Saturday, May 27, 2006

Heraclitea by Serge Mouraviev

Dear Reader,

In Chapter VII, "Heraclitus," of A History of Greek Philosophy, Volume One: The Earlier Presocratics and the Pythagoreans, page 403, W.K.C. Guthrie wrote in 1962:

A discussion of the thought of Heraclitus labours under peculiar difficulties. His own expression of it was generally considered to be highly obscure, a verdict fully borne out by the surviving fragments. Both in the ancient and the modern worlds he has provided a challenge to the ingenuity of interpreters which few have been able to resist. Perhaps not altogether unfortunately, most of the ancient commentaries have perished, but the amount written on him since the beginning of the nineteenth century would itself take a very long time to master. Some of these writers have been painstaking scholars, others philosophers or religious teachers who found in the pregnant and picturesque sayings of Heraclitus a striking anticipation of their own beliefs. If the interpretations of the latter suffer from their attitude of parti pris, the former may also be temperamentally at a disadvantage in penetrating the thoughts of a man who had at least as much in him of the prophet and poet as of the philosopher.

There is, then, an army of commentators, no two of whom are in full agreement.

Leaving aside the question of whether Heraclitus is especially difficult to interpret, Mr. Guthrie rightly identifies three other crucial obstacles facing the Heraclitus scholar, paraphrased:

1) Detail-oriented academics lack the temperament to comprehend the essence of Heraclitus's philosophy, without which all of his statements must seem obscure indeed.

2) Philosophers and religious teachers tend to have rather large axes to grind, leading to the most remarkable misreadings, such as those neo-Platonists who argue Heraclitus never wrote "You cannot step in the same river twice" and denied he believed in eternal flux.

3) Many, perhaps most, of Heraclitus's text has not survived, and most of the ancient commentary about him that might have allowed us to reconstruct and understand that text have likewise perished.

German publisher Academia Verlag, in their commentary on Serge Mouraviev's massive ongoing project with them, Heraclitea, identifies another, rarely discussed reason for the wide divergence of interpretations among Heraclitean scholars:

. . . until now the Heraclitean corpus has never been published in its entirety. Previous editors disregarded many texts. Other texts remain inaccessible for the average reader because of the rarity of the books in which they can be found. The lack of a complete corpus is one of the reasons why the scholars' opinions on Heraclitus' ideas continue to be so widely and so wildly divergent.

These and other difficulties have inspired Monsieur Mouraviev to embark upon an eleven-year, twenty-volume writing project in which he proposes to collect in one place everything written about Heraclitus from 500 BC to 1561 AD, with criticism and analysis, and to attempt a reconstruction of the book itself. This is indisputably the most ambitious work of Heraclitean scholarship ever undertaken. Academia Verlag published the first volume of the series in 1999, six volumes so far.

After ordering them a few weeks ago, I bought them today from my local bookstore, Santoro's Books, to whom I have been shifting much of my book-buying business lately in an effort to strengthen my neighborhood.

It is because they are written in French that I have recently renewed my interest in multilingualism. For anyone interested in Heraclitus, Serge Mouraviev's project is too important to miss. French and Ancient Greek are the languages I will be starting with this year, with this very series in mind.

Oddly, I find even the mere single year of college French I took proves enough to follow about a quarter of the text, but I am sure the remaining three quarters will require more study than I have put into any language other than English.

Yours truly,

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Discrete Silence

Dear Reader,

Today I deleted a few lines from one of my past blog entries. I am returning to my original plan for this blog of never discussing anything specific related to my work.

Yours truly,

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Anna Lee Walters

Dear Reader,

I have collected some information on the wife of our host Harry Walters. Here are two online biographies of Anna Lee Walters:

Voices from the Gaps: Artist Biography: Anna Lee Walters

Hanksville: Storytellers: Native American Authors Online: Anna Lee Walters

Here is a list of books she has written, cowritten, or edited:

with Peggy V. Beck and Nia Francisco. Sacred: Ways of Knowledge, Sources of Life. Navajo Community College: 1977. ISBN: 0912586745 (paperback).

The Sun Is Not Merciful: Short Stories. Firebrand Books: 1985. ISBN: paperback = 0932379109, hardcover = 0932379117.

The Spirit of Native America: Beauty and Mysticism in American Indian Art. Chronicle Books: 1989. ISBN: paperback = 0877015155, hardcover = 0877016518.

Talking Indian: Reflections on Survival and Writing. Firebrand Books: 1992. ISBN: paperback = 1563410214, hardcover = 1563410222.

with Carol Bowles (Illustrator). The Two-Legged Creature: An Otoe Story. Northland: 1993. ISBN: 0873585534 (hardcover).

ed. Neon Pow-Wow: New Native American Voices of the Southwest. Northland: 1993. ISBN: 0873585623 (paperback).

Ghost Singer: A Novel. University of New Mexico Press: 1994. ISBN: 0826315453 (paperback).

The Pawnee Nation (Native Peoples). Bridgestone Books: 2000. ISBN: 073680501X (Library Binding).

If you spot any errors or omissions in this list, please let me know.

Yours truly,

Home from Dinetah

Dear Reader,

I arrived home an hour and a half ago, though half my heart is still in Dinetah with the family of Harry and Anna Walters. Jerry and I had an unbelievable time we will never forget. Our thanks to the wise and warm Walters family for accepting us into their homeland, to master photographer Gary Tepfer for organizing this spectacular trip, and to our fellow travelers for their humor, experience, and camaraderie.

Yours truly,

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Dear Reader,

I will be off for the next two weeks hiking and photographing in the southwest with my friends Jerry and Gary. See you when I get back.

Yours truly,

Monday, May 08, 2006


Dear Reader,

At age 18 (or is it 21?) what magical transformation occurs that turns a child into an adult?


Watching quality reality shows like Frontier House, Black + White, Texas Ranch House, and so on, is an exercise in disappointment with the state of adulthood today. Or rather, disillusionment, for I am not aware of a coherent theory of what adulthood means in America other than making a living, paying taxes, and obeying the law. Even voting in America is optional, let alone fuller participation in democracy. We shove people into the responsibilities of adulthood whether they're ready or not as soon as they pass the magic age, and then punish them if they can't rise to the occasion.

This explains why so many "adults" are petulant, defensive, self-centered, appetite-driven, confused, incoherent, clannish, simple-minded, even unethical--in short, why so many "adults" are children. Many of the stories of popular culture hinge on the childishness of modern adults, and much of the chaos of current events and politics only makes sense when we look closely at the immature psychology of the people involved.

The most childish quality I see is competition over victim status. I mean, there are people like Dr. Martin Luther King or Malcolm X who no one would have blamed for giving up considering the adversity and outright unfairness they faced, yet they continued fighting for what was right even unto death, whereas I have met privileged, middle-class white men who feel oppressed and whine endlessly if you disagree with them about their pet theories about the world. The inability to distinguish great tests from irritating inconveniences (lack of perspective) and the complete immersion in their own private feeling life as though that were the extent of the world (egocentrism) help such people justify wallowing in victimhood even when they have the upper hand in life.

This lack of adults leads so many situations in modern life to devolve into resentful clans sniping and feuding over who has been the most unfairly treated by the other. I used to know a white employee at the VA hospital who felt victimized by the black employees there, not because of anything they did to him but because he imagined them shirking work and whining about how unfairly they were treated--precisely what he was doing when he came into my office to complain about them. I never told him what a racist he was because it was far more interesting just to watch him and try to understand the mind of the bigot, the adult child who has singled out categories of people to be his oppressors. Most adult children just blame life for being unfair, or specific people for picking on them, but bigots need a grander sense of drama so they imagine whole abstract categories of people oppressing them.

Two of the core lessons of adulthood are impossible for the victim to imagine, let alone act upon.

First, we contribute to many of the problems we experience in life, sometimes because we do not adequately prepare for adversity, sometimes because when bad things happen instead of rising to the occasion we wallow in our feelings of being victimized, the unfairness of it all, and sometimes because we are broken and recreate in our lives over and over bad situations from our childhood that we still haven't acknowledged and dealt with. I speak from experience, here.

Second, regardless of whether bad things that happen to us are our fault, as adults it is our responsibility to clean up the resulting mess. That is one of the defining qualities that distinguishes an adult from a child--an adult has learned that infantile responses do not make things better, however personally gratifying they may be, and they often make things worse.

By all means, sometimes things happen to us that are not our fault, and some people are definitely singled out for mistreatment for a variety of reasons. Anyone who believes racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry and persecution are things of the past is kidding himself. But where a child may let himself be defined by that unfairness, an adult has to be the parent, has to step up and start cleaning up the consequences.

I wish there were a handbook for adult behavior that children could read and strive for, but as it happens part of adulthood is learning to think for ourselves, to look past appearances, not to blindly trust authorities to tell us the truth or have our best interests at heart, so such a handbook would subvert what it purported to teach.

Still, our criteria of adulthood are so lax that even a clever psychopath qualifies as an adult, as long as he can survive for 18 or 21 years. Not one shred of decency or genuine human empathy is required to qualify as an adult in our culture. Can we be surprised at the quality of adults we have selected for?

Surely we can do better than this, but first we are going to have to think about what adulthood ought to mean and figure out how we could select for that. The Ken Lays and Jeffrey Daumers of the world clearly were not ready for the responsibilities of adulthood. We can proclaim that all men are created equal--and maybe they are--but they sure do not end up that way.

Yours truly,

Postscript: This is not intended as a slight on children. I have met children who are fundamentally more adult than many "adults," and plenty of children are sweet and adorable and clever and good even if they are not yet ready for the responsibilities of adulthood. The problem is not childhood per se; it is the lack of standards for adulthood.

Noted Polyglots

Dear Reader,

According to a Wikipedia article on polyglots, if you learn six or more languages you are known as a hyperpolyglot. If you learn ten or more languages, you can be listed in their article on noted polyglots. It is a bit scary how few there are, and also a bit scary how many languages some people can or could speak. If I follow my own advice, I could be listed in this article in ten years.

Yours truly,

Sunday, May 07, 2006


Dear Reader,

We should be or become multilingual. It is not optional for being a well-rounded human being. The limits of language impose limits on our thought, and different languages impose different limits and open up different areas of thought more easily. No language opens up the complete range of human thought, and probably not even all human languages taken together would do so, but learning more than one language at least lets us expand our mental horizons. There are other arguments to be made for multilingualism, such as the utility and improved harmony of being able to communicate with more of the world's people, but you have heard all that before.

So, if we should learn more than one language, which ones should we learn?

First, we should master our own native language or languages, in my case English, since I'm such a mutt that I don't have a short list of ancestral family languages to add. Only death should be the end of that learning process: we can never be fluent enough to justify quitting. Even as we should push at the boundaries of our thinking with philosophy, so should we push at the boundaries of our fluency.

Second, we should learn the languages of large numbers of our immediate neighbors, so we can be good neighbors. In most of the world this is more of a challenge than where I live, but even in the United States, we have Mexico and Canada as neighbors, and numerous immigrants from around the world in the U.S. Wikipedia has good information on languages used in Mexico, Canada, and the United States, but I will offer a summary. For good neighborliness, any North American should be at least bilingual, speaking English and Spanish, each of which has over a hundred million speakers locally. It would be better for North Americans to speak French as well, since almost ten million of our neighbors do. Millions of our immediate neighbors speak Chinese (2.85), American Sign Language (between .5 and 2), German (1.84), Nahuatl (1.5), Maya (1.5), Italian (1.48), Tagalog (1.37), and Vietnamese (1.13). Hundreds of thousands of our immediate neighbors speak Korean (975), Polish (878), Arabic (810), Russian (804), Hindi & Urdu (716), Japanese (514), Greek (490), Persian (404), Gujarati (297), Punjabi (over 271), Armenian (227), Navajo (178), Ukrainian (over 148), and Dutch (over 128). I will be refreshing my French this year, trying to tune it up enough to read a massive French series on Heraclitus. I want to refresh my Spanish after that, next year or the year after, depending on how long it takes me to improve my French enough. After that, in the years ahead for neighborliness I want to pick up American Sign Language and Japanese (because of Seattle's special relationship with Japan).

Third, we should learn our religious and philosophical languages, including Arabic, Ancient Greek, Latin, Ancient Hebrew, and the other languages of the world's great ethical systems. I will begin with Ancient Greek this year to support my cultural and philosophical studies. Arabic will be next, but not for a while.

Fourth, we should learn the languages of the First Peoples where we live, in part to show respect, in part to learn the languages of people who lived where we live far longer than we have and whose languages may well be more fully and subtly adapted to our homeland than our "native" tongues. As a Seattlite, I need to learn Salishan, but it will be a few years before I begin.

Fifth, we should learn the major languages of the world. The Linguasphere website has a great article on the languages most spoken around the world. Two languages have a billion speakers: English and Mandarin (aka Putonghua). Two pairs of related languages have a half billion speakers: Hindi + Urdu, and Spanish + Portuguese. Three more languages have over 200 million speakers: Russian, Bengali, and Arabic. Four more have 100 million or more speakers: Japanese, Malay + Indonesian, German, and French. From among these I am initially interested in adding Mandarin and Hindi + Urdu.

Sixth, there are always the languages we pick up because of our own personal interests. Because of my history studies to improve my Dungeons and Dragons games, I have sporadically studied Anglo-Saxon. Because of my love of The Lord of the Rings, I used to haltingly speak and write Tolkien's Sindarin and Quenya. Because of idealism, I spent some time learning Esperanto. Because of its long history as a scholarly lingua franca in the three millennia BC like Latin later became, I am very curious about Sumerian.

Of all of these, I am only fluent in English, I can reasonably understand and make myself understood in Spanish (which I used to be fluent in enough even to understand Portuguese), and I can hobble along in French. For German, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Anglo-Saxon, and Ancient Greek, I only have a few words and phrases and some practice with pronunciation. This is not nearly good enough. For at least the reasons outlined above, we all need to become polyglots, and it is not even that difficult. If we pick up a new language book and tapes every year or two and read and practice in our spare time over the course of the year, we can at least become fluent enough to understand and make ourselves be understood in the basics in a surprising number of languages.

It is a big world full of many interesting people. Let's make it easier to meet them by learning their languages, and by doing that work make ourselves more interesting to meet as well.

Yours truly,

Raymond and Bryanna Scott

Dear Reader,

Today's Seattle Times ran an article in its Northwest Life section about the amazing efforts of Raymond and Bryanna Scott of Renton, Washington, to transform his clan's estate and ancestral village in Sierra Leone. There have been four articles so far, and you should read them to remind yourself how much of a difference a few people can make:

Sunday, October 10, 2004: Native son works for a better Africa

Tuesday, November 30, 2004: Aid for Sierra Leone becomes more than a one-man mission

Sunday, May 29, 2005: Native son delivers aid, hope to ancestral village

Sunday, May 7, 2006: Helping Sierra Leoneans reap full benefits of a coveted resource

We can make a difference, but we have to be organized, and persistent, and patient, and focused, and gregarious, and we have to do something we believe in, and do it with people who believe in us.

Yours truly,

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Visualizing Heaven

Dear Reader,

As a post-atheist, or whatever I am (I detect the need for some terminology), I am not inclined to trust to the afterlife to provide an experience of heaven for humanity; rather I feel we must work to create heaven on Earth. Or, as the camper's motto puts it, to leave the world better than we found it.

The problem is that the Modern world so relentlessly exterminates any conception of alternatives that we find our very imaginations invaded by the delusion of an endless present whose only positive development will be technology, e.g., the simplistic optimism of Star Trek or the noir optimism of Bladerunner. The more we take a hard look at the state of the world the more the relentless Modern myth is replaced by a relentlessly grim fear that our future will be dystopian--totalitarianism, corruption, plagues, ecological devastation, ignorance, religous wars, and technological incompetence--if not outright extinction. The unconscious sense that our future will be dystopian is part of why interest in reading science fiction is collapsing as readers turn to fantasy and other forms of escape.

Reading about the ancient Greeks, I notice one crucial ingredient in their success is a sense of what the future could be, based on generally agreed upon shared values and a shared ideal of what all people should strive to be, of arete. A central motivator for such a drive for excellence is contempt for the default human condition, a belief that we are obliged to strive to become better than we are if we are to be even crudely civilized. Without this vital ingredient the Greeks could never have advanced in so many different ways in such a short time.

Maybe we need to spend some time taking a long hard look at how things are and coming up with a clear idea of how we would prefer things to be. For example, maybe we want in a world in which there are some fisheries left. Maybe we want some forests so we don't have to live on a desert planet. Maybe we want people educated enough to tell when political candidates are lying about their positions. How about a world in which it's easier to find true friends? I would certainly prefer not to financially support torture. What if vote-tampering consistuted treason? How about making a world with so little pollution that mother's milk isn't laced with poisons?

Such an exercise could be fun or it could be daunting depending on how we approach it, but let's face it: each of us has to make this list. If we cannot even imagine what a good world would be like, then of course we will despair for our future. Give yourself a timeframe, say thirty days, to try to figure out what the most important issues are facing humanity, what things you most want to see improved. Do some research on the Internet and elsewhere to get your facts straight on each issue so you can propose something useful, if brief.

Let's put this another way. Aren't you sick of all those compromised political-party platforms drafted by committees, which you know the parties will never institute anyway even if they were good ideas? Wouldn't you like to see at least once in your life a platform that reflected your values and priorities? Well you can: write it yourself. That alone would take political discussion in this country a huge step forward by making possible concrete discussion of specific problems and possible solutions. Rather than political discussions consisting mainly of identifying sides and throwing stones, we could begin focusing on looking for ways to improve our personal political platforms. When we talk politics, we could be searching for who has come up with better ideas than we have on the things that matter to us, so afterward we can amend our lists with the improvements and note who we learned them from.

Imagine: productive political discussions, in which we compare our personal ideas about what a little bit of heaven on Earth would be like.

Yours truly,

The Language of Homer

Dear Reader,

Gilbert Murray's The Rise of the Greek Epic continues to impress.

A few samples of Homer:

They two in front of the high gate were standing like high-crested oaks on a mountain, which abide the wind and the rain through all days, firm in their long roots that reach deep into the earth.

. . .

So spake he, and the old man trembled and obeyed his word; and he went in silence by the shore of the many-sounding sea, and prayed alone to the Lord Apollo, whom fair-haired Leto bare.

. . .

And a herd he wrought thereon of straight-horned kine. The kine were wrought of gold and of tin, and lowing they wended forth from the byre to their pasture, by the side of a singing river, by a bed of slender reeds.

. . .

I look upon thee and know thee as thou art. I could never have moved thee, for the heart is iron within thy breast. Therefore beware lest I be to thee a wrath of god, on that day when Paris and Phoebus Apollo shall slay thee in thy valour at the Scaean Gates.

. . .

As riseth the screaming of cranes in front of the sunrise, cranes that have fled from winter and measureless rain, screaming they fly over the streams of ocean, bearing unto the dwarf-men battle and death.

. . .

As glorious as the language of the Iliad and Odyssey are, what makes these epics most astonishing is that they describe how the greatest heroes of the Greek heroic age essentially squandered everything they had over a domestic quarrel, and then screwed even that up over a temper tantrum. The Greeks exalted as very nearly their national bible a tale of how the best efforts of the best of men led to ruin, shame, and despair. They put their highest aspirations and deepest shames on display, and in their finest language painted a portrait of how their glorious ancestors destroyed their own civilization, collapsing the Aegean into a dark age that lasted for centuries.

The ancient Greeks taught their children from the Iliad! It is difficult for us as Moderns to fully believe there could ever have been a great people who put their own shame and weaknesses front and center, exalting them in their finest language. Of the many things they changed over time in this living traditional book of theirs, they never tried to obscure the domestic quarrel that launched the war, nor the petty squabble between Agamemnon and Achilles that forms the heart of the epic, and in tragedy after tragedy written about the consequences of that great war, the Greeks immortalized in art the terrible devastation awaiting each of the surviving victors. They did not write of these things for entertainment, or out of boredom, or to make money, or because they had run out of other things to say; they wrote of these things because for them art like every other facet of culture had to serve the purpose of anthropoculture--helping raise each new generation to be the best people they could--and that would only be possible if they learned from their mistakes.

I, too, wish to learn from my mistakes, and from our mistakes as a people.

Yours truly,

Getting to the Root

Dear Reader,

It is 2:21 a.m., and I cannot sleep, so I blog. I should have been in Eugene with Beverly, sleeping at Beth and Jerry's house in anticipation of a day of hiking and art, were I not ill.

My illness has six layers.

1) Infection. The colloidal silver turned that around within a couple days, and the infection is nearly gone now.

2) Inflammation. So now the color of the congestion is gone but the coughing continues. I must deal with this layer next.

3) Weakness. Battling this thing is always exhausting. After I beat it, I will still need to rest and recover my strength. It was brought on by weakening myself with a marathon twenty-four hour patching session that came on the heels of a month of nonstop work.

4) Poor physical condition. I get sick because I sacrifice my health maintenance, especially exercise, for work. This has to stop.

5) Stress. This is why I can't sleep. I have known for four months what I need to do to fix what's currently most broken in my life, to drive down the stress in my life, but because it is an emotionally difficult step for me to take I put it off and am now suffering the consequences.

6) Attachment. After four years of investing my heart and mind and time and money and energy and spirit and identity into something, it's hard to let it go, even if it is making me sick. I keep wanting to find the right argument to convince, to perform the right miracle to earn enough trust, but these are losing battles. As Jerry says, you cannot convince someone who does not want to be convinced, and you cannot teach values to adults, especially those who mistakenly believe they already have those values. It is far easier (though by no means easy) to find people who already share your values, and in that regard I have been very very lucky, yet still I have continued fighting a futile battle to be understood by and convince the others.

I may be an extraordinarily slow learner--and that is not false humility but the voice of bitter experience--but my great virtue is that sooner or later I do learn, and then I fold the lesson into my very soul and change everything about myself to take it into account. Here are a convergence of lessons pointing to the root of my problem. Wake up, says Heraclitus, from your sleepwalking dream and see things for what they really are. It's time, says the Christian, to exercise some long overdue wisdom and accept this thing I cannot change. A little less attachment, suggests the Buddha, for a lot more serenity.

Yes. I see. I will.

Yours truly,

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Happiness and Eudaimonea

Dear Reader,

In Oedipus Tyrannus, Sophocles has the chorus sing "Count no mortal happy until he has reached the very end of his life free from misfortune and pain."

A Modern would read that in the most literal and judgmental way possible: obviously Sophocles is just a pessimist, so we can disregard what he says. Thus the banausic reflex--do not pursue the truth, only what seems useful to machine minds, and disregard the rest. The Greeks considered this play the masterpiece of one of their masters, this statement a pinnacle of insight into the human condition. As with Heraclitus, this statement rolls up layers of wisdom into a deceptively simple package.

It only seems pessimistic to those for whom it is most intended, those who foolishly believe happiness is the highest human achievement, to be captured by deserved good fortune. The Greeks believed happiness is fool's gold, the wrong thing to want, because happiness is transient and outside of our control. To attempt to will the cosmos to satisfy our personal desires is a fool's errand. To wish for happiness is to wish for luck, and the wheel of fortune turns. If we achieve our ends by luck, then we will eventually lose them the same way. Oedipus starts out on top of the world and ends up on the bottom, afflicted by the most terrible crimes and situations, because he has relied upon luck and overweening ego. His life is an object lesson for the rest of us, indeed, it is the object lesson we are most in need of but least likely to heed because it challenges the core of our beliefs.

To the ancient Greeks, the only thing worth having is not happiness but eudaimonea, which is its opposite. Eudaimonea is the condition having cultivated a good daimon, a well ordered inner cosmos that allows one to rise to the occasion at any time, not just when fortune smiles upon us, because the wheel of fortune turns, so sooner or later we will need the resources to be able to rise to the occasion when fortune frowns upon us. With eudaimonea we will often not be happy because that is not within anyone's control, but we may make the best of the hands life deals us. Unlike the pointless and self-atrophying quest for happiness, with the quest for eudaimonea the longer we are at it the better we will get, and thus our efforts are not wasted but grow into something more and more worth having. This is the true gold without which even the richest and most powerful man on Earth remains but a slave to fortune and his own demonic appetites and delusions, but with which even a pauper in a death camp is free. Eudaimonea is the only property you can truly own, that cannot be taken away from you, and therefore the most important thing to seek in life, and the only way to acquire eudaimonea is to work for it your entire life long.

That one line from Sophocles is pregnant with all of that and more, and this one play from ancient Greece is in many ways the signature of their entire civilization. Too bad we don't teach it that way.

Yours truly,

Comparing Silver Products

Dear Reader,

Here is the best report I have read yet comparing and contrasting the three forms of silver, including their advantages and disadvantages. Particularly, the discussion of why ionic silver is less effective in the body than in a lab--due to its tendency to react with chloride ions and precipitate out of the body as silver chloride--is something I would like to see the proponents of ionic silver solutions address, and was decisive in my decision to go with true colloidal silver instead for my experiment.

Yours truly,

Colloidal Silver

Dear Reader,

I'm very tired today, but making progress against the bronchitis.

Until this morning, each day I woke with more congestion than the day before and more infection as measured by the deepening color, and longer and more exhausting process of clearing my nose, throat, and lungs before the day could begin. Last night was the first time I got the sinus flooding procedure with the colloidal silver right, and this morning I woke with dramatically less congestion, color, and time to get clear. I had nothing in my lungs at all when I awoke, as opposed to the hour and a half of coughing it took yesterday to get clear. My sinuses were not clear yet when I awoke, so I'm not done, but it only took me a half hour to get clear, so this morning was quite a reversal in the right direction.

Yours truly,

Postscript: Here is another informative website on colloidal silver; I particularly like their article about argyria. These writers do not share the disdain for ionic silver of the authors of the Purest Colloids website, but since both agree on the efficacy of the true colloidal form, I'm still satisfied with my choice of experiments. I am not recommending any of these colloidal-silver resources as factual, just better-than-average grist for your colloidal-silver mill.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Medical Independence

Dear Reader,

Today I began treating myself with colloidal silver, a universal antibiotic with no negative side effects (despite misinformation propagated by the FDA about a condition called argyria, which is caused by silver protein compounds or ionic silver but not by true colloidal silver), effective against most single-celled pathogens and to which they cannot develop immunity. In an era when the antibiotic industry is facing its end in resistant strains of pathogens created by the use and misuse of those very drugs, the once well known properties of silver ought to be front-page news, yet the medical industry remains strangely mute. Could the FDA's willful disregard for the truth about colloidal silver have more to do with its unpatentability? Here in a nutshell is the tug of war between profit and health.

The FDA would prefer to regulate all potentially healthful nutritionally based treatments, banning any it has not approved. It argues that we need this protection because we the patients are too stupid to care for ourselves. Patients are portrayed as superstitious children easily duped by snake-oil salesmen. We are to believe that patients need parents, and the drug companies and their favored government agencies are volunteering for the job. That this industry is so profitable that it is strangling the American economy is not supposed to matter to us. If we are afraid enough, maybe we will pay any price--even national bankruptcy--to be coddled like children.

The analogy I see is to the days when people were considered too stupid to have their own relationship with God, when the Bible had to be kept in Latin--not in the vernacular of the people--to ensure they could not read it for themselves, that they could only approach God through intermediaries. So, too, we are not to approach health except through the sacred intermediaries of an industry that not too long ago tortured the mentally ill, denied the existence of allergies, and treated a whole range of gynecological problems by extracting women's reproductive organs. Today, medical error is among the top five causes of death in America, a staggering, shameful number--comparable to the days of leeches, bleeding, and bonesaws--yet the industry's response is to attack alternative medicine because it might be harmful! I believe Jesus had some advice for those obsessed with the faults of others. That's a Hell of a beam in the medical industry's eye. Let it clean its own house before it worries about its neighbors.

If anyone is going to experiment on me in the quest to make me healthy, let it be me. At least I have the correct vested interest in the outcome--health rather than profit or ideological correctness.

I will let you know how my experiments with colloidal silver proceed, for better or worse.

Yours truly,

PS: If you are interested in exploring the possibilities of colloidal silver, spend your time researching it, because misinformation by opponents and supporters dominates the Internet. Try here and here to start, then contrast what the FDA, Quackbusters, and other supposedly neutral organizations have to say.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Labeling Redux

Dear Reader,

I spoke with Maria at Source Naturals and learned that the labeling change reflects not a change in ingredients but a change in law. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (Title II of Public Law 108-282) went into effect January 1st of this year and is being enforced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It increases the strictness of the rules governing labeling of the top eight ellergens in food and supplements, but unfortunately the wording is vague enough to be too strict.

The law is intended to ensure that even subtle amounts of allergens in products are listed, such as might result if an ingredient is not actually present in the product but was present in the factory where the product was produced, but the law as written requires exactly the same wording as if the product contained that ingredient. For example, Wellness Formula contains no dairy or soy, but some of the ingredients come from machinery that is also used at other times to process dairy or soy. Under the new law, Source Naturals is required to say their product does in fact contain those ingredients, even though it probably does not and if it does it contains at most trace amounts by accident. Prior to this law, there was a common wording used for such situations, namely "processed on machinery also used to process dairy and soy," which it would have been good to require Source Naturals to add, but instead the new law requires them to use this wording: "Contains milk/dairy and soy." The required wording is probably false, or at least false most of the time, but they are required by law to use it.

In such clumsy ways are the good intentions behind laws perverted in their execution.

The good news for me is that since the FDA-required label is false, since Wellness Formula contains at most trace amounts of dairy, I can continue to use it. Likewise, I can hold Source Naturals blameless for the confusing labeling and place responsibility where it belongs, with the drafters of this new law.

As you may know, the FDA's soul is split between protecting consumers and protecting the profits of the drug companies, and the agency has been responsible for some more or less corrupt activites, such as protecting the poisonous sweetener Aspartame by banning the marketing of the healthy natural alternative Stevia as a sweetener. FDA has lately been serving its drug company clients by trying to whip up an atmosphere of public fear of vitamins, supplements, and other alternative medicine products, thereby supporting lobbying efforts to "regulate" (i.e., restrict access to or put out of business any companies that sell) these alternatives to patentable drugs. Given this background, it is reasonable to wonder whether the FDA will enforce this law unevenly, using it as a club to put more pressure on the purveyors of alternative medicine. Certainly companies like Source Naturals have to be prepared for that and ensure that they adhere to the strictest interpretation possible of this ambiguous new law, if they want to avoid the product seizures and punitive fines FDA can levy.

To have at least part of the FDA so in the pocket of drug companies is Orwellian, since the organization is theoretically charged with protecting the public. Having worked for so many years for the federal government, I know no agency is monolithic, and the FDA will still have many career employees thoroughly dedicated to its original mission, employees who will be the first to acknowledge that some in the upper layers of their organization's management will be the usual rotating political appointees who are there to ensure the agency's primary mission does not interfere with the interests of the administration's political clients. The outcomes, good and bad, from any U.S. government agency tend to take their shape primarily from such tugs of war between these two populations of employees--those there to serve the mission and those there to serve their political masters. Where the former predominate, usually by accident or oversight, the occasional great government program can result, but usually the results more resemble this FDA law in their hamartia, missing the mark, in subtle but important ways.

Yours truly,

Postscript: For more information on the new labeling law, an article in Natural Products Insider gives a brief overview.