Because investing into a system of thought, or paradigm, challenges an identity and forms a future identity, some personal narrative could be beneficial.  My father is a somewhat of a holistic dentist in the suburbs of Atlanta whose free-thinking mind and spirit has been one of his greatest gifts.  I grew up on a ten-acre lake with 16 acres of woods and pasture land with cows along with a vegetable garden.  My parent’s house, built on the cusp of the energy crisis in 1980, had passive solar heat and light.  My mom made clothes and fresh-milled bread for our family.  Daily wholesome nutrition and supplements were also important items in our household.

In high school, I attended some professional meetings with my father who often managed to get involved with some “cutting edge” type of thinkers.  A talk to the Atlanta Craniomandibular Society by Dr. Nicoholas Gonzalez, a Cornell educated-cancer doctor from New York, struck me like a ton of bricks.  Gonzalez, following in the footsteps of a dentist named William Donald Kelly, reported a 70% 5-year plus survival rate after metabolically treating advanced metastatic cancer patients.  One of the great things about Gonzalez’ protocol was that he really attempted to reconnect his patients to their traditional diet.  If the person was, for example, a native Alaskan Eskimo, a traditional diet of 80% saturated fat was most helpful for restoring their balance (between the parasympathetic and sympathetic systems) and eliminating cancer (This is quite a contrast from the generic recommendations offered by the American Cancer Society).  Gonzalez had literally stepped “out of the box” of his medical paradigm into a whole different world of medicine.  Although a young sixteen year old, I was more than impressed, not really just with Gonzalez but with the healing wisdom and power revealed by a rather “alternative” worldview (especially in 1991).

That next year I became a staunch vegetarian and attempted to eat lots of organic foods from the garden and even stumbled upon a summer job working with a homeopathic laboratory.  I learned a good deal about homeopathy but also encountered among the alternative health providers an extraordinary negative attitude (and paradigm of thought) towards the allopathic medical system.  As I look back, this negative attitude too often characterized my own young, mental framework towards allopathic medicine.

The summer after graduating from high school I hiked 900 miles of the Appalachian Trail.  Hiking extensively on the A.T. had been a childhood dream and a Romantic means of finding respite from the overly materialistic and hedonistic society I perceived in my adolescence.  Emerson’s quote sums it up my motives well, “The civilized man has built himself a coach but has lost the use of his feet.”   With Thoreau and Emerson as mentors, I ventured into the woods to find health in a solitary and spiritual way.  Because society was severely flawed, it was my long-term goal to escape it.  The A.T. was just a test for this future reality.

Ten weeks of living in the semi-wilderness of Appalachia had a dramatic effect upon my outlook.  While I escaped one society and one paradigm of thought to a degree, I quickly entered into another paradigm.  While craving solitude and time to think freely, ironically, my excitement grew about social connections with fellow hikers or Appalachia folk.  In other words, I realized that it was good to enter a town after hiking for 10 days in the woods or to chat in the evening with fellow hikers at a common shelter.  I postulated that society in itself was not jaded for it could foster some very valuable social connections.  Yet, I maintained that many of society’s paradigms presented several problems.

Entering college two weeks after graduating from the A.T., I was ill-equipped to handle the social barrage of college dorm-life along with my previous scholastic outlook.  In high school, I had developed into the prototypical science type with few social distractions or skills.  Now in college, my Romantic outlook (fed all summer by the A.T. experience) opened me up to the social life and began to chip away at my scientific naturalism.  In short, relationships with people, nature, and God became increasingly more important than the science work I had so valued in the past.  While I double majored in biology and chemistry (I still thought science was the most valuable “knowledge”), I graduated from college quite burned out of school and with somewhat of an identity crisis.  “Meaning” eluded me.  The paradigm created by scientific study did not motivate me nor offer fulfillment.

The purpose of this brief biography is to display the crisis brought upon my thoughts and identity brought upon by paradigms (such as that of scientific naturalism or Romantic expressivism) that overlap and compete for loyalty. My life, while dramatically influenced by paradigm struggles, is perhaps a microcosm of all humankind’s challenges with some of the same particular Zeigeists and paradigms of thought.  Almost all Westernized humans, whether they realize it or not, encounter such struggles.  When contemplated too much, these overlapping paradigms can drive humans to an ivory tower schizophrenia and perhaps even real life hopelessness or mid-life crisis.  But without contemplation, a more materialistic schizophrenia will eventually (and does) occur, and the systems which proceed from our philosophical investments (i.e. Western medicine proceeding from scientific materialism) will continue to exist in a state of imbalance until they become so diseased that a superior system replaces them.  I have to come to believe that contemplation, dialogue, openness, and humility offer pathways in which to preserve and create investments that foster human flourishing (i.e. health) unconfined by a particular paradigm.

The following quote by Craig Childs’ book, Soul of Nowhere, written out of his contemplation in a desert wilderness, supports the idea that healing paradigms and systems exist beyond those which humans delineate or can even quantify.  His quote offers hope that the paradigms of earth and God (even about “time”) and are much more sophisticated that science alone can really uncover, and he beckons us to invest into their mysterious reality.[1]  The earth, while impacted by our paradigms, ultimately beats to a much higher order than we humans can fully understand.  This reality brings hope because even if the paradigms into which we invest fail (even if “time” stops; or “science” continues to demonstrate limitations; or we run out of fossil fuels), we, as humans invested in a higher paradigm, will maintain our core identity and avoid the crisis that robs many lives from flourishing.[2]  Childs writes,

If you sat in the desert for a year with a clock and a Gregorian calendar, you would find that that your time does not match what you see the world around you.  The snake[3], the stars, the sun, and the moon belong to an interlocking design.  We fool ourselves with our inventions.  The gears of true time are not round like those of the clock. The earth travels at different speeds during different times of the year, slinging faster and slower, making European winters eight days shorter than those in Australia.  Lunar and solar cycles set up a complex rhythm obeying doublets and triplets, not the singular boxes of weekdays and months.  We are made to look like simpletons with our artless time of minutes, hours, and days, leap years thrown in to jury-rig our twelve months so that they don’t fall into disrepair.  We add and subtract sixty minutes of daylight saving time to our seasons to make our workdays more efficient, our heads buried in business while around us these flawless patterns pass like the hand of God.[4]

[1] Note: This statement does not imply that humans should not invest in a scientific paradigm—just to be aware of its limitations and recognize the modern overemphasis upon this perspective.

[2] Note: Death and suffering may still exist in flourishing lives.

[3] The “stone” refers to an ancient Southwest astrophysical marker akin to Stonehenge.

[4] Childs, Craig. Soul of Nowhere. Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 2002, p. 128.