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While We Still Have Time

In spite of the grimness of the times in which we live, there is still hope. If you feel, like I do, that the usual discourse about matters of critical concern tends to be superficial, misguided, and false, then you might find some solace and inspiration here. I will try to offer insight and a holistic perspective on events and issues, and hopefully serve as a catalyst for raising the level of dialogue on this planet.

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Location: Madison, Wisconsin, United States

I was born in 1945, shortly before atom bombs were dropped on Japan. I served in the U.S. Army from 1968 to 1971. I earned master's degrees in Economics and Educational Psychology, and certificates in Web Page Design and as a Teacher of English as a Second Language. I followed an Indian guru for eight years, which immersed me in meditative practices and an attitude of reaching a higher level of being. A blog post listing the meditative practices I have pursued can be seen here.

Monday, April 25, 2016

If Only...

Like millions around the world, I was stunned and saddened by the unexpected death of the popular musician Prince on Thursday. He was a force, both of personality and music, and appealed to likely the widest range of people that any performer has.

I first became aware of his talent when I heard the song "Purple Rain" in a bar full of U.S. Marines in Kailua, Hawaii, in 1984. It was a pretty unlikely place, but there I was in the Marine hangout, feeling completely alien until "Purple Rain" played over the sound system. The Marines sang along with it, turning it into a rousing drinking song. It was bizarre, but the song was so good that all sense of isolation departed. The Marines were from the nearby Kaneohe Marine Base, and they seemed to recreate en masse rather than dispersively.

Several years later I went to see the concert movie "Sign o' the Times," with Prince and Sheila E. doing some of the best rock 'n roll I have ever seen. He had it all - voice, guitar virtuoso, rhythm, personality, dance moves, and a sense of humor. I expected more of the same from him over the years, but have had a pretty passive approach, letting it come to me rather than pursuing it. My music tastes are more rootsy, by-and-large, and Prince's music tended in a more pop direction.

Then came the Superbowl Halftime Show in 2007. I generally don't watch the Super Bowl, having a growing revulsion for pro-football. The Chicago Bears were playing in the game, so I had some mild interest, still only watched about 10 minutes. But the halftime show with Prince, that was a must.

And he delivered. In a rain storm. These performances have grown into crass spectacles, but Prince went beyond spectacle, bringing it in, but transcending. The stage was wet with rain, and the downpour made playing an electric guitar a risky endeavor. Prince brought the rain in, and it became the backdrop of a blazing version of Purple Rain to finish with. I was in awe, witnessing on TV the most intense, sincere, and humble, really, performance I had ever seen. He poured his heart into that 12 minutes. It seems trite to say we will never see the like again, but I can't imagine anyone topping what Prince did that day.

Now he's dead. Reports are coming out about how he had overdosed on the pain-killer Percocet. He apparently was suffering from pain in one of his hips. He also had stayed awake for 154 hours before his death, which is curious, given that painkillers are sleep-inducing.

We will find out more in the coming days. Some are arguing that the media hysteria over Prince's death has gone too far, losing all sense of priority and proportion. There are many people drowning in the Mediterranean, desperate to escape war and poverty. Bombs are killing innocent people all over the Mideast. Terrorism is a looming threat. The Zika virus threatens us all. Climate change might render the human species extinct.

It will pass. The mass information media do what they do. Hyperbole, from which we get the word hype, is their stock-in-trade. In the case of Prince, there had to be hype, almost as if this were his final, over-the-top performance. We need our mythological heroes, and in an age where a crude rabble-rouser like Donald Trump is the most popular candidate for the presidency, attention to the legacy of Prince provides a healthy counterbalance.

Something we might want to consider, though, is the influence that pharmaceutical pain killers have on our society, and the role that pharmaceuticals in general play in our lives. PBS's Frontline aired a segment in February which showed death rates from opioid addiction are over 27,000 per year, 40% more than are killed in car accidents.

We are all at risk. I have had a few near-death experiences just from taking "normal" pharmaceuticals. As doctors are wont to say, they ALL have side-effects, and if you take too much of one, too little, or in combination with something that interacts negatively, you could suffer severe illness or death, and in a short time.

Luckily, I no longer have to take Warfarin, a blood-thinner that interacts badly with just about everything. I also no longer take Simvastatin, a cholesterol drug that I didn't need in the first place, and which caused a severe reaction that took a couple of years to recover from. It was horrendous. I was in intense pain from head to toe - joint and muscle.

I gradually healed from the Simvastatin episode by doing dietary changes recommended by a naturopathic physician, along with taking various supplements, doing yoga exercises, and use of a homeopathic cream called The Rub. Along with many other natural health products, it is available at Madison's Community Pharmacy. Other natural healing substances can be found at Willy St. Coop, so between the two of them I am able to minimize the use of pharmaceuticals. Meditation is also helpful.

A couple of months ago I had some dental surgery done that required, supposedly, that I take a series of antibiotics and a pain medicine, hydrocodone - one of the opioids that is killing so many people. The overuse of antibiotics in our food and in medical practice is reaching a crisis, as was depicted in a Frontline episode almost two years ago.

The oral surgeon who operated prescribed both of these medicines without pause or warning. It is standard practice, and until directed from above - licensing authorities, the Food and Drug Admininstration, the Centers for Disease Control, etc. - it will remain standard practice.

I took neither medicine. Trusting what I learned from naturopaths and other holistic care practitioners, and from my own experience, I reduced the pain by consuming moderate amounts of turmeric, a spice from a plant root that reduces inflammation. Instead of taking antibiotics I prepared my own concoction of raw onion and garlic, topped with olive oil in a piece of pita bread. I was out of pain in one day, and had no infection.

Back in the 1990s a primary care practitioner told me I had a condition known as acid reflux disease, or GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease). It's another way of saying chronic heartburn, but a fancy disease name makes it more official-sounding. And more inviting to pharmaceutical intervention. I was prescribed Lansoprazole, a protein pump inhibitor. This was followed over the years by other "prazoles" of various names. They all worked. At least if "worked" means they eliminated excess stomach acid. They eliminated ALL stomach acid.

Then I found out that these drugs are not particularly good for one's health if taken for extended periods. The body needs stomach acid. I changed my diet and stopped taking prazoles. A company named Urban Moonshine offers a selection of digestive bitters that help prevent heartburn. Another company, Enzymatic Therapy, offers deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) in tablets, which also helps with digestion. Other brands also offer this remedy. This just happens to be the brand that I have.

Better than these supplements, though, is organic apple cider vinegar. A small amount can stop acid reflux, and taking it before going to bed prevents it. Sometimes, if I eat something with extreme digestive challenges, I take all three remedies.

From the perspective of official medicine and its chief sponsor - the pharmaceutical industry - this approach is anathema. There isn't big money to be made from natural treatment of illness. The established, credible, approved, official world is the world to be believed in and obeyed.

Prince, for all his freedom of expression and pioneering artistry, apparently believed in the official approach to pain management. He might have had other things going on, like addiction and recklessness, but I can't help thinking that if he had tried a few natural treatments for his pain he would still be with us. A lot of us are angry about Prince's death. A good place to direct it is the amoral pharmaceutical industry. From there we can look at the panoply of other official myths that pass for truth these days. Like this.
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Here is a series of Prince songs.

We are all flirting with the Apocalypse.

Here's an old song.

This song is by Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs, something we all wish Prince had done.

April 27 update: Here's an example of what Prince meant to other musicians.

May 4 update: There is another problem caused by our obsession with pharmaceuticals. When they leave our bodies they don't just disappear into the atmosphere. They get ingested by every form of life that is "downstream."

Prince apparently was scheduled to meet with a doctor who specialized in treating addiction the day after he died. Here's more info.

Prince also gave tens of thousands of dollars to an organization that works with orphans in Afghanistan, of which there are many, thanks to our "leaders."

Update, June 5: An article in Salon describes how overprescription of antibiotics is putting us all at risk. You may find Salon to be problematic. It has become a click-bait site, and will crash any browser. Some users seem to be able to navigate the site without problem by installing an ad blocker.

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