Sunday, September 20, 2009


I was standing looking up at the blue dome of the morning sky above the oak trees, pondering questions of life and death, when I had the fleeting image of a baby bird pecking out of its eggshell. This came after I'd been mulling over the theories of what our life on earth is. A divinely designed testing ground for future reward or punishment? A semester in a cosmic educational system? A prison? A chemical accident? A beautifully landscaped hell? A scientific experiment whose instigators observe us in the way that human scientists observe a bacterial culture in a petri dish?

To me, the little bird breaking out of its shell and seeing the sky and sunshine for the first time was an analogy of what happens at the end of this life on earth, and a hint at our earth life's function.

Friday, September 18, 2009


Don't read this unless you are interested in remedies for physical problems that afflict old people. Yes, “old” people. Please never call me a “senior citizen” or, worse, a “senior.” I was a senior in high school. Let that word stay in high school where it belongs and not be one of those condescending euphemisms that has become almost mandatory in the United States.

First, don't go to a doctor except in extremis. The body has an amazing ability to heal itself. Like bureaucratic pests, bad things in the body will often go away if you ignore them for awhile. The exception would be if you find a lump growing somewhere.

Second, don't have surgery just because a doctor thinks it's a good idea, especially where the bones, joints, and connective tissues are involved. I once joked to my golf foursome, “I'm the only one here with real knees.” We had all experienced very painful knee problems. Why was I the only one with the knees I was born with? Because instead of hopping into a hospital gown I just waited until my knee eventually stopped hurting. Such joint problems take a very long time to heal even with treatment. Use a crutch if necessary, and common sense, and you probably won't need to go under a knife.

I learned as I got older that the way one holds and moves the body – posture in the broadest sense – is extremely important.

For lower back pain: Let the upper body hang forward from the waist. Simply relax and bend forward and let the arms dangle. Keep the legs straight. Don't try to touch the floor – just let gravity take over. Do this every day for at least 2 minutes. It completely cured me of terrible back pains after several doctors had been able to do nothing except run up large bills with tests, x-rays, and conflicting diagnoses, and consultations about exploratory surgery. One, who was obsessed with malpractice, wanted me to go to the Mayo Clinic. I healed myself completely by “dangling” for a few minutes each day while my coffee was brewing.

For spasms or blockage of the esophagus when eating: I'm not sure how to describe the inner mechanism, but for years I suffered an affliction which might hit me during a meal. The passageway through which I swallowed food became blocked so that I couldn't swallow, but at the same time I couldn't burp up the air which I felt pressing upward. . . as if two trucks had met on a one lane road. It was a frightening feeling, and it brought eating to a complete halt unless something happened to end the impasse . . . possibly vomiting. Dr. Malpractice said it could be very serious and that a journey to a Mayo Clinic was in order. A less frightened doctor told me to sip warm coffee or tea – but when this thing happened, I couldn't sip. When that doctor retired, my present doctor could offer no cure. And then one day at lunch I discovered what caused the affliction: Posture. I suddenly realized that when I ate I tended to slump forward, chin down toward my plate while my somewhat portly middle section pressed upward into my lower chest. Despite my rudimentary knowledge of anatomy, I concluded that I was crimping my esophagus, so that my food-swallowing tube was like a severely bent garden hose. As soon as I had this realization and began to sit up completely straight when eating (sometimes raising my chin toward the ceiling in the manner of a chicken), my embarrassing affliction was gone forever. It also helps, of course, to swallow food in moderate amounts rather than to gulp it ravenously.

To avoid falls: Between watching where you're going, and watching what your feet are going to encounter, favor keeping an eye on your feet. I feel sure that a lot more old-age falls are caused by tripping over things or kicking into things than by bumping into walls or doors because people weren't looking where they were going. Also, never stand on a ladder or stool.

To bring sleep: Take very deep, slow breaths. I certainly did not invent this technique, but it works. Relax in the bed, take one long, slow, very deep breath after another, and use the meditation method of paying attention to the breathing rather than letting the mind wander off into thoughts, plans, worries.

Above all, realize that you are as young as you were at the age of seven because only the body ages, not the soul or spirit. Your spirit can command the body.