I am a fan and patient of some so-called alternative medical practices. I've seen a homeopath — and I have to tell you, homeopathy is, as the kids like to say, wack! — and many acupuncturists and Chinese medicine herbalists. I've also been loaded up with antibiotics and sliced open by a surgeon.
In this country — perhaps elsewhere but what do I know? —, these other practices — this homeopathy and this Chinese medicine — exist side-by-side with Western, institutional medicine. One may try to avoid taking antibiotics by ingesting some earthy Chinese brew or placing infinitely small amounts of, say, rattle snake poison, under one's tongue (I told you homeopathy is wack — but more on that later). But when you get really sick — I mean really really fucking sick — it seems skinny needles and sub-lingual sugar pills won't cut it. We head to the clinic, to the hospital, to the chemo and the knife and the statins: Keep me alive!
And so I began to wonder: is this a deficiency in homeopathy and acupuncture?
I then I realized: no, it's not a deficiency per se. It's that these practices don't rule out death. In Western medicine, we try to keep people alive at all costs — even the cost of their life (again, more on that later). It is a mad obsession to keep the patient alive.
Now, I happen to share this obsession, perhaps despite myself. That is, I want to live — at all costs and forever. That is what my scared, neurotic stomach and brain scream at me all the time. But there does seem to be some wisdom to these other practices, a fundamentally different logic at work about the role and function of medicine.
Homeopathy and acupuncture offer treatments to improve one's quality of life, not to extend life per se. Death is not anethema to their medical practice. And while I find that wise and while I may aspire to that level of contentment — a contentment that accepts death as the natural order of things, a contentment that does not recoil in dread and horror at the mere mention of death — I have to say that right now, prior to achieving this elusive enlightenment, I find it absolutely terrifying.