That Tribal ‘Forward’ Instinct

Facebook, WhatsApp and other News Media have only consolidated our beleaguered self. We want to spread the news before anyone. Any sensational news, irrespective of its impact on the common man, or the society in general, are circulated without due diligence.

I have two interesting stories to share – first, a hoax that is spreading on cancer and the second one, a notion that our religion or faith is under threat or fire. Though I cited an example of Muslim faith, Islam is not the only religion in the world that feels so. Recently, Hindus, Christians and other faith leaders are gradually immersing their ideology and believers to this proposition. So, let us understand these as phenomenon rather than a criticism for a particular religion.

Cancer is not a disease but a deficiency and manufactured by the drug industry

The hoax:

Cancer is not a disease but a deficiency of Vitamin B: It was a Sunday morning and as usual, a friend forwarded that. Of course his understanding on cancer is miniscule. However, worst, the same story was received from a retired professor from a medical school.

Sometimes, I fail to understand the logic. Some semi-experts who work on the fringe or periphery of the field, having some semblance of understanding about cancer, put up facts and fiction and circulate these stories. It is mainstream fashion to add little science and mix with much fiction (not tested hypothesis) and make a juicy story that will catch the imagination of the common man. I also fail to understand how these people think that all the researchers, all the medical practitioners and the entire paraprofessionals working in the field lack ethics and values. They ultimately try to prove that are the demystifier of the falsehood and the ultimate revealers of truth. By falsely claiming so, they not only malign and tarnish the ethos, values and hard work of all the people working in the field but end up widening the existing sense of trust deficit within the system.

The truth:

If you carefully see the picture below or review this with a doctor who has had fundamental learning (didactics) in pathology, I bet by consensus, you will find them disagreeing on the picture of cancer below.

The link to that hoax – cancer is not a disease; it is a business. Cancer consists of only a deficiency of vitamin B17.

In our quest for knowledge, we are striving to understand, diagnose and manage the menace of cancer afflicting mankind. Much can be said about the progress that has achieved with cancer. However, we are humans and we are learning, every time we cross a barrier, we dismantle our earlier understanding and expand the horizons of our learning. Consequently, we see changing guidelines, part of the reason why we see differences in the practice from a decade and now.

Several links to the truth are innumerable, an important one here –

http://www.nature.com/nm/journal/v10/n8/full/nm1087.html

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Our religion is under attack:

It has become an in-thing to believe that one’s religion or ideology is under threat. If you presume, I am talking about Muslims, you need course correction. Believers, irrespective of religions feel their faith and ideology is under threat, or at least their so called guardians or believers want everyone, including those practicing, to believe so. The killing of a young woman in Virginia is a case in point.

Of course, this is another forward from a Muslim friend (but Muslims are not an exception) who shared news on how a Muslim girl, while leaving a Mosque after offering prayers, was killed as a consequence of a hate crime. Obviously, he wanted me to believe this happening. Being outside his religion, I could clearly see the bias and I pointed out that we should wait for the crime detection agencies to validate the cause. It can be any roadside ragamuffin who might have mugged/ attacked and it may not be a premeditated hate crime. The question was simple – a person bent on retribution will do a newsworthy act, not a roadside attack on a single person. To me, that was clearly an act of robbery rather than hate crime.

We have that tribal instinct deeply embedded within us that makes us spread rumors without validating those. It is that rudimentary instinct that does not think about responsible civic behavior. It has that uncanny childish attitude of keeping itself as the center of attraction. All these are at the cost of society, civil norms and years of systematic learning. While doing all these, we tend to forget the toll it takes on the society, the time consumed in discussing unrequired rumors, the trust deficit and the polarization that ensues.

The Hoax – The initial link from a news channel on the isolated hate crime

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/fairfax-loudoun-police-searching-for-missing-17-year-old-reported-to-have-been-assaulted/2017/06/18/02e379ac-5466-11e7-a204-ad706461fa4f_story.html

My obvious argument was to wait for the law agencies complete their investigation and prove the motive, then make an impression. Of course, such logical arguments are not liked or appreciated. As usual, this friend labeled me as ‘non-sympathetic’ towards his religion. In next 18 hours, the same newspaper published another news on the same incidence.

The truth – The story posted by same news channel 18 hours after the incidence

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/killing-of-muslim-teenager-not-being-investigated-as-a-hate-crime-police-say/2017/06/19/e7670f0a-54f0-11e7-ba90-f5875b7d1876_story.html?utm_term=.ac8cd960e97a

Let us think or validate before forwarding

We all have a responsibility to filter the information and think through the consequences of forwarding newsworthy items. Spreading unvalidated or irresponsible news without understanding the impact speaks about our character, more about our tribal instincts and drowns all the civilized efforts and education we so much fashion ourselves.

Today is what matters most

Memory is deceiving, though meant for providing wisdom, it makes us remember yesterday. Let us put that past behind and take the nectar of wisdom with us in the future. Let us live today.

Good morning

It’s a beautiful Sunday morning out here, spring is on its way. Temperatures are just rising and plants are emerging from dormancy, birds are humming and flowers are blooming – making it an exact milieu for outdoor.

Today is what matters most

Today is a reflection of yesterday

Today is a future we build today

Today belongs to you, do that today

 

Live and enjoy today and leave the past behind, past is an existence of reality that paves way for today and that provides a vision and mission for tomorrow. Past is valuable, it’s our treasure trove, our source of wisdom, only if we know how to carve out our future optimistically and confidently.

Enjoy your day and…

Have a wonderful day!

Waiting For My Pontiff

At the morning mass on February 23, 2017, at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis said, ‘If you are a Christian who exploits people, lead a double life or manages ‘dirty’ business, it is better not to call yourself a believer. But to be Catholic like that, it is better to be an atheist. He further added, it is that, Scandal’.

Though he said this as a sermon to Catholic Christians, we can safely extend this to all religions. Pope’s sermon at Casa Santa Marta sends a strong message for the believers. It would have amounted to blasphemy, at least with few religions. It is hard to find leaders, especially religious leaders, to espouse the cause of ‘Dharma’. Pope’s call for ‘true Dharma’ if not astounding, is truly impressive.

Amidst the deafening hustle and bustle of daily living, the deafening noise from politics, blind insensitivity from crass materialism,  spiritual priorities take significantly lesser precedence and almost completely get lost with the pace of life and competing priorities. Worst, when religious tools fall in the hands of petulant politicians or power brokers, or business, by subterfuge it takes a completely malignant form and reduces religion to disdain.

Amongst those practicing with some semblance of regularity, it gets reduced to artifacts like offering prayer, lighting candles, and reciting sermons/verses from revered texts or groping for identity, insisting on how our religious practices are superior to others. We hardly realize how deeply we are immersed with ourselves. An important aspect of religion is finally rising beyond us, as individuals or community and looking beyond and acting, with a humane perspective.

Embedded Values Inbuilt in our Moral Fabric

While most believe, moral fabric is evolutionary, I feel it is embedded within our survival and existing and defines our resilience. Those values are so deeply embedded within our moral fabric, that we yearn and ultimately derive the true meaning with solitude and reconciliation. In this crowded world with fast pace of life, we hardly get space to reconcile with our inner self with those deeply embedded  values  and religious tenets espoused by our religion – Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism etc. All religions, irrespective of the practices, offer a foundation and guiding principle for mankind to deal with the complexities of our evolution vis a vis our struggle to comprehend the existing of our living.

No Need for Proselytization or Tribal Conversion

While working as a fellow in Molecular Oncology at UT Southwestern, as a family, developed a deep bond with one of the senior colleague. Our bond was enduring and the retired professor often insisted, we should convert to her religion. My answer was simple – ‘even if I adopt your parents, my parents won’t cease to be my parents’. Proselytization is common to almost all faith. Some under the guise of emancipation, others are help and the worst, forceful conversion under threat, fear or losing modesty/esteem or social position. It is an ultimate reflection of lacking faith and trust the strength of religion. To the bigots, it is an offering to their Almighty. Will that truly help?

The struggle is searching for the real value within us and practicing those in our day to day life, changing garments won’t help, and definitely not the artifacts of practice. Especially, in today’s world, it has become immensely relevant to find the true meaning of religion within our own practice. And when we evolve as true believer, that glow will shine through our virtues and day to day practice. Possibly, those trying to impose the existing of their own religion may find this as a better practice.

A significant departure from the past

Pope’s sermon at Casa Santa Marta sends a strong message from a revered leadership. It would have amounted to blasphemy, at least with few religions! I doubt any spiritual leaders from my religion or others from Muslims, Jains, Buddhist, Jews or Sikhs would dare to say that. It is hard to find leaders, especially religious leaders, to espouse the cause of ‘Dharma’*. The pope’s call for ‘true Dharma’ is astounding and impressive. This is a very rare, and an important message for all believers, irrespective of the religion we follow. I have a lot to learn from Pope Francis, while I am awaiting my own Pontiff! May be that awakening will happen within.

(*Dharma, here refers to the ethos of religion and not to Hinduism).

Cited:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2017/02/pope-francis-better-atheist-hypocritical-catholic/pope-francis

http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/23/world/pope-atheists-again/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/02/23/pope-francis-praises-the-torah-and-suggests-its-better-to-be-an-atheist-than-a-bad-catholic/

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/02/130328-pope-francis-vatican-casa-santa-marta-apartment-rome-catholic/

 

 

Watch the magic of endorphins!

Do you know that between the age of 35 – 40, we all start losing 1% of our lung capacity? Do you know that if we are engaged in regular moderate physical exercise, we tend to arrest that decline? Contrary to common believe, statistics have proven that, 45 minutes of exercise on a well-rested day, yields an extra productive effort of 68 minutes.

Exercise, not alone improves your productivity immediately post exercise, but also increases your body’s ability to handle stress in the immediate 2-3 days post exercise. Of course, there are several guidelines and recommendations that offer succinct advantage on each system of our body. Please read the exercises, their customization, ramp up and the different types of exercises to add to get a comprehensive regimen for your body.

Before establishing an overall fitness base and maximizing athletic development, one should go through step by step ramp up program with numerous exercises that safely increase coordination, flexibility, speed, strength, and endurance.

“In endurance runners’ brains have greater functional connectivity than the brains of more sedentary individuals. The runners, overall, showed greater functional connectivity — or connections between distinct brain regions — within several areas of the brain, including the frontal cortex. The frontal cortex is an important region for cognitive functions such as planning, decision-making and the ability to switch attention between tasks.(Running May Enhance Brain Connections)”

brain

Many amongst you may be thinking, what are endorphins? Endorphins are morphine like substances secreted by brain that is bedrock of ‘feel good’ factor, driving optimism and energy as well as several aspects including immunity.

(This is part of another long term initiative I chose to drive understanding the impact and importance of this issue to our community.  Initially, I will work with a small group of folks from our community, and understanding the success factor, I will expand to bigger group. You will see me blogging on this as part of this initiative).

As you already know, the pain point with us all is motivation. We all lack the motivation to go to the Gym or simply walk up and down the rails at home or other exercise. We do take an episodic bout of exercise that lasts few days or at best occasional week. Second, the compulsions of real life are really rigorous enough to abandon our episodic enthusiasm. If that’s not the only reason, some amongst us travel and crash back to our bed on our return.

Our Sedentary (Indian) Life Style – What happens & When?

  • Lungs – Do you know that between the age of 35 – 40, we all start losing 1% of our lung capacity? Do you know that if we are engaged in regular moderate physical exercise, we tend to arrest that decline?
  • Vegetarian Meals – Do you know our carb rich vegetarian diet tend to get converted to fats in the absence of exercise? We tend to put on fat despite eating fat restricted diet?
  • No Exercise – Do you know our heart tends to lose its ejection ability (ejection fraction)? Heart too gets deconditioned not doing exercise.
  • No Exercise – Do you know, our muscles steadily lose its strength and tone and eventually, it becomes small if not atrophied?
  • Bones – Do you know, our skeletal system is highly dependent on the health of our muscles, that once these muscles get decompensated, they lose the tone and we tend to injure our joints? Some reflections are prolapse disc, radiating pain, increase wear and tear of joints due to imbalance of agonist and antagonist muscles?
  • Brain – Do you know that our brain (dendrites) loses its networking potential between the neurons and we tend to accumulate the senile plaque and other material at a faster pace due to inactivity? You may want to know what Senile Plaque are – simply speaking, we lose our memory faster with inactivity.
  • Diabetes – Do you know, in the absence of moderate to vigorous exercises, we increase peripheral resistance to glucose and eventually end up with type 2 diabetes?

Well, none of these happens overnight but the decline has already started and all of these provides a huge background to most future illnesses (of ageing or late adulthood). We all know, lack of exercise takes a daily toll on our health. American Heart Association considers lack of habitual physical activity as the fourth major risk factor for coronary heart disease. Our cardiac, respiratory, metabolic, musculoskeletal, nervous, gastrointestinal and endocrine system all need a vigorous physically active program to keep those healthy.

According to Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Healthy People Guidelines, in adults and older adults, physical activity can lower the risk of:

We think, we are healthy, but –

Our life style, sedentary and food habits strongly predispose us to – 

  • Early death
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Breast and colon cancer
  • Falls
  • Depression

By adding exercise to our routine, we tend not only to slow down the decline but simultaneously build our mental health and be more optimistic and productive? While we do physical workout, we tend to not alone increase our physical health coefficient our mood and perception, as well as our ability to deal with stress and our quantitative efforts at work. This is because brain secrets, ‘feelgood’ chemicals – endorphin, oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine that helps to rejuvenate us.

Folks, there is one simple thing that stops these daily aggregation of risk –

Motivation

I am working on overcoming our lack of motivation using multiple approaches. One amongst those is getting a trainer for training. If the pilot runs successfully, we will book a space where we can participate in group exercises with trainer hired on an hourly basis. I have not run out of options, if these won’t work, I will be more creative and come up with more options.

However, I am strongly opposed to directly jumping on the exercise bandwagon and break whatever we have. We need to

  1. Customize as per individual body habitus
  2. Develop comprehensive plan (Endurance/Aerobics, Yoga, Resistance, Strength, Flexibility etc. I will cover individual topics eventually, watch this space!)
  3. Ramp up our exercise program.

Very few know that exercise, Yoga, Tai Chi or any other physical activities are not generic and need customization. Everybody is different and every individual is in a different state of health at different points in time. Consequently, a tailored approach is the key to success. Not all exercises from Gym are suitable for all, the same holds true about Yoga or Tai Chi. Unfortunately, our trainers are inadequately educated with medical understanding of our body to provide a customized program.  Though doctors are trained, unfortunately, they only know polar ends, normal health and diseases condition. If something is not diseased, it is normal. However, practically, very often we fall in the gray zone. Summarily, we definitely can’t rely on our trainers and our doctors don’t have time to understand the needs of our normal bodies and provide a kinesthetic plan for our wellbeing.

Second, a ramp up is equally important. Presuming we have no underlying health issue, despite we cannot suddenly start with any exercise, be it jogging, running, swimming, or any or the aerobics or resistance training. We need to ramp up gradually and we need to recruit different groups incrementally in a coordinated fashion. Before establishing an overall fitness base and maximizing athletic development, one should go through step by step ramp up program with numerous exercises that safely increase coordination, flexibility, speed, strength, and endurance.

What will motivate us and get us going into regular exercise schedule? I believe, commitment, discipline, motivation and a group fun filled activity will do that. I feel, getting a trainer will help circumvent a lot of these inertia. We still have to work with other factors like choosing right exercises customized to our own body types, gradual ramp up and adding multiple types of exercises, such as Yoga, Cardio, Resistance Training, Strengthening Small Muscle groups etc. Of course, exercise is not panacea but offers a solid beginning and foundation. Getting good sleep and eating health are other things. However, the scope of this article is restricted to exercise and I will continue talking about exercise.

I am undertaking this community initiative for zero-sum gain despite a cost to my time and efforts, simply to get us all embarked on a community exercise plan. I will do a free physical evaluation (based on guidelines from American Academy of Sports and Physical Medicine) and will provide an explanation of the best options for selecting the exercises plus the best plan to ramp up. All I need is your cooperation.

As a proof of concept, I am planning to call a trainer at home whose responsibility will be to get us going at a particular time. He/She will keep us all motivated. Initially, I will have 5-6 folks to start with. We will find a time according to mutual convenience. The venue will be my home and we will start immediately, if possible. What do you say?

Cheers!

PS: Watch this space as I keep updating it with different types of exercises (including videos), guidelines and how best to tailor exercises to our body’s state and needs.



 

Highly Recommended:

American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults

2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Summary

8 HORMONES INVOLVED IN EXERCISE


 

Interesting Read:

Physical Activity (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion)

Physical Activity Guidelines For Americans

Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health

Endorphins and exercise

US Gov Guidelines –

Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans

Chapter 4: Active Adults

Chapter 6: Safe and Active

ANABOLIC-ANDROGENIC STEROIDS: Mechanism of Action and Effects on Performance

AMINO ACIDS AND ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE: A Mini Conference in Oxford

How Exercise Beefs Up the Brain

Boost your natural ‘feelgood’ chemicals

Exercising to relax

The Hormones Of Happiness And How To Increase Them

Hormonal Response to Exercise

Why endorphins (and exercise) make you happy

The Neurochemicals of Happiness

Exercise detoxes body of depressive chemicals, scientists find