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Am Still Here

January 23, 2008

Can’t believe I would forget my password to this blog so quickly! A week-long useless seminar and two gigs ago, a twelve-hour travel on land on zigzags that brought back an old motion sickness– they seem to have combined together to wreck fragile memory chips in my head. That’s not all. I seem to have lost direction too. Been staring on my newly-designed blog for hours now in two days since I could access the Internet. Oddly, it felt to me like I didn’t own it, like it was somebody else’s. Strange things happen when the brain wirings go nuts. But that’s another story… Indolence is another issue. Thing is when you lose momentum for whatever reason, you need some momentum-building soup to get the right feeling up again. For that, I am going to force the issue by just writing whatever stuff comes out of my skull today…

Right.

Last night I was watching an old BBC documentary on a pirated DVD: The Making of a Super Human, or something, you know how it is with this pirated products, the title wouldn’t even come out right often. Anyway, it’s about the human body being in appearance fragile and vulnerable though in reality an amazingly durable self-healing machine of flesh and bones. We’re made of materials sturdier and tougher than we think, that’s the central idea. You get to be more amazed though how modern medical science have been successfully intruding into the human body system to help it recuperate or to replace body organs. I love such documentaries; I could have been a good doctor if only we had the money. But that’s straying off again… It is the portion about organ and bodily parts transfer that called my attention. Except perhaps for the head, medical science has been for sometime in the business of organ and parts replacement. Heart, kidney, liver, arms, name it… You’d think that would be as easy as sewing up a tear in a garment with a piece ripped up from another, but no. You’d expect that a human body accursed with a defective heart would readily welcome, even hanker for, a healthy heart– you’re wrong. Because indeed, come to think of it, if that were the case there would perhaps be an organ exchange center somewhere where we could trade our internal organs and bodily parts like we do our cars and cellphones. Was it the intention of nature to prevent us from making an all-out commerce of our bodies, I do not know( though I think I know what would be the most tradeable part). Nature does equip the human body with an immune system whose job is to screen out any and all foreign matter that to the body does not belong. The body does this automatically without the willful intervention of the brain by releasing white blood cells containing an army of antibodies which would kill the cells of invaders. Bacteria, virus—to include foreign parts like organs. The visuals of the documentary is simply amazing: clumps of white masses attacking invading cells, devouring them in quick succession. So how do doctors go about transplanting a heart? Well, first of all, the patient and the doctor must wait for someone to die, itself a moral dilemma. (The patient waiting for a heart was asked, “how is it to you that your recovery is hinged on the death of someone else?” He replied, “I don’t know.”) When the organ is finally introduced to the patient’s body, the doctors must beforehand trick the body into acceptance by suppressing the immune system. This way the body would not reject the foreign organ the way it would an invading bacteria because the immune system would not discriminate. Thousands (?) of successful organ transplants have indeed been administered around the world following this deft maneuver. Many a patient have gone home happy with a new heart or kidney— but armed to the teeth with drugs to suppress his own immune system, because the body, unhappy with the trick played on itself, would rebel from time to time against the foreign organ inside his body. The organ recipient would find out soon enough something else compensates for the immune system he suppresses is the same one responsible for warding off other diseases.

The recipient of the first arm transplant ever was shown and interviewed in the documentary. His right hand, lost in a freak accident, was replaced by another man’s limb. Up close on the camera, it was grotesque: the arm attached a little below elbow looked twisted, dead and decaying, fingernails falling off. After so many years, he said, his immune system has resumed its attack on his grafted arm. He’s gotten tired of taking drugs to hold down rejection because they make him weak and sickly. He wondered all this time whether it was all worth the trouble to his well being. Before the year ends he said he might have it severed.

Now, why would a blogger who normally treads on social science issues suddenly take a turn on a completely strange field of medical science. Strange indeed if we confine ourselves to the narrow spheres of knowledge where the lines are traditionally drawn. If we know how to look and where, we could find analogies that mirror phenomena or circumstances where manifestations may not be so obvious but really correspondent. Attraction, rejection, approval, repelling action, revolt, creation, deception, contamination– they are found in social systems as well as in nature. They are mere appearances or manifestations at a distance unrelated but reveal themselves as expressions of parallel meanings upon close examination. We find wisdom there if we look more closely.

Take the Philippines and the unending turmoil spawned by the “Hello Garci” recording. Look for analogies in organ transplant operation, the organ itself, the repelling action, the immune system, the drug to suppress rejection and so on and so forth. Is not the immune system parallel to the moral/ethical value system of society at large? Is not contamination the same as subordinates copying the ruinous ways of their superiors? Don’t we see a numbered Executive Order or Proclamation answering to the suppressant? Maybe this would give us idea why this quarrel seems to have no ending in sight, as it seems to be graduating to a higher level of complication even—claims of goodwill and the noble intentions, notwithstanding.

Meantime, let me turn to my failing memory… I think now I understand why my old desktop used to hang up on me…

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