Friday, March 7, 2014

The Epidemic of Absence

I just read a book about autoimmune therapies, ‘The Epidemic of Absence’ that describes an unorthodox cure by introducing hook worms (and other such maggots) into the bodies of people with autoimmune illness. The premise is that the immune system of the body will focus on the intruders (like viruses) as seen in less developed countries where such larvae exists; whereas in developed countries, progress has eradicated unhygienic conditions, resulting in autoimmune defenses attacking the body due to the lack of enemies like hook worms. Therefore, the cure is to re-introduce such maggots so the body’s defenses can focus on them rather than on itself. This type of cure is relegated to the fringes of the medical establishment because of the seeming lunacy of the cure but surprisingly done by a few brave souls who have lost faith in orthodox treatments that produce no results. Man does not know everything, with the inability of modern medical science to cure illnesses like autoimmune whereas logical thinking would conclude that the body’s defenses are dangerously idle if all traces of unhygienic conditions are eradicated from modern society. Therefore, it sometimes pays to be a little dirty.

The point of view is intriguing although the author himself is afflicted with autoimmune disease, the motivation of which is seeking alternative therapies, considering the failure of orthodox treatment. One is attracted to this type of counter-intuitive thinking, where authors like Malcolm Gladwell thrive in this reasoning; reading his latest book, ‘David and Goliath’; shedding new light on the underdog, the hero who is victorious against incredible odds. It is the premise of his book that the underdog is in fact the inevitable victor when viewed in a different light, where incredible odds are but the unperceived disadvantage experienced by an ‘ignorant’ superior force. It is this type of thinking that is unique, like the point of view of an avant garde artist, attacking preconceived notions; perhaps similar in feeling in the 1920’s when looking at the abstract work of Picasso, an entirely different art at that time, needing the change of old patterns of thought. Having a contrarian mind is counter to so called common sense, away from the ‘group think’ of society, seen also in investors like Warren Buffet, whose buy and hold strategy is contrary to the ‘get rich quick’ zeitgeist of modern times.

Having this type of philosophy often gives one neuroses or having a worrisome mind because of ones inability to welcome uniqueness of thought, for example an investor like Warren Buffet can stick to his guns despite the world around him constantly churning with their buy and sell schemes. Group think is the enemy of the contrarian, having a sort of direct insight to human reality, perhaps a glimpse into the truth of the matter, whose internal logic makes sense only to himself and to the divine wisdom, oblivious of the ‘group think’ prevailing around him. The madness of this ‘group think’ is brought to frantic hilariousness by Dave Eggers in his ‘A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius’; like a Jack Kerouac of the frenzied nerd mind, driven to extreme thought by the untimely death of both parents, pushing the hero towards seeking acceptance and validity in an unfair world; desperately trying to be relevant, to rise above the crowd of the young and senseless in Silicon Valley, to be an uber elite of the uber elite, driven by their family tragedy. But the book is more like a work of healing, to write in such manic deliriousness the children’s attempt to maintain normality despite their loss, achieving a sort of heroism; similar to Kerouac protagonists, going on the road to seek salvation in their manic travels.

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