Living Things and Dead Things

Today, I’m musing about the difference between living things and dead things. I wonder if I have been somehow transformed? I can see that I’m now looking at everything in my life through a new set of lenses. I’m using a new measuring stick. I am asking myself “Is what is alive or is it dead?”.  I can see my transformation was incubating in two consecutive Musings: Healing the American Animal & Seeds and Stem Cells.

I was awarded my license to practice veterinary medicine in 1980. Since that day, the bulk of the money I’ve earned has been through being a professor or from overseeing the use of animals behind the closed doors of biomedical research facilities. Because of my job, I have given hundreds, if not thousands, of formal lectures—I blush when I think of all the off-the-cuff lectures I’ve given to family, friends, neighbors and to (gulp) total strangers.  I recently had the privilege of giving a presentation on stem cells to Mr. Jeff Crumbaugh’s biology classes at Clintonville High School.  I feel embarrassed as I think back on what those students witnessed.

I stated the obvious in Healing the American Animal by writing, “After thirty two years as a veterinarian I can confidently declare: Animals are not machines or computers!” I can see now what was in seed then; animals (not dead animals) are alive. All machines are dead.

Dr. Pete on Dam Lake in Nancy’s red canoe.

There I was, in front of a classroom of interested high school students excitedly stating the obvious, “There is a BIG DIFFERENCE between dead animals and live animals!! It was as if I had had some sort of amazing yet inexpressible hallucination. I stood there, excitedly waving my hands and repeating myself: There is a BIG DIFFERENCE between dead animals and live animals!!
There is a BIG DIFFERENCE between dead animals and live animals!!

Perhaps that speakers’-humble-pie was just the medicine I needed? It is like a tumbler has clicked into place in my brain. I feel unstuck. Here are two examples for how I’m using this new personal yardstick. First, I’ve written a couple of Musings on Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD-continued). When we get away from Nature (when NDD sets in)), we have left the living and entered the dead. We have left Creation (the Earth) and we have entered what humans have created (the World).  Second, when I tried to compare how a veterinarian heals an ailing animal to wondering about what it is going to take to heal the “American Animal”, I mentioned two key steps taken by doctors: 1) they try not to interfere with that animal’s regenerative capacity, with that animal’s ability to heal themselves and, 2) they work to identify the physiologic process or feedback loop which is making that animal sicker and sicker. With living things, if one can interrupt the process or stop the cycle (while doing “No Harm”) death can dodged/delayed. If your car is dead, you expect your mechanic to “bring it back to life.” Your car is not going to fix itself.  The fact is, your mechanic can bring your dead car back to life. To the best of my knowledge, there are zero instances where anyone (including the best veterinarians on Earth) have succeeded in bringing a dead animal back to life.

Dear Reader, all you have read up until now has been a preamble. I feel an obligation to forewarn you. Any and all future Musings are likely going to be colored by this yardstick: Is what is alive or is it dead? and will rest on this rock-solid Truth. What is real stays, what is unreal goes. Henceforth, I commit my life to what is real. My wager is that I am going to be biased. I will likely be partial to, I will celebrate those things, those actions and those topics that heal, those that support Life/the living.

Here is a taste of Musings I suspect will follow: It is my opinion that Today we all share a deep sense that something is not right. I wonder if the reason we have this sense is because the maps that our species are and have been using to understand and to inhabit our Mother Earth are incorrect? Could it be that, since the Renaissance, our species has learned a lot. We humans now know A LOT about many, many, things. Most of the things we know a lot about are inanimate (see my Musing re the Age of Biology). Our understanding of the way we think the earth works is based on this tiny corner of knowledge. We’ve only scratched the surface. We have only a feeble and incomplete understanding of dynamics, the interdependent complexity, and the brilliant GLORY of living things (biology–i.e. the study of Life).

Please join me (and Jimmy Buffett) in singing loudly, I’d rather die while I’m living than than to live while I’m dead!!

Published in the Waupaca County Post East newspaper, March 28, 2013.

[Click here to sing along: ]

Jimmy Buffett, Havana Day Dreamy...
Jimmy Buffett, Havana Day Dreamy…







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