May 22, 2014
One thing that hit me hard while watching Dallas Buyers Club: the fact that mainstream 1980s medical science was completely unprepared for the AIDS epidemic, coupled with the societal stigma/homophobia of the era, meant that the afflicted had to resort to their own means to survive. Meaning, outside of standard medical science.
Enter: "the New Age Movement."
Some time in the 1940s, the "occult" movement (first made popular and newsworthy during the Victorian Era, re: dead Prince Albert, dead President Lincoln) metastasized into what we now call "New Age." Mostly American, they set about reworking ancient non-Western medical traditions (like chakras and auras) into pseudosciences ("chromotherapy"). This "took," and it's why we now apply different colors to the chakras that line up along our spinal column.
This also happened with anything that science, at that time, couldn't readily explain. New Age-types began to glom onto notions of "Atlantis," "Mars," "channeling other dimensions," etc. Once they got their talons into things that science couldn't explain, it became theirs forever.
I'm an '80s kid. Every month as a child I was ecstatic to receive my Time/Life "Mysteries of the Unknown" book, so I'm well aware of peripheral pseudosciences' grip upon the imagination. I recall entire volumes devoted to Atlantis, a bio on Homer, different geographical spots on the modern globe suspected as the civilization's original site, speculation on alien interference, et cetera.
I've mentioned prior that my Dad is the hippie, my mother is the "white ethnic." I approach New Age concepts with my mother's Euro-cynicism, though I'm agnostic enough to "live and let live." The human mind is, after all, the greatest pharmacist in the universe -- I really can't argue the exact borders of what constitutes "psychosomatic."
I spent last weekend at the New Life Expo in midtown Manhattan's Hotel Pennsylvania. I had heard all kinds of things about the show, and the venue itself (the 18th floor space for the Expo is actually the site of the VERY FIRST Sci Fi/Star Trek Convention that EVER occurred, way back in January 1972). Only having attended local shows prior to that, the New York version overwhelmed.
For one thing: actual raw/vegan/living food (there was an entire "food hall" chock-full of sprout salads, exotic berries, wheatgrass, kale chips -- the whole gamut). One of the things I've never understood about New Age-types (the non-bicoastal ones, anyway) is how quickly they adhere to "get all your greens for the day in this one fruity chew!"
Umm... no. My "white ethnic" side tells me food should look like what it is; the less processing/augmentation, the better. No powder or smoothie will ever replace what the good Earth put here for you to consume naturally. Likewise, this goes for metal tubes you put in water to alkalize it, "meals in a tube," green protein shakes, etc.
But I digress.
One of the great things about the New Age "umbrella" in this country is the ubiquitous presence of "shamans." When I say "shamans," I mean "wounded healers." Across all human cultures, the archetype of the "shaman" (or: "one who traverses the line between material and spiritual, to obtain a cure"), is that of a "wounded healer" who almost lost their own life to disease, and then turns around and helps others.
This is profound to me. And I've met many people over my lifetime who felt "shut out" of standard medical practice (due to bigotry or ignorance or helplessness or even lack of federal funding) who then took their own health by the horns. This inherently means figuring things out for yourself, and like the moral of Dallas Buyers Club: not depending solely upon the man in the white lab coat to provide you with the "cure" in pill form.
My own "HIV research" has me going on a path similar to this. As mentioned prior, the intersection of globalism and the Internet WITH the AIDS Epidemic means we have immeasurable access to the "research" other humans have done into HIV over the past 30 years. And we are actually surrounded by these amateur scientists: I was shocked after my diagnosis to discover there are many HIV-positive people who have been living with their condition for decades.
How did they do it? Some cite a good attitude, others suppose its their DNA.
The ones I'm interested in? People who have found solace and immunity in yoga, acupuncture, plant-based living, fermented foods, et cetera. It CAN be done. These people literally blow me away with the amount of centered focus they have day-in/day-out.
And truthfully? I GET the whole "New Age" thing now, in ways I just didn't comprehend 20 years ago. A robust society NEEDS "alternative medicine." We SHOULD always be challenged on what is healthy and what is medicine.
And my "shaman-radar" goes off whenever I meet another HIV-positive human being. There's something to be said about 1980s ignoring HIV, and what that did to those with HIV. It made the survivors stronger, more resilient, and most importantly: more knowledgeable.