In the Beginning, there was Balance and there was Nothing.
There was no up or down. No truth or untruth. No sin or good deed. No joy or sorrow. No beauty or ugliness. No day or night. No black or white. No God or Devil.
From the singular Nothing came Two. A Positive and a Negative. Balance continued as Nothing gave rise to Something. As each dyad multiplied to bring forth Existence, Balance continued, as it does to this day. As these positives and negatives intermingled, like a fractal pattern, the universe grew and formed. As they clashed, came forth light, forces of electromagnetism, of gravity, of strong and weak forces, space and mass. As the great expansion began, the dimension of time came into being as well.
This Universe is at heart a Zero. Nothing. It really both exists, and yet, doesn’t exist. For each positive out there, a corresponding confounding canceling negative ensures the zero sum.
Not just in physics, but in life.
For each good and benevolent act, a malevolent evil springs forth. For each act of charity, an act of meanness. For each give, a take. Because that is where Balance is. And Balance is the underlying principle that underlies this Non-existent – Existence.
If all acts are evil and good, why act? If it is all a Zero-Sum, why bother?
Because Purpose forced the creation of this Existence. To force the creation of the primordial Dyad from Nothing. Purpose expands the universe, all the while adhering to Balance.
Each individual out there has Purpose. Following that Purpose is nature. Lion eating seemingly innocent Deer eating seemingly innocent Grass seemingly eating Soil enriched by Lion (in life and death). Following your Purpose, whether benevolent or malevolent, is Nature.
As a frontline healthcare worker and proud COVE trial participant, I was unblinded today. To my relief, I was both declared immunized and not a hypochondriac (as some “kind” friends had wondered – helpfully adding that I might have gotten the placebo). It felt like a tremendous weight was off my shoulders, in this dark, heavy time of death and disease. As I gave thanks to the trialists, the NIAID, the companies that made the vaccine and the Federal Operation Warpspeed that made this medical miracle my wonderful reality, I began the search for where the vaccine came from.
The story reveals a cautionary tale as to how we nearly did not get these amazingly effective tools. As with all things, the reality is that scientific discovery is predicated on funding. Owing to the prestige (and supposed independence/flexibility) of it, most scientists prefer to stay in academic environs. Funding comes for a variety of peer-reviewed sources, University endowments, national and international societies, and, most significantly the NIH (and some other agencies) a.k.a Big Science. Although notionally impartial and encouraging of innovation, the experience and story of Katalin Kariko (and God know how many others) tells differently.
A rash of stories in the media highlight how an immigrant, previously academic scientist, who was the focal point of the discovery that made this vaccine possible, was rejected time and again by Big Science in her pursuit of this exact discovery. As a nearly former scientist, this tale is one that I have seen time and again. Big Science is predicated on who you know, and how your work conforms to dogma of “established” science. People that are “unknown” or have novel (heretic) ideas are seldom tolerated and never funded. It is both a wonder, and a blessing, that Dr. Kariko managed to carry her work to fruition despite this consistently adverse environment.
Time and again, mediocre science, bereft of novelty, harvests rich rewards from Big Science, whereas true innovation is felt to be “too risky” to support. This runs contrary to the spirit of scientific inquiry. Institutionalized religion draws power from dogma and hierarchy, and Big Science is no different. Any challenge to either is met with being ignored, excommunicated, exiled and (if possible) death. In other words, Big Science is the new Inquisition. Cloaked in the respectability of academic titles and degrees, these are the same dogmatic and mediocre thinkers who are in science for the prestige and not the passion of discovery, to whom novelty and breaking the mold are anathema, and woe betide any who speak to challenge them.
As someone currently carrying funding from Big Science, is this ingratitude? Bitterness, at the small share of my spoils? Jealousy at those who are better endowed than I?
Is it all this bad? Is there no good in the system?
Or maybe, I’m just an honest taxpayer with a unique view of how billions of tax dollars of an unwitting public are divided up by Big Science acolytes.
Like many good acts of religious orders, there is tremendous good that is done by Big Science. However, over time, our rate of discovery is slowing. As we grow more content and established, our output has increased but the effects of this increased output have not.
As a publicly funded enterprise, Big Science has to be accountable to the people that pay for this. By chanting scientific hymns beyond the understanding of a lay-person and a few light-shows in test tubes, a dazzled public stands by while Big Science divides the spoils. As a scientist with a commitment to study, science and discovery and not, a blind loyalty to the Big Science establishment, and as a responsible citizen I need to speak up.
As of today, over 300,000 people are dead from this virus. That this vaccine may save untold more and was almost a non-entity is a painful reminder of how essential is our need for major reform. If you can, share this widely, talk about it, send it to the media, the Congress, the Senate and your leaders. Tell them that Big Science may not be the panacea they think it is. We need to salute heroes like Dr. Kariko. And we need to be able to use our tax dollars to support the untold others that Big Science rejects in their unholy desire to enforce conformity and dogma.
It is 6AM on a relatively bright and crisp Thanksgiving weekend. Alpana checks her patient list as she heads to work to see a host of patients, some with COVID19 and others with the usual ailments that fill our plates at work. We talk about how the pandemic has affected us and its impact on society in general. The CNN headline on Japanese suicide rates, the resignation of a local health official over threats to her family and the increase in local spread among the community feature, as we look to the winter ahead with trepidation.
A bright spot in our thoughts, is the possibility that a vaccine might be a savior. But will it be too little, too late? Only time will tell. As more of our colleagues test positive, we look to our own safety. As more and more public officials, on both sides of the political spectrum, show support for preventative and safety measures, we look at the increasing fatigue that we (as much as everyone else) are experiencing in this new reality.
But wait, masks, distancing, washing hands? Restrictions? What restrictions?
As a proceduralist, these aren’t restrictions, these are my every day activities. As they would be for welders, mechanics, sanitation workers, doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists… you name it. And every occupation has its own.
When do these rules of behaviors become a restrictive burden?
I think the answer is in us.
They are “restrictive” as much as we want them to be.
We are “restricted” to breathe air, want for food, desire shelter and companionship.
We are “restricted” to need to care for family and friends.
We are “restricted” to the boundaries of our locale, city, state, country, planet, solar system and galaxy.
Most of all, we are “restricted” to the confines of this body, the most precious gift endowed us by our Creator.
In the face of these restrictions, what of the mere mask, the “6-foot rule” and the hand-washing? When seen from this overarchingly “restricted” life, these seem like just a fraction. But are they “just an increment” or “the last straw”?
Again, the answer lies in us. Despite the profusion of death and disease all around, many, including friends and family, move to the latter. Their attitude, one of defiance in the face of logic, as they abandon all pretense. Social media, the bane and savior of our isolated world, relays videos and pictures of indoor get-togethers, as families and friends gather in close embrace, singing and sharing.
How will this end?
Maybe the naysayers are right. Maybe this is all fake. Or #fake. Maybe this is just physicians trying to whip up panic to demonstrate their power.
Smart people discuss the ethics of caring for individuals that don’t isolate or take precautions. They even suggest that only “good” people deserve to be treated.
My take on this is as follows:
I am a physician who provides a service to those who need it. No part of this involves my judging their behavior or character. What’s more meaningful is that I am PAID to deliver said service. Just like, smoking, sloth, gluttony and pollution that keep our clinics humming, the pandemic is just another, newer, source of activity.
I plan to keep doing what I do for each patient.
Be the best physician I can be.
Dispense the right advice – for THEM to make the best decision.
Do what I can to help them, and let them do what they wish to do. The day that I am paid to police their activity and make their decisions for them, that is the day I leave medicine.
That said, as an individual I can judge and decide who I want to be friends with. That includes family members that I want to relate to and those that I don’t. Like any individual, I retain the freedom to be as arbitrary as I please in doing so.
If you don’t want to wash hands, if you want to make a point of posting pictures and videos of indoor maskless groups, holding hands and in close proximity and if you think you are “tired” of this pandemic and all the “restrictions”, I am happy to be your physician, just not your friend.