Will We Get True Health Care Reform?

After more than a year of discussions and widespread contention, we appear on the cusp of health insurance reform. Our society may benefit from such reforms, or as others fear, they may undermine the virtues of our current health care system and damage our economy. Interesting and compelling as that debate may appear, it is really a side-show. The changes introduced by pending legislation remain a long way from actual health care reform. Health care relies on actual caring, yet for all the resources our society devotes to maintaining our diseases, we show remarkably little caring for our embodied spirits in the process. The symptoms and signs of disease are the embodied spirit’s attempt to communicate its distress.

Don’t Shoot the Messenger!

While individuals don’t like experiencing the symptoms of disease, they are useful for helping us understand what the embodied spirit needs, and sometimes they specifically express the embodied spirit’s attempt to correct its dysfunction. We honor the needs of our embodied spirits in sustaining life when we listen to those symptoms and signs, and use what we learn to make needed changes. Our contemporary ethos seeks control of the uncomfortable expressions of disease, rather than sorting out and disentangling its individual causes.

Each individually embodied spirit has intrinsic capabilities to maintain his or her life. We promote healing when we facilitate and support those intrinsic capabilities, rather than when we seek to control and minimize the embodied spirit’s expression of distress. Yet, when we can begin to stimulate (substantive) changes in the patient’s  () that had been “stuck,” the symptoms generally go away because the embodied spirit (jīngshén (精神)) doesn’t need to keep screaming for help when it’s key struggles are being addressed. Are we willing to listen to our embodied spirits and make choices based on what it needs? When we’re tired, are we willing to rest? And if we can’t rest well, do we sort out why not, or do we simply attempt to impose sleep through the use of drugs? Can we accurately:

  • perceive thirst and do we drink water to quench it?

We all need water — anything more is a delivery system for other nutrients; for many “beverages” that people drink, one needs to use substantial portions of their water content to process the nutrients within them alone, so where is the water needed to process fully the other things one eats?

  • distinguish between physical and emotional hunger, and nurture each appropriately?

What food choices do people make when they engage “emotional eating,” and what becomes of the “foods and drink” that one ingests at that time?

  • differentiate what foods actually nourish our lives, and eat those rather than products that may be easier or more convenient (in the short term)?

Where are the freshly cooked foods in many people’s diets? Where are the vegetables?

These are some of the embodied spirit’s (jīngshén (精神)) most fundamental needs for promoting (preserving or restoring) good health. Are we willing to honor them, or are we slaves to the sometimes unreasonable desires of our personalities? In the end, we have the health care system that we have tacitly requested over the years, because as a society we’ve allowed both our food and health industries to fulfill their economic “needs,” rather than the physiological and spiritual needs of the individuals in our society.

Sometimes individuals need interventions beyond simply reforming their lifestyle habits. Yet, when we seek care for our diseases, do we recognize the need for changes in our lifestyle choices, or do we simply want therapies that allow us to continue living as we did in developing those diseases? I believe we can only conquer our health care challenges, when we are willing to take responsibility for supporting our lives, rather than using our lives to support our personalities.

Health is an opportunity that each individual can choose, when they’re willing to honor its demands, rather than a consumer good that can be purchased — regardless of the price one is willing to pay.