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Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Defibrillator

No matter what generation in which you are born, there are certain lessons you learn at your mother's or father's knee, or more accurately, at the end of their pointed fingers.  Everyone has heard the constant refrains about washing their hands before eating dinner.  Another old saw has to do with how long after lunch one has to wait before going swimming.  You know the drill, right?  These are warnings we've all heard a million times, and because we've heard them, we now know not to cross the street until the light turns green.

There does come a time in one's life, however, when we simply have to temper the warnings of childhood with the wisdom of experience.  Just as most of the adult world has figured out that "not stopping that" hasn't -- and probably won't -- render them blind, there comes a time when some of our childhood fears have to be re-examined or even reversed.

Among those that we reverse is our fear of electricity.  As kids, we're warned to stay away from electrical outlets because we're told that one finger on a bare wire could electrocute us.  Electrocution burns the skin and shocks the nervous system.  Electricity can kill you.  But like fire, electricity has its good points, too.  It powers everything in our lives, from can openers to large screen televisions.  Without electricity, there is no internet, no communications.  In fact, without electric power, our entire civilization breaks down and the system as a whole dies.

So imagine the fear one must endure when his physical health is in jeopardy.  The doctor confirms that your heart isn't performing properly.  That vascular pump -- itself driven by bio-electrical power -- is the engine of your overall health, distributing oxygenated blood and nutrients throughout the rest of your body, enabling all other organs to function.  But now, your doctor says, your heart is slowing down, and not performing its function.  In turn, those vital organs aren't functioning well.  They're breaking down and malnourished.  This, your doctor tells you, means that your whole system is breaking down.  Not good.

As you mull the bad news, you fall asleep, waking only to the sound of rush and panic. Your eyes barely open to reveal a team of technicians surrounding you.  One has two silver paddles pressed to your chest and yells, "Clear!"  At that moment you realize that he's going to electrocute your, jolting you with a shock in order to restart your heart.

Emotionally, you know that the same electricity of which you were warned is approaching, and that the very same danger about which your parents wagged their fingers is about to send its power through you.  It's scary. You've never done it.  Yet rationally, you know that if the doctor doesn't do it, that's it.  The end.  Your heart won't restart.  Your organs won't be restored to their previous vigor.  Your whole system will break down -- for good.

I don't blame people for harboring fear.  I do blame people for harboring irrational fear, especially when their entire system is about to break down -- for good.  At that point, you have no choice but to go with the effective option, because your survival depends on it.  The question is whether you can overcome the irrational fear to get to the effective solution.

Especially when the only man holding the paddles happens to be a Republican.

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