It is continuously inspiring to have the privilege of being embedded with so many technically advanced humans who support the mission here at Brody. Being technically competent is almost a given. Performing at the highest level of excellence is the baseline and normal way that we expect to go about our business in these healing missions.
I think there is more that is evident.
Listening to the news, it appears there are so many issues that seem to generate anger and distress. Disasters of every kind are chronicled – local, statewide and national. If that geography is not sufficient, issues of international strife are thrown in for seasoning.
Listening closely, I have held my breath in anticipation that beyond the distress and anger are potential solutions that will be clearly expressed. To date, breath holding does not appear to help!
It does not seem to be the fashionable thing to be in the business of offering solutions. This approach is clearly not newsworthy. Maybe it’s because this approach does not generate the necessary emotional tension that demands full alert. Finding solutions and bringing challenging and contentious issues to resolution does not appear to carry the same context as the heightened expression of frustration and continuously impending disaster.
So who are the ones who are finding solutions and thereby diminishing threat?
I recollect that the latest O. Max Gardner Award winner is Professor Samuel F. Sears, director of the doctoral program in health psychology here at ECU. This is one of the highest awards a faculty member within the UNC system can achieve. Dr. Sears is the world’s leading expert on the physiological implications for patients living with an implanted heart defibrillator.
As you can expect, Sam is a compelling speaker and educator, and one of his insights has been the effect of national disasters on heart irregularities. A month after the World Trade Center disaster, as an example, more potentially damaging heart irregularities were recorded in people who had devices implanted than before the event. This is a reproducible phenomenon.
This revelation seems to indicate to me that human emotion is affected by threats, even though not personal. These emotions then are reflected by physical responses that are potentially life threatening.
How can people inoculate themselves against these threats?
Former South African President Nelson Mandela – Rolihlahla Mandiba by his tribal name – died yesterday. His life and legacy are of historical proportions. It is evident that this man survived many real threats and hardships for significant portions of his life. He did much more than just survive. There must be lessons to be learned here.
Why did Nelson Mandela not succumb to deprivation? Why was he not perpetually angry? How did he manage to not only survive but thrive?
As fellow humans, I am thinking that each of us has the innate capacity to experience and consciously acknowledge personal threat and anxiety. Perhaps, with thought, practice and training, the human spirit can rise above what is an obvious predicament and achieve an unexpected, transformative level of achievement.
This is a moment in time when I think that it is appropriate to reflect. In some small way, how can each of us, as technically advanced as we all are, personally commit to finding what may be the pathway to human courage and ultimate achievement?
We live in a volatile and chaotic world. That is the given.
What is courage, but the conscious acknowledgement of the always persistent threats while simultaneously committing to elevating our individual human performance beyond that which can be imagined?
Why would one take such a risk?
We live in the poorest, sickest third of North Carolina. We are here to help.