Learn Something New This Week

VirginiaPublicLibrary

My own local public library

It’s Back to School time for the kids and the college students of whatever age.

In a way, I’m glad I finished my degree and don’t have to worry about getting ready for another quarter. In another way, I miss the new learning and the sparking of ideas from that learning that would excite me about whatever I was studying.

You don’t need to be in school or enrolled in any course to be a student of something you’re interested in. It doesn’t have to be academic–it can be a hobby or a fascination with something in particular, say gardening, woodworking, playing an instrument, or whatever absorbs your interest.

Studies have shown that curiosity and a desire to learn new things go a long way toward strengthening your memory and cognitive functions. It is said that people who read more, watch educational television or videos, or spend time on a hobby maintain higher brain function into their 80’s and 90’s.

(I do have references on this stuff, just not handy right now. I eventually hope to have them available in some form down the road.)

All you need for exercising your mind is a public library. Free media everywhere on anything you ever wanted to know about. Books, videos, recordings, newspapers, magazines plus digital formats of paper media.

It’s the best of both worlds: free information on nearly anything and everything, in paper and/or digital formats, for people with or without computers.

I’ve been a library bookworm since childhood. But, during my recent studies, I got used to getting books on Kindle, and using downloaded e-books instead of ordering $300 textbooks or $18.00 paperback novels (that’s ridiculous!). We could also download research material to print if we wanted to but I like saving the forests.

Because of that, I hadn’t been to my library in years. I do pick up a lot of books and videos from garage sales but that’s different: you’re not seeking out a specific topic, you’re picking up books that interest you that just happen to be there.

You walk into a library and pick a section related to your interest and BAM–suddenly you don’t know where to start. Me, I always go for the “beginners’ guide to…” or “an introduction to…” if I’m learning something new.

If it’s something I’ve been learning about and want to know more, I’ll look for “techniques in…” or “the (practioner’s) guide to…(interest)”. These would be like the ‘watercolor painter’s guide to flowers’ or ‘the gardener’s guide to organic vegetables’. You already know about gardening but now want to learn to do it organically.

My particular favorites for exploring either new or familiar topics  are the For Dummies and the Everything (Topic) series. There’s almost nothing that hasn’t been covered by someone in any line of work. Many of those authors are university professors or professionals in that area so you know you’re getting good, solid  information–for the most part.

I have read some that confused me because the author of a “‘beginner’s guide” assumed the reader already knew a lot about the topic. If they assume that then why are they writing a “beginner’s guide”? Something I’ve often wondered.

Many authors of these series update their work every year, especially if the subject is one that changes frequently, like the Internet, economics, or social media. Others are timeless, like arts n’ crafts instruction using techniques that haven’t changed for centuries such as fiber arts, preserving, or wood-working.

Your library’s how-to video section is a good place to go too. I find it easier to watch something done than to read how its done. Some of the For Dummies books are also on video, which is very helpful for visual instruction like fitness workouts, Yoga or using the Internet.

If you already do use the Internet regularly, you can find literally zillions of free how-to videos from YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook and other social media sites as well.

Libraries also make use of the Internet to assist people. They offer access to all sorts of online information databases, can help locate media and get it from other libraries, and provide you with your own library ‘home page’ where you can keep your lists of things to look for and manage your loans, returns, and holds.

Now–what’s really cool about libraries: if you don’t own a computer, you can get time at your public library, and if you need to, you can have someone walk you through learning how to find stuff.

No matter your age or learning style, there are many ways for you to learn about something you’ve been interested in–or something entirely new–for FREE at your nearest public library.

So, in honor of Back to School Week, get out there and learn something new.

 

 

 

 

Hippocrates: The Original Naturopath

hippocrates-food-medicineFirst in Physiology, First in Holistic Health, First in Accountability

Hippocrates of Cos, (5th Century B.C.E.), the Greek “Father of Medicine”, is also the father of Holistic Healing, although many may not realize this.  Hippocrates was the first physician to closely study the human body’s functions to diagnose and treat disease.  He was also the first to turn away from what in his day was considered ‘mainstream medicine’—prayers and sacrifices to the Gods and Goddess for relief and cure of the ailment.

During the birth of conventional medicine in late 19th to early 20th centuries, that concept was considered to be an extreme departure from ‘modern’ medicine.  With that in mind, it is interesting to note that today’s ‘alternative medicine’ is, in a way, a return to the mainstream of Hippocrates’ day:  appeals to spirituality and faith as a part of the healing process.

In this ‘new age’ of the 21st century, recognition of the power of the mind and spirit to heal the body is becoming more acceptable.  In the news, we hear about people conquering cancer, diabetes, heart disease and immune disorders through ‘positive thinking’, a change in diet and a return to nature.

Hippocrates’ most famous lesson was, “Let food be thy medicine and  thy medicine be food”.  Another of his lessons is:  “Neither repletion, nor fasting, nor anything else, is good when more than natural.”  What is ‘natural’ differs among everyone—some have lower tolerance to viruses, some have higher metabolism, while others may fluctuate between the highs and lows.

The trick is in balancing the repletion, the fasting, and the ‘anything else’ between too little and too much.  Hippocrates was the first proponent of balance and moderation in maintaining health, and probably the first ‘diet doctor’ when he wrote: “Persons who are naturally very fat are apt to die earlier than those who are slender.”

He was also the first to observe the mind/body connection:  “Persons who have a painful affection in any part of the body, and are in a great measure sensible of the pain, are disordered in intellect”, and “In every disease it is a good sign when the patient’s intellect is sound, and he is disposed to take whatever food is offered to him; but the contrary is bad.”

One concept put forward by Hippocrates especially deserves our attention today:  the concept of ‘environmental influences’ on health—that is, weather, the seasons, and the climate in which a person lives.  Hippocrates believed:  “Of natures, some are well—or ill-adapted for summer, and some for winter.” and “In autumn, diseases are most acute, and most mortal, on the whole. The spring is most healthy, and least mortal”, and also “If the summer be dry and northerly and the autumn rainy and southerly, headaches occur in winter, with coughs, hoarsenesses, coryzae, and in some cases consumptions.”

Barometric pressure plays a large role in the way we feel throughout the year, as does too much damp or too much dry, too little sun or too much rain.  Of course today, we have other environmental issues unknown in 5th century Greece:  pollution, global warming, radiation, toxic metals, electro-magnetic frequencies, microwave radiation, pesticides and a host of other problems.)  What Would Hippocrates Do?

That’s just the outdoors.  We really spend a great deal of time indoors, so sometimes our worst environmental enemy can be a ‘sick building’.  In our homes, schools and workplaces, we have rampant bacteria and viruses being spun through forced air systems while the windows remain securely sealed. The majority of our exposure to light comes from fluorescent tubes, not sunlight.

Therefore, it is readily apparent that a healthy environment is a very important factor in our health, in addition to a healthy body, mind and spirit.  Hippocrates’ writings devote a great deal of space to environmental factors which also include a person’s locale: “We must consider, also, in which cases food is to be given once or twice a day, and in greater or smaller quantities, and at intervals. Something must be conceded to habit, to season, to country, and to age.”

Hippocrates wrote his Aphorisms as a legacy to be passed down to all those wishing to become knowledgeable in the healing arts.  Granted some of his techniques, such as bloodletting, are no longer considered standard procedures today (fortunately!); however, most of what Hippocrates has handed down is still applicable.  He addresses the spiritual part of the mind/body/spirit triad in his Oath, which opens with, “I swear by Apollo the physician, and Asclepius, and Hygeia and Panacea and all the gods and goddesses as my witnesses…”  He later promises, “In purity and according to divine law will I carry out my life and my art.”

Though the Aphorisms make little mention of the influences of spirituality upon health, his Oath obviously shows thought given to the influences of integrity, honesty and purity on the part of the physician.  Although it isn’t documented, it may be that Hippocrates knew about ‘transference’—the ability of the healer to transmit either positive or negative influences to the patient, thus affecting his/her treatment for better or worse.  In this view, it is much better for the physician to put forth a positive attitude.

The primary tenet of the Hippocratic Oath is “to do no harm”.   It is commonly believed that taking the Oath is a requirement for graduation from medical school, however, that is not the case.  A student can choose to include the Oath in the ceremony only if he/she wishes but it is not mandated.  It’s a sad statement, and a reflection on our times that healers can choose to disregard the Oath.

Dr. Jack Kervorkian comes to mind as one who bears the title ‘Dr.’ yet flaunts the part of the Oath that states “I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan…”  Another hot topic in health care, patient privacy was addressed by Hippocrates as well: “Whatever I see or hear in the lives of my patients, whether in connection with my professional practice or not, which ought not to be spoken of outside, I will keep secret, as considering all such things to be private.” Who would have thought that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was originally conceived of in the 5th century?  I guess today we could call this the “HIPAAcratic Oath.”  LOL.   😉

It is safe to say that the overwhelming popularity of alternative medicine and natural healing can be traced to the desire to return to simpler times–before the days of outrageously-priced invasive surgeries, prescription medications and HMO’s.   It may also be safe to say that the next big ‘shake-up’ for the health care industry will be the masses of people either flocking to naturopathic practitioners or simply staying home and treating themselves.

Prevention is an ugly word in the world of corporately-owned health care–it implies a decrease in visits and therefore revenue.  Natural and herbal remedies are anathema to the pharmaceutical industry.  It doesn’t have to be that way. Rather than fighting it, the health care industry could embrace the wave and allow itself to return to simpler times and milder treatment.  How could it get any simpler than ancient Greece?

 

References

Hippocrates of Cos (1849) Works:  Aphorisms.  (F. Adams, Trans.).   London:  University of Adelaide Library E-books Program.  (Original work published 5th century B. C. E.).  Retrieved February 19, 2006. http://etext.library.adelaide.edu.au/h/hippocrates/h7w/aphorism.html

National Institute of Health.  (2000)  Greek Medicine.  (M. North, Trans.)  National Library of Medicine:  History of Medicine Division.  Retrieved February 19, 2006.  http://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/greek/greek_oath.html