It’s astounding when I reflect on the fact that three years of immersion in naturopathic medical philosophy haven’t remedied the need for a quick-fix pill. The pill itself has changed, to become more “natural” (with the assumption that natural is far superior to a synthetic derivative of the same drug with similar pharmaceutical effects), but our desire remains the same.
While natural pills may provide less side effects, the psychological impact remains unchanged. The process of popping a pill when faced with physical or mental discomfort still maintains the separation of mind and body; we remove ourselves from the relationship we have with our own bodies and revert to using an outside source – a pill – to elicit rapid changes to the way we look and feel.
Using a pill removes us from the experience of understanding how our external world influences our internal one. We reduce our physical, mental and emotional experience to the constant flux of various chemicals, which have little connection to our world of sensory awareness and daily living. I buy a B-complex vitamin and high-dose vitamin C for the stress my lifestyle weighs on me because changing the society that demands this level of stress would be far too arduous. So I cover it up, making due with what I have. Luckily what I have is “natural”.
The lull of pill-popping is compelling. By the simple act of swallowing we can alleviate all suffering; we have risen above the need for physical symptoms to tell us what’s wrong. We have learned to outsmart the body and outsmart nature, even if we paradoxically use “nature” to do it. Like a giant game of Soduko, one mistake alters the results of the entire puzzle, making it impossible to come to the right answer, to untangle the threads of subsequent imbalance that have led us to the state that we are in. We’re foolish to think that a simple remedy, whether taken with water, food, tinctured, decocted or titrated, can be successful in unraveling all the imbalances that have begun to wind their way through the fabric of our entire lives.
The pill, no matter its source, is still a “quick-fix”. And, perhaps it’s a painful, but necessary truth that our very lifestyle, our very existence – the reality of our evolution, our history and our current state – contradicts our ability to achieve what we holistic ideologues like to term “the perfect state of health”. To say the least, our lifestyle has evolved into a state of chronic disconnect from nature: from the food we grow, the ideas we cradle in our minds and the ways in which we conceptualize our surroundings. We wrap our food and bodies in plastic and we no longer need to understand nature. Pocahontas has become Barbie.
Perhaps a symptom is not just a wake-up call for pursuing a specific remedy, whether natural or not (or even remodeling our lifestyle such as exercising more and eating more salad) but a complete analysis of our entire being. This includes beliefs, relationships with our selves, our bodies, our identity, the people in our lives, nature and society. Can a fish living in polluted waters ever be healthy? The very air it breathes, water it swims in, food it eats and beings it interacts with all embody symptoms of that pollution. The symptoms can be seen as more than a rogue organ getting out of line, or even some kind of dietary deficiency; they can be seen as a large off-shooting from the entire ecology that determines our health, a deviation from the blueprint of nature.
I’ll admit, however, that the situation is tricky. There are few of us who have the capacity to renounce our stressful jobs, all of our problematic relationships and stress-inducing possessions and take up a solitary life of meditation in a peaceful cabin in the woods. So what is this fish living in polluted water to do? Well, sometimes the answer is simply to pop the vitamins you require and swim on. At the very least, perhaps the symbolic ritual of pill-popping can act as a catalyst for the slow trickle of change that penetrates our murky waters.