mulberryshoots

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

inch by little inch . . . on a massive scale

After fifteen months of dormancy, tiny sprouts appeared on June 15, 2016.

After fifteen months of dormancy, tiny sprouts appeared on June 15, 2016.

Neuroscience is the underdeveloped frontier of medicine. While it has taken decades for new therapies such as targeted immunological approaches to treat melanoma and other cancers, there has been virtually no progress in understanding neurological diseases such as Alzheimers, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis or ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease.)

Why is that, I’ve often wondered? With the billions of dollars spent on research throughout the world every year, why has medical progress been so slow for so long?

Then a popular craze comes along spurred by celebrity participation – such as the ice-bucket phenomenom that raised $100 million dollars in 2014 for ALS research. How many participated? And how many clucked their tongues thinking it was a waste of time and money? It was easy to do and nobody thought much more about it afterwards.

Well, guess what? With some of that ice-bucket money, they’ve discovered a new gene involved in 3% of ALS patients, both inherited and spontaneous. That may sound like a small thing but it has the potential to lead to new treatments. What was compelling to me is that it took research done at EIGHTY labs in ELEVEN countries throughout the world for this discovery to happen.

Maybe that’s what breakthroughs in medical science require: MUCH BIGGER SCALE. That is, maybe people have underestimated all this time what’s required to make miniscule progress and that “it takes (more than) a village” to make progress or to solve problems facing mankind.

This is exactly the opposite of “divide and conquer” – the ugly and selfish politics of Donald Trump.

Rather, even people working together at a small scale is not enough – but working together at a much more massive scale in the world and cooperating together – is what the world really requires if we are to make any progress at all to solve mysteries of science and medicine that would benefit everyone.

So you can think small and build walls to keep people out or, what? Can societies who have such different self-interests band together at a new scale in order to make progress? What a concept! It’s taken a FAD like an ice-bucket challenge to reap a tiny new breakthrough in ALS. But the real take-home message is much more significant: we are stronger working together than we are apart. And we should be doing it at a much larger scale in order to make breakthroughs that we all need.

DUH!?!

P.S.  After this post was published, it occurred to me that the reason science makes such slow progress is due to the enmired secrecy culture of scientists – who hoard their own work so no one else will get credit for it. Things may be evolving now for larger consortiums to work together on scientific problems – but the old “I’m going to win a Nobel Prize” syndrome is still pretty entrenched with researchers that I’ve known for a long time.

40 days later, leaves and shoots photo taken on July 25, 2016

40 days later, leaves and shoots photo taken on July 25, 2016

 

“rebirth” . . .

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There’s a lot of talk about rebirth these days, it seems. Older couples finally decide to throw in the towel when the kids leave the nest and go to college. What used to hold marriages together doesn’t seem worth it anymore. We have a friend who is going through a separation and divorce. He has been eating dinner with us once or twice a week for the last few months ~ and we have become close family friends after having been good neighbors for years.

In parallel, a poignant interview story appeared in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago about Chuck Close, the portrait painter who was confined to a wheelchair after an accident decades ago. He recently left an unhappy marriage after over forty years and started dating younger women. Or maybe not even dating, it sounded like. He’s seventy-four years old and his grown daughters say they worry about him day and night because of his behavior. Why is that, I wondered when I read the article? One thing he said about his unhappy marriage and his uneasy relationship with his daughters was:

               “You would think by now that they would just want me to be happy.” 

I was thunderstruck by this sentiment because we, in this country, don’t think about old people in this country having a right to be happy at the end of their lives. Sure, younger generations have a right to be happy: to have big weddings, new careers, have children, buy houses, dogs and go on vacations. But with older people, I think there’s too much talk about who’s going to take care of them, what their health is like and who’s turn is it next to visit them?

Moreover, there might be tons of baggage, resentments from the past, estrangements resulting in boundaries set up high and expectations set down low among various members of a family. Just witness women’s fiction these days and that’s all they’re about – family reunions, conflict, bitterness, resentment. There probably isn’t a dysfunctional-free family in the whole country, it seems to me.

a family of "little peeps" . . .

a family of “little peeps” . . .

But hey, I forgot I was writing about rebirth. Yep, I think it’s a good idea, ESPECIALLY if you’re pushing seventy or more. Why not reach out for something (big or small) that you’ve always dreamed about that you would like to have in your life while you’re still around? For me, it’s publishing a book that I hope will affect a reader’s life down the line. I wrote it four years ago and for some reason, I resurrected it a few months ago and began to re-read it. I found myself enjoying it and laughing out loud at different parts of it. Since then, I’ve been revising it and making some corrections to the plot that it needed. But the most important thing is that I (still) like it. And I’ve found beta-readers (like beta-testing for computer programs) who are reading hard copies of it now and letting me know what they think. In fact, I was kind of surprised that so many of them said they’d like to read it when I sent out a general S.O.S. a few weeks ago.

As an Indie (independent-self-publishing) author, I have been fortunate to have met a seasoned literary editor and a professional book designer who are “excited” about helping me self-publish my book. That’s my aim. Fortunately in New England, there’s also a very active volunteer-run organization called IPNE, Independent Publishers of New England who support and organize themselves to provide Indie authors with a place to learn about the book publishing and marketing business and have fun too. There is a two-day conference scheduled in October to be held in Portsmouth, New Hampshire where guest speakers will talk about self-publishing and what’s entailed in promoting your books (way more than you ever thought you’d have to do, it sounds like.)

So, Chuck Close is still painting his self-portrait while he leads what sounds like a wild last-ditch life that he imagined for himself. I hope that he’s happy even if his daughters disapprove of what he’s doing. As for me, I feel that the only way to be happy “by now” is to follow my dreams, no matter how old I am and to do something creative every day. That’s about all and if it takes some rebirthing to do that, then that’s fine too.

Whatever it takes, right?

(Daphne, thanks for writing – this post’s for you. K)