Medicine and Biomedical Devices
Native American Interests
Thoughts From a Student of Life
Many have said that "Life is a journey." It can be. But it is often much more than that. For me, life has been more of an odyssey with one surprise after another. Some of those surprises are quite pleasant. Some are not. It appears that I am a student of life who stumbles around, is often very lucky, screws up a lot, is able to dream impossible dreams and make some of them come true, and is constantly learning.
I am an electrical/biomedical engineer with PhD, MS and BS degrees in Electrical Engineering, an MBA in Finance and a Master's degree in Biological Sciences (Medical Track). Yes, I have five degrees. But don't be too impressed. I am a right brain romantic who had to acquire left brain analytical skills to get a job, avoid welfare and stay out of prison. Earning five degrees does not mean that I am a genius, or all that smart. It only means that I am very persistent.
A large part of my professional life as an electrical engineer and biomedical engineer has involved writing technical papers in the areas of electrical engineering, physics, business/economic forecasting and (to a small degree)history. As an author, my writing efforts have not been confined to science, engineering and business journals and magazines. My struggles with the massive conflicts between religion and spirituality, my research efforts and experiences in biomedicine and interests in Native American culture (that came out of nowhere) all initiated a set of book writing efforts that continue to this day.
Taking Matthew 7: 7-8, Luke 11: 9-10 and Thomas 2 very seriously, I went out on a journey to "Seek and Find." My journey turned into a religious-spiritual odyssey. For more than 30 years, I did a large amount of seeking and did not like what I found. In fact, the finding part made me ill. But something my mother did during Sunday morning Mass when I was eight years old helped me to keep religion from contaminating my spirituality. I recently wrote a book, Isaiah's Leper, A Spiritual Odyssey; which is based on a much shorter version (Isaiah's Leper) published in 2005. The newer and more complete version of the book was released by the publisher (iUniverse) and made available on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble by early January of 2009. What my mother did for me is described in a chapter entitled, The Day Mom "Duked It Out" With the Vatican.
For years I struggled with the question, "Why do organized religions behave like political entities?" Well, what took me so long to figure it out? They behave like political entities because they are political entities cloaked in the vestments of religion; and using the good name of the "Power That Loves Us" in very blasphemous ways. From my "seeking and finding," it became evident that if people really want to get a good overview of the foundations of a religion, look at what that religion condemns. Look at the books and papers that the various religions have burned. And look at the traditions and belief systems they attempt to destroy. With that information, you will then have a fairly good idea of the real origins and foundations of the various organized religions.
We have catechisms, texts and rule books to give us answers and tell us how to act. We have church approved rules on how to pray. In fact, the church will intercede and bring God right to us through the Divine conduit that they claim to oversee or control. All we need to do in return is pay, pray and obey. All we need to do is turn off our minds and let corporate religion take care of us. And the hideous part is; by turning off our minds, by not asking embarassing questions and by placing a blind trust in those who claim to be God's representatives; we lose the precious gifts we have been given. We separate our intellects from the Divine that dwells within us. With that kind of separation, we are in danger of surrendering our integrity and embracing a potentially corrupting influence that is fraudulently packaged as a true representation of God's preferences and advertised as a valid foundation for our faith. Various aspects of that corrupting influence, fraudulent packaging and misleading advertising is well described and condemned in Matthew 23: 1-39, Mark 12: 38-40, Matthew 7: 15-23, Acts 17: 24-25, Matthew 18: 6, Luke 17: 21 and Matthew 16: 23. In I Thessalonians 5: 21-22, St. Paul cautions us about the dangers of blind faith, "But test all things; hold fast that which is good. Keep yourselves from every kind of evil." By now, we should all be aware of the horrible consequences that can occur when people do not question, do not test, do not demand transparency and accountability, do not think and simply surrender to a blind faith in religious institutions.
If you want to talk to God - - - start talking. If you want to hear God's reply, take a hint from the likes of Luke 17: 21 or the author Parker J. Palmer. Just stop talking and wait for that "inner voice" to come through. As Palmer recommends in his book title, "Let Your Life Speak." Don't look "out there" for that voice. Don't look into a church for that voice. Acts 7: 48 and Acts 17: 24 will tell you, the voice you are looking for is not in a church. That voice is in you. You are the temple; and that voice will reply when you give it some respect and security. Then, to go a little further; if you want to see a little bit of God, look in the mirror and look at the good people around you. If you want to see some of God's handiwork, look in the mirror and look at the good people around you. And if you want proof that God exists, look in the mirror and look at the good people around you.
Medicine and Biomedical Devices
During the mid to late 1980's, I received my first exposure to the world of biomedicine as a volunteer in the Department of Pharmacology and part time graduate student at the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine. That kind of exposure increased over the years. As my biomedical network expanded, it allowed me to explore therapeutic and diagnostic approaches for cancer, visual disease and neurological disorders. A consulting position at the University of Minnesota Medical School, Department of Pediatrics, gave me the opportunity to get involved with various aspects of pulmonary disease (especially cystic fibrosis). With a background in biological sciences (including courses and lab work in biophysics, biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics, cell biology, tumor biology, microbiology, virology, neurobiology, physiology, imaging, immunology, endocrinology, pharmacology, spectroscopy, microscopy, etc.), I was able to establish some excellent relationships with a number of very accomplished and forward thinking medical doctors and health care practitioners in the areas of cancer, visual disease, neurological disorders and pulmonary disease. Much of what they do and did is miraculous. I described the science behind some of these "miracles" in a book entitled Electrotherapeutic Devices: Principles, Design and Applications (Artech House, Boston, MA (2007)). An errata sheet for this book is included on the web page labeled "Biomedicine."
Unfortunately, most of what these forward thinking medical doctors and health care practitioners have accomplished is often overlooked or stonewalled by their colleagues. There is a reason for this. Years ago, the editor of the British Journal of Medicine indicated that medicine is 15% science and 40% art. He did not identify the remaining 45%. In my experience with intellectually curious and forward thinking medical doctors; and witnessing the tremendous road blocks that they have to face within their own profession; it appears that the remaining 45% of medicine is religion, with its own unique brand of bone-crushing stultifying dogma. And, of course, like any religion, in the field of medicine, you also have to overcome problems associated with greed, arrogance-intolerance, tradition driven inertia, image and control.
Native American Interests
During a trip across South Dakota, the beginnings of a book that has a Native American spirituality theme started pouring into my head. I was confused. I did not know Native American spirituality from Swiss cheese. I felt ridiculous and totally out of my element. But I could not stop the flow. So, I started writing down what was pouring in. While smoothing out the rough edges in the writing, I was amazed with what I saw. I wondered, "Who or what is feeding me all of this very interesting material?" When the Native American book began to take form in my mind (while I was driving my car, just about fifteen miles east of Chamberlain, S.D.), I recognized the beginnings of what was to become my own customized version of a sweat lodge. And I had a feeling it was going to continue for the rest of my life. Not long after the incident near Chamberlain occurred, I was driving down a main street in Rapid City, S.D. As I came to an intersection, the world seemed to stop. There was no sign of life anywhere. Then, while I waited for a red light that would not change to green; I saw this man, a Native American, walking toward my car. It is a long story. But during a five minute interval when the world around me stood still, I had a very strange and comforting "vision." The basic message that was given to me involved tolerance and forgiveness. The experience also gave me an excellent example of how quick we can be to judge and condemn.
The Native American writing effort continued off-and-on. While attending a high school reunion, I met an old acquaintance who started a rock band with my brother when they were in high school. We had an interesting and productive conversation. I was amazed to learn that we were both working on books involving Native American culture and spirituality. He gave me an overview of his writing and publishing efforts. One of those efforts that he described during our conversation eventually became a very interesting book about a modern day Native American dream catcher (Ron Terborg, In Your Dreams, BookSurge (2004)). After reading three pages, you are going to have a difficult time putting this book down. And if you have an imagination, when you finish Ron's book, you will want more.
The book Ron and I have sketched out, and plan to publish has a strong Native American focus. It begins many years ago with a group of Native Americans desperately trying to reach a safe place to protect themselves from a terrifying entity that is not far behind them. Then, from different points of view, the story winds its way through the mix of cultures, people, ideals and ideas that served as the foundation for a number of unique nations and a new republic. The story flows into the present where survival and progress depend upon adaptation. They depend upon the ability to adjust to dominating forces and social evolution while keeping the old ways, traditions, spirituality and cultural integrity intact. Finally, based on information we believe is relevant and fairly accurate, we plan to continue the story by taking the reader into a rather interesting and challenging future. Our combined efforts should produce an interesting book with some unusual "twists."
Sometimes, late at night as I am working, I can almost feel the presence of what I saw in that strange and comforting "vision" - - - and then, more material comes pouring in. I intend to go where this takes me.
Thoughts From a Student of Life
As a result of these interests and the book writing efforts that followed, I have learned a number of things:
1) From the results of a number of life experiences, it is obvious that I need to pay more attention to Matthew 7: 1-5. Verses 1 and 5 are especially important. As someone who could profit from following this recommendation, I am probably not alone.
2) There are huge conflicts between religion and spirituality, and we often have to make a choice concerning what we would rather be - - - religious or spiritual. It appears that God, Alaha, Jesus, the Great Power of Nature, Allah, Isa, the Holy Spirit, the Great Spirit do not dwell in temples made of stone by the hands of man. Read Acts 7: 48 and Acts 17: 24. Then, listen to the words of the Lakota prayer that starts out; "Oh Great Spirit, Whose voice I hear in the winds, and Whose breath gives life to all the world - - - . Recognize the closeness of the Divine. Visualize the beauty They create and represent. Give Them your attention. Listen to the voice within you. It won't be long before you begin to realize that They dwell around us and within us. They heal with our hands and speak with our thoughts and words. And, no matter how doubtful and weak we become, They will not go away.
3) With the incredible advances that have been made in biomedical sciences, we are one of the more backward countries with respect to the implementation of appropriate, reasonable and safe medical procedures and interventions. Just read the history of how mammograms were promoted over many objections from medical doctors with excellent scientific credentials. While reading that history, keep one word in mind; "denial." Our attitudes and approach toward many medical practices are often fueled by denial and often border on Medieval. As a result, we are a very sick nation.
4) Many Native American myths are not mere myths. Those so-called myths are strong indicators of what Native Americans saw and experienced during some very terrifying times. It appears that other cultures all over the world experienced the same terrifying events. We need to open our minds, listen to them and learn from their experiences. We need to recognize how their knowledge, beliefs and thought processes run parallel and complement the knowledge base and beliefs of modern society. Civilization has abused and brutalized many of those cultures. And the odd thing is, there will come a day when the so-called civilized world will need the insights and mindset of those who have been abused, marginalized and brutalized in order to survive. When will that day come? Has it already arrived?
© George D. O'Clock, 2008, 2009, 2010