whole posting, click on the title “The US Establishment….” To see the book review, click on the title “Can Stephen Colbert ….”

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

I offer homage to Waylon Jennings, for his song which echoes in my head as I think about what I want to say here, to Joe Alberti, the acting and drama coach whose comment I have been interacting with, and which inspired this posting, to Fernando Flores, teacher and mentor, and to Greg and Margaret and Shirah, faithful partners for reflection.

This posting has a moral: Be bloody careful about the language in which you make important interpretations, or your language will “invent you” as something you may not be happy with. Winston Churchill, in a speech in the House of Commons on October 28, 1944, said, “We shape our dwellings, and afterwards our dwellings shape us.” (http://drmardy.com tells us that Churchill made the speech during the rebuilding of the House of Commons, after it sustained heavy bombing damage during the Battle of Britain.)

  • Paraphrasing his words and idea, we say,

    We shape our language (our interpretations of the world, and the moods and distinctions in which we listen and speak), and afterwards our language shapes us.

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  • Comment on Jill Bolte Taylor’s Impressive TED Talk

    (After listening to reactions from several reviewers I edited this post on Friday April 4th.)

    Over the last week several people sent me links to this video. After reviewing and reflecting, I concluded that I wanted to say something about it. Ms. Taylor’s talk is brilliantly done, compelling, and potent. I find it poetically inspiring. At the same time, I want to take advantage of what she did as an opportunity to distinguish something of how we moderns think, (and don’t think) about important things in our lives.

    So start by watching the talk by clicking on the link in the first sentence above. It takes about 20 minutes. This narrative is brought to us by a person interpreting and presenting herself as a scientist. Manifestly she is a scientist, but most of what she is doing is not science. In a nutshell, Taylor recounts how she arrived at brain science as a career, how she underwent a massive brain hemorrhage, how she experienced that event, and the conclusions she developed from that experience.

    Ms. Taylor has a passionate, poetic sense of life, and she has undergone a unique experience. Her talk gathers awesome force and credence from the combination of her professional credentials, from the way she describes her experience of her own stroke, and from the actual physical presentation of a human brain on the stage. She inspires her listeners, calling on us to pay attention and commit ourselves to important human possibilities and values.

    I have struggled to understand what bothers me about the talk. When I first wrote about it, most of my readers interpreted that I was put off by the fact that she “clothes” the talk in the language of science, while at the same time she is doing good poetry. I don’t think that is the source of my interest in the talk. Rather, after several days of reflection and listening to it several times, I think the issue for me is that this can represent a waste of an important educational opportunity. Rather than opening us to an important new direction for thinking about the human experience, I fear that this talk will produce a kind of ecstatic tranquilization. And, because its poetry and showmanship is so good, it may be a strong misdirection.

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