Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Really? More nature?

"In order to increase our knowledge, we must be in dialogue with nature." 
- Professor S. James Gates, Physicist
 
I can't seem to get over the idea that nature still informs science. I think, really? Haven't we seen all there is to it on the Discovery Channel?

My story of the future is that we'll be living in the movie Minority Report. Nature will just be an accessory; we'll have found a way to create pure water out of nothing, and we'll keep trees around because they're cute, not because they oxygenate the air, root the earth or provide shade. We'll be over nature like a teenager is so over having parents.

I recently listened to a podcast from On Being with Krista Tippet. Krista interviewed Gates, a string theory physicist, who finds joy in solving the unsolvable questions of the universe (how about THAT for a life purpose). I was struck by his words above, struck that I have something in common with this brilliant man - we both investigate nature to inform our work. Granted, he teaches scientists about advanced mathematics and I may teach patients about age-old bowel movements....but both of us look to nature as our teacher, our textbook, our wikipedia, or google.

The basic laws of nature are my starting point when talking with a patient. For example, how are they in relation to time and space? How are they affected by temperature and pressure changes? How does their body change with more or less consumption of air, water, food and sleep? If a person experiences hot flashes, they may look flushed, have a red tongue, loose stools and rapid pulse. So I think, when there is a heat wave in summer, what moves it? A nice breeze to sweep it through or a sopping rainstorm to cool it down. Similarly, the body can open its pores to vent heat and/or activate its sweat glands to cool with moisture. I look to acupuncture points on the body that prompt these functions that are naturally occurring all around us as well as inside us.

No matter how complex our society becomes, we cannot escape the laws of nature. They bind us and they free us at the same time. When we don't sleep, our bodies shut down. If we don't eat or breathe, we cease. When our time is up, we pass on. And conversely, it is BECAUSE of nature that we could even evolve into an ever more creative tech-addicted modern society. Advancements are born from our ideas, which are electrical firings in our brain, which are only created inside bodies that consume air, water, food & sleep.

Going back to the basics never gets old.
Photo courtesy of Marie Pierre Nuthall

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