Why am I doing this?
I can feel the water on my face and in my hair – the early drops of the autumn rains pouring down from the skies like tears.
I am feeling the weight of problems in our world, in our country, and in our communities. I feel that we each must pick where to tackle these problems – making the choice from which angle we can make a difference, however big or small.
You don’t have to be solving world hunger or giving impassioned speeches to the UN as a teenager to make a difference.
I am writing this note from the Trinity Alps in the heart of Northern California’s backcountry – a warm remote cabin with some speedy wifi nestled among the pine, fir, and cedar is serving as my environment to think, to research, to learn, and to build.
I am keenly reminded of my privilege: I am white, I am male, and I have the resources to travel to such places to think and retreat.
Most of all, however, I have the ultimate privilege. What is it? What is more important than perhaps any of these things?
It’s my health.
The importance of human health cannot be understated.
I have a strong body – which can take me up mountains or down the face of large waves. My mind is clear and sharp; my brain more plastic than ever.
I like to tackle foundational issues – meaning those things that must be in place for other things to happen – things that are “upstream” you could say.
And as such one of these foundational things, perhaps even the most so, is indeed our health: of body, mind, brain, and spirit.
As my best friend and centenarian grandmother told me time and time again as I grew up with her:
“Andrew, if you do not have your health then you have nothing.”
And at one time just some years ago, I nearly had nothing. I was stricken with intense symptoms – going to the bathroom 15x per day, jetting pains in my abdomen, an inability to keep food down. I lost so much weight I looked emaciated – my hair literally falling out.
I was dying and my life was destroyed. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. It was a serious case.
The thing was, however, I wasn’t that much different from millions of Americans, and at least another couple billion around the world.
The prevalence of chronic health conditions are proliferating around the globe: whether it’s autoimmunity, diabetes, cancer, or conditions of the mind like depression or anxiety –the rise seems near ubiquitous. Now 50% of Americans have chronic health conditions. This is NOT the way it’s supposed to be, and for millennia human beings have lived without the diseases we have now.
Barely anyone is talking about it. And soon the consequences are going to overwhelm us. Both the financial and human tolls will hit a breaking a point and the evidence is now untenable.
I traveled down the road from my cabin to a Zen Monastery – the breathtaking Chagdud Gonpa Rigdzin Ling. Of course, almost no one was there.
The best places on earth no one goes to.
I feel my mind able to consider this major issue, and I have a plan.
Clearly, starting with IBD is a no-brainer. It’s a condition close to my heart, and even closer to my gut. It’s a condition that profoundly responds to changes in the environment and changes in the context of someone’s life – the science says this and yet the application of modern-day healthcare does not listen.
Indeed only 10% of identical twins both develop Crohn’s Disease, and this number drops to just 2% when the lens turns to Ulcerative Colitis – so clearly the way we are born is not the whole story here, maybe just a small part.
The question is what is it about the environment we live that accounts for the remaining 90 and 98% respectively?
Gregory Bateson once said:
“The major problems in the world are the result of the difference between the way nature works, and the way people think.”
It’s clear the way we are thinking about this problem is incomplete.
How can we identify what this difference is, beyond the way we are born and then use our new knowledge to fill this difference with our design for a better system?
A system that people can rely on; a system that delivers; a system that is in tune with science and human biology. It will be a system in harmony with the way nature works.
This is why I am doing this. I am building this system.
If you are reading this, I want to build it with you.
Hit me up!
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