Thursday, April 26, 2012

Can we prevent Infectious Diseases?

Pathogens in the human milleu

From the procrustean bed of thought, where cause and effect arise from the common thread of desire and become embroiled within the thrill, frustration, anger and ultimately joy, we have eloped with the idea of ease and flexibility. By that I mean, we have given up the rigor of evaluation and validation to the pseudo-science of correlative fiat. You know like the one that says, “ It is and therefore it is.” Something one would encounter in the Doctrines of a fist and a hammer.

The power of intuitive understanding will protect you from harm until the end of your days. ~ Lao Tzu

Allow me this progression of thought. So saying, we can control all infectious disease is like saying we can or should eliminate all other "irritating," and "useless,"  forms of life, save of course the human kind. Is that possible? You mean there would be no antelopes loping on the Serengeti nor any giraffe craning to eat the leaves from a tree or the dog wagging its tail at being pet, or the cat purring at your feet? “Oh come on, you scream! You must be joking and you're not even Feynman!"  What has infectious disease got to do with the animals?”

Why, a lot. Maybe more then one can contemplate in the 3-pound universe.

So let me set the stage for what will turn out to be a mind-exploring axiom of "this is this and that is that." (Back to "Flounder," the cute little fish from "The Little Mermaid") Any idea how many infectious agents that can get into the human body and create disease? Hmm.

So here goes a revelation in its stark dangerous clarity. There are about 1415 pathogens (euphemistically called because they cause pathology or disease) that cause disease within the human body. “Wow!” you say, “that’s a lot!” Uh huh. Exactly what I was thinking. They go from parasites, fungi, bacteria to viruses and all other critters in between. Of course by virtue of truthful scientific discourse, we are not counting prions. You know those tiny pieces of proteins that have a proclivity to attach themselves to the brain and nerves and create hideous forms of diseases called, “Kuru,” “Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathies” to human named versions of debilitating and deadly ones like the “Cruetzfeld Jakob Disease.” Even these prions called PrPc which are a natural normal product in the brain can with spontaneity morph into PrPsc that creates the havoc. Most cases however have been detected where the feed has contained the mashed up remains of a diseased cow, but sporadic cases without a direct cause do exist, as recently determined in the State of California. Although that is a fascinating story in itself, we will concern ourselves only with those live agents of human destruction.

The other day, a teenager, son of a friend developed a remitting fever that made him lethargic and weak for days. The vigor of his age distilled from him as much energy it could muster for almost two months and then it let go as he collapsed into a heap. Meanwhile he went through an armada of diagnostic tests, including a PET/CT scan, which showed a lump in the middle of his chest. A barrage of consultants arrived on the scene and determined what should be done. Ultimately given the bizarre nature of his illness, the horses of common sense raced forward and someone asked if he (the patient) had been in close proximity to an animal. “Why yes,” he said in his fading weak monosyllabic tone. “my cat!” And thus “Cat Scratch Disease” was diagnosed and treated. Yet given the poor young teen who had, had a valve replacement some ten years ago, the “scratch” from the cat with it’s venomous pathogen had traveled from the skin into the lymph glands and thence to the blood vessels ultimately ending up on the porcine valve, causing a well known phenomenon of a subacute bacterial endocarditis (a valvular infection). This complication after the requisite antibiotic therapy of 6-weeks, required a 10-hour surgical replacement. But true to his youth and courage, he survived and since has blossomed.

So the cat was the vector of this awful adventure. So why am I telling you this? Because, 61% or 864 of those 1415 pathogens causing disease are transmitted via the animal vector. Ok simplistically, those beautiful animals that we love to kiss, hold, and whose company we enjoy and those that we pet, or farm or create food from, or the insects, mosquitoes and ticks we swat off our backs on hot humid days, or flick off the skin when on the mountains or in the tree-lined valleys or partake in our meals that from the bounty of the oceans or the little and big birds that fly in the sky or the gracefully galloping four-legged ones that have boundless energy when not in headlights, all those and others carry on, or within themselves, these tiny creatures that have made a habit since time immemorial to have a feast on our cells and sinews. These viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungi live in harmony with many of these animals waiting for a chance to propagate within the largesse of the human body.
HBV image

For instance take the Hepatitis virus. It was discovered in 1967 by a Dr. Baruch Blumberg from University of Pennsylvania. Since it’s discovery, it has evolved through modification of its DNA in as few as 20 of its 3400 base pairs, into many variants (sub-genotypes) within different variants (genotypes). How does that happen? One might ask. The answer is quite elementary. Its called a selection bias. Remember the Darwinian dictate of “the survival of the fittest?” Well to survive, the virus mutates, ever so slowly. Some might call it a "glacial pace." In fact the rate is 0.00053 per nucleotide per year. So a 0.1% mutation of the viral genome could take many years. In the evolutionary scale of time

that has different connotations, especially when it is exposed to the various immune systems of the human body, the environment and as a result of the vaccines we create to prevent the infections.

So we prevent one type and it transforms into another type ~ tit for tat. Some types of these newer modified versions are more virulent then others. Some have the proclivity to live inside the humans for a very long time giving rise to the chronic infections and others are more civil and surreptitious and lie quietly inside the cell without revealing themselves to the body’s immune defenses; so called occult infection~ all in the name of survival, which would be counterproductive for its propagation. The hepatitis virus needs the liver (Hepar) to survive and prosper, thus adaptation is their evolutionary dictate whereby the virus grows slowly and finds means to transfer to a newer host, via assorted means of transference.

By the way, so you should know, the hepatitis virus came from the Woodchuck and the Ducks way before they invaded the humans. In fact a recent study puts this virus at 6-million years in age. Way much older than the human race that seems to blossom at 2 ½ million years and the oldest modern human being is aged back to 400,000 years.  Currently 1/3rd  the population of the world or 2 and one half billion is considered infected with hepatitis B virus and about 300-400 million suffer with chronic form of Hepatitis B infection.

HIV image

And what have we here in the most developed and civilized society, but the making of a modern day “plague” scourge with the HIV infection. While the world and the Gallo’s of this world determined this illness in the early 1980s, the virus seemed to have found a stable state of existence in the Rhesus monkeys. Only when the HIV virus found a new host to invade and determined the ease of spread, did it fire on all cylinders. It has shown a remarkable predilection for mutation and that is what had miffed the scientific crowd. But all in all, now there seems to have developed a quiet peaceful coexistence. This has been mitigated by the antiviral agents that have worked against the Integrase, Protease and the Retroviral transcriptase enzymes that the virus uses to propagate. Yes there are new cases of infections but the initial catastrophic death-rate has declined dramatically to the hopes of many. And with newer antiviral medicines, better understanding of the transmission modes and the HIV virus' desire to survive, a long coexistence is in progress and maybe not with the same rampant predilection for massive replication. Don’t forget, the first DNA dictate of the virus is also  the same as a human's ~to survive. So if the HIV kills everyone it infects, eventually it will run out of hosts and its population will decline. So it merges and evolves and sheds and placates and grows patiently and survives.

Speaking of the HIV subtypes. These are also called the PTLV or Primate T Lymphotropic viruses. In other words these viruses exist in the primate population (e.g. monkeys) and have "jumped" via contact into the humans. Another example of this virus is the HTLV-1 virus which in its diploid form is also known as BLV or bovine lymphotropic virus, (as in cows) The HTLV-1 causes Lymphomas and Leukemia and is prevalent in the Cameroon, Asia and Southeastern United States. It is linked to about 5000-6000 cases a year. It transmits in humans via contact, mostly blood borne and through breast-feeding. So you see the original HTLV-III now called HIV and its other counterparts are inter-species transmitted entities. These viruses are patient. They evolve to the pressures over a period of prolonged time, but once having that which not having ultimately makes them infectious to humans.

The ecosystem of life is a wonderful case study of evolution. Maybe we should all study it a bit more.

We cannot rid ourselves of all infectious disease. The diseases once considered eradicated keep making a comeback; Polio ( ), Measles ( ),
Mumps ( ),
Whooping Cough ( ) and even
Smallpox ( ). The viruses evolve to survive.

So the experts proclaim it is the lack of universality of vaccination for these "outbreaks." Maybe to some extent that is true, but when the virus takes on another face, it is not the vaccine but the mutant evolving to forge its own destiny.
Esherchia Coli O157:H7

Remember the Ecoli (Esherichia Coli) ( ) and  ( ). This little common critter has evolved into a more dangerous little bug (EColi O157:H7). It can kill and does kill humans. It is also a mutant of the original more docile version that sometimes lives peacefully inside the human alimentary tract.

Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

Oh and who can forget the H1N1 virus that was to decimate the population of the world through spread. Well it didn't respond to the bell-ringing. And now of course, the humans, given our need to understand have created a H5N1 version in the laboratory that can perform a cross species jump from birds into humans and these fine laboratory technician scientists have published their data on this elegant feat of genetic manipulation. I only have one question for those smart literati. WHY? ( ) Maybe the historical lessons from the H1N1 (Spanish Flu of 1918) is too remote a historical fact to tickle their fancy, but if ever there was a reference for reverence, it is that outbreak that cost over 100 million lives. Yet the bungy-jumping junky crowd continues its trip into the adventure land of thrills and spills.

So when some hot-shot expert opines to the multitudes, “Infectious Disease is a never event,” he or she is not quite in tune with life, not quite in tune with reality and certainly not in tune with the facts.
Is the "expert's claim" in or outside the "Court of Reality?" You be the judge.

"You cannot be Serious" ~ John McEnroe

The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding. ~ Leonardo Da Vinci

A gratitude to Ignaz Simmelwies

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Random Walk down Life's Path

The path down by the river is blossoming with flowers. There are tulips, and forsythia, and hibiscuses and irises and even daffodils. They cluster close to the shore. The water flows gently creating small eddies, but gentle enough for lily pads to find a home. The swirls are gentle and occur near the banks from the jutting rocks embedded there. All in all it is beautiful and inherently peaceful. There is something about springtime when love is in the air and everyone joyous for the renewal.

A pregnant young woman walked with effort carrying the weight of her baby. As I walked past her the river stretched out ahead to the horizon.

The mother was carrying a young child, who was sneezing away in rapid fire, ten at a time. His eyes were swollen and red and his cheeks colored similarly. He rested his beautiful blonde face on her shoulder, uncomfortable in his misery. The mother was unhurried in her measured steps. The world was ticking the clock at its usual pace of one second at a time. I hurried my steps to get closer to the child, just to see his facial features and lo and behold, minutes later as I caught up to them, the child’s face was turning the pink color of youthful exuberance, his face now, no longer resting on his mother’s shoulder was involved with the fascinating view of the world. He was taking in the world as it opened to him, a carnival of wonders. His eyes seem brighter and the tiny dimple on his right cheek made quite a beautiful statement.

The river depth increased as the colors darkened many shades and the water appeared to be stilled. The overhang of the large deciduous trees cast a reflection on the glassy waters below. There was a young couple walking alongside, further ahead. The girl’s head rested on her boyfriend’s shoulder. Both had tattoos on their neck and arms covering most of the skin. But they were happy. A trail of smoke lingered behind them. The musty unfamiliar aroma permeated the environs. They had identical physiques, both were extremely thin with bony islands and ridges pressing against the skimpy clothes they wore. The boy would stop periodically and cough a deep cough that would deplete his energies making him bend over at the waist. The girl would stop next to him, wait for his spasm to dissipate, look away from him through his moment of angst, as if the momentary rift in the silence from the cough was a space with no time dimension.

The path was winding around a bend and the lush of the cherry blossoms and the azaleas, now met the eye. The river was aglow with the colors of the blossoms. There were birds in the air, chirping in their flight, butterflies hovering in their rapid perceived eccentric movement, as their beautiful colored wings reflected the sunlight and families were spread over large blankets on the green grass nearby frolicking under the wide blue canopy. 

There was cheer and squeals of delight that echoed. A couple walked ahead with a child in tow. The man walked with his shoulders slumped as the animated wife full of sound and fury seem to signify something and the little boy covered his ears to the harsh sounds. Occasionally the man spoke in a deep baritone that sparked more intensity into the conversation. Differing uncompromising spoken words were the battle cries that burdened the shoulders of the little person, whose angst could not be shielded by his hands. 

The banks of the river now spread out a little ways as the river split around a large outcrop of rock. The water, splashed gently around the rocks and in places it overflowed the banks just a little. There were tiny offshoots of green grass and thick green moss that covered the rocks and stones that made the banks now. The lush of the trees seemed to dissipate a little while the green grassy knolls that surrounded the river rollicked into the horizon. The openness was breathtaking and the vistas far and wide. 

A middle-aged couple walked hand in hand. The comforts of their life held together in the interlocking fingers. Unbeknownst to them they remained in lockstep with each other. The sway of the hip and the thump of the foot on the ground were indistinguishable. They shared the environs without a word exchanged between them. Periodically he would look at her and smile and she did the same. The world was their oyster and all their angels sang in harmony.

The river water seemed to flow at a faster pace and the eddies grew deeper making large whorls in the middle of the flow. The waves, previously nonexistent now seem to roll over each other, displaying an increase in angst and intensity. There was turmoil brewing the farther, I walked. The beautiful and lush growth seemed to distance itself from the shores and more rubble and wet sediment was ahead of me. I had to cast an eye at each step as I walked. The hardness and definite ground below gave way to the muddy, shifting earth that had more give and slip. The trees on the riverside stood erect and their leaves thinning at the bottom cast very little shadow, much less a reflection that the rushing waters failed to reflect. Few flowers bloomed here.

An older gentleman walked farther ahead and to the side. He was in a contemplative mood. His shuffling gait and the slow progress determined the infirmity of the physical and the anguish of the non-physical. There was a tangent of unexpressed emotions all repressed in that weak shuffle, limited, restricted, uncomfortable and lonely. Time had passed by in the blink of an eye. The world had changed and so had he. He seemed to be slowly giving way to the people in the fast lane, and yet not conceding so quickly as was his right.  The river seemed to move haltingly bubbling in places and heaving across boulders, a foamy collection here and an uprooted tree trunk there. There was a confluence of hardship and comfort all locked into this tiny space of where the solid of the land and the ethereal of the water displaced time. The winter would be here soon.

And just as broken and ravaged the scenery became, the river seemed to overtake it and find itself a drop. The sound of the fall, the rush of that sound and the abruptness of it all were equally breathtaking. The hiss that turned into a roar, the rise of the mist above and the rainbow of colors that sprouted from within the mist as the sun broke through each drop of moisture marked the culmination of a journey.

I stepped down towards the bottom and found a large pool of water that was as deep as it was wide. It had a dark blue color and looking up back at the mouth of the fall and seeing the crashing waterfall, all seemed surreal. There was no turning back for the water, it had to fall and dig deep into the pool and bounce through and merge. 

This was the undiscovered country from which there was no return back to the higher ground. This was the resting place. On one side, a grey white boulder lay marking one side of the pool and beyond that was a headstone where a raven stood guarding its territory. On the headstone was inscribed:

RIP. Here lie the dreams and ambitions of man

Monday, April 16, 2012


“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” ~ Dr Seuss

“Please understand,” he said, “that there is a difference between how you think from over there and us over here.”

Ponder on that for a bit. It must give us pause. The divide in communication is predicated on experiential prejudices. Isn’t it? You say what you believe in and someone listening to you will impute based on their references. Funny, don’t you think? We are the products of our thinking. That is exactly what that patient said. Pretty profound, isn’t it? So if I said, “the weather is great outside” and my reference was a sunny day in winter with the outside temperature at 2 degrees Celsius. Someone from the tropics would think I had lost my marbles, even, bundled up in layers and layers of wool. So the two-way communication is really never quite two-way or for that matter, in sync, now is it? We may pulsate with the thought that, that is not in compliance with anyone’s but our own reality, but at its emotional core its very essence is what is inbred through our experience and is only gradually mutable over time, but never in this instance.  Communication is by virtue of these intermediary steps a form of expression of the interpretation, retention and self-modified understanding.

The attending physician attired in his latest freshly pressed lab coat, sporting a dark red and blue tie looked down at the chart and then at the patient. There was less a sense of authority and more a sense of helplessness. His fingers flipping pages on the chart with abandon, trying to uncover something that did not exist. The patient lay quietly supine in the hospital bed with a thin sheet of white blanket over him, his anxious eyes wide with expectation. The physician’s eyes darted back and forth between the chart and the patient, trying to find the right words to express his thoughts. After a long pause, that seemed eternal in its silence, he said, “Well, unfortunately there is nothing that can be done. The diagnosis gives you a limited time. Besides you’ve lived a good life. Get your issues in order for your family. I am sorry.”  The limbic disconnect.

The man stared in disbelief as his wife broke down into sobbing fits. The physician cleared his throat and mumbled some words that made little sense, except to fill the air with something akin to hushed noise. The emotional display was difficult for this doctor to alleviate. The facts were the facts. He stood up and then quietly walked out of the room, leaving behind the heaving sobs of despair.

The room remained solemn. The nurses did what they could to assuage the couple’s fears. The emotions were spilling out of the room onto the nursing floor. Distraught facemasks had glommed onto the caregivers. The drama of death was being played out in the room as it often did and they, the nurses, were all helpless witnesses. Even though this was a recurring theme the frame of reference was never firm, the thoughts of mortality seemed to ooze out into a self-directed protective shell for their minds to avoid the harsh reality. Their brains had created a sanctuary of sorts over time for self-protection and preservation, lest reality create a schism in their own lives. This terrible walled off vault was devoid of light and that is where all the trauma of life was disposed. It was a dark place to push all the bad things into and lock the door shut.

The evening shadows snaked their way in and out of the room through the windows. The couple embraced in their new found misery, tried to make sense of life. The golden hue of sunset that had meant a different circumstance of happiness before, now represented a fracture of thought and action. The husband and wife clung to each other. There were decades of moments that coursed through their embrace and in through their touch. There were unsaid words, filled with emotions.

Each of their minds flashed a picture of the past resplendent in full glory of what their embedded past had been, from the solemnity of their marriage, to the day they were told they could not have children, to the surprise birth of their child, to the birthdays, the anniversaries, the weddings and confirmations and the promotions, every momentous emotive moment played out backwards in time. All the joys and the sadness, the happiness and the tears, the stern words and the quiet kisses, all came spilling back into the reel to reel images displayed in the minds red-eye.

As the weight of the burden fell on their frail shoulders, the unclaimed agendas, emptied themselves of their content. There was a purging of hopes, a tenuous holding onto the dreams, a defiance to logic, a threat to reality, a sustained anger, a justification, a cry for help, and a call to question, all emotions of great and small events, triggered by forces unseen, came tumbling down. Everything and anything and nothing, all wrapped together. Time seemed to stand still as the tears of what was, streaked down the washed skin of what is, fearful of what would be..

As the night darkness harkened, a young man in his late twenties, a second-year resident walked into the room. He introduced himself and sat down in the chair besides them. The wife with her protective instincts got up and hovered next to her husband.

“Mr. J, I am the resident, who will be taking care of you tonight.” He introduced himself with a smile. It was the fresh, youthful smile that beckons carnations and roses rather then gathers entreaties of salvation from the scourge of decay. Both husband and wife remained silent.

“You know, its quite amazing that in my last year of medical school, I saw a patient with the same diagnosis and the other day, I saw him again coming in for a check up.” He began, “His is obviously a similar disease but seems to be doing fairly well. So I thought, I’d share that with you.”

“But the other doctor said that I should put my things in order and that there was no hope for me?” The patient mumbled the words as his thick dry tongue stuck to them like glue, unrelenting of the expression.

“Are you a doctor?” He asked. “You are younger than my grandson.”
“Don’t mind him. He is not himself.” His wife piped in, “Of course he is a doctor, it says so on his lab coat, honey.” The wife prodded the husband, not meaning to hurt the young doctor’s feelings.
“Yes, I am and I realize that you were diagnosed recently and even though it is a difficult diagnosis, it is not necessarily an instant sentence. Besides there is no one who can say how long you have. All they can do is base it on statistics. And there are a lot of chutes and ladders in that rabbit hole”

“So what is your opinion, doctor?” The wife asked.

“I am just saying that there are many months in a year and many days in a month, as well as hours in a day. Don’t look at it as a dead end. Enjoy the time, do what you have always wanted to do. Nothing is going to happen tomorrow or the day after or the day after that and so on. It will happen some day but we really don’t know when that is, now do we for anyone of us?”
Both husband and wife were silent. The key to the door to their library of thought was turning. The door would be opening soon…

“We can take a trip to Rome. We’ve always wanted to do that.” The wife said.
“And don’t forget that Alaskan Cruise.” The patient added more color to his wife’s imagination.
“Doc, will I be able to travel?” He asked.
“Are you able to sit, stand and walk for short distances?”
“Why yes. There was nothing wrong with me before I came into the hospital, except this annoying cough.”
“Well then,” the resident answered, “you should be able to,” he added, “now you know that the diagnosis and any potential treatment may put limitations on your life, but does not on how you live it. We must all live that way, shouldn’t we?” He paused for emphasis, “Because none of us know the exact day or the hour, the minute or the second.”

The conversation went for a long while until the overhead pages called the resident out. The room he left behind had a low buzz of anticipation, of expectancy, of a future. He had changed their world.  This young man seemed to have a grey beard of experience growing within him somewhere but definitely not on his twenty-something clean-shaven face. He had an old soul. Yes he knew much, much more than one can learn from a lifetime of learning. He had wisdom.

Life had to be lived, once again.

Speak softly ~ choose your words wisely.

Speak gently ~ there is a heart and a brain on the other side.

Speak from the comforts of being human ~ You could be on the other side..

Speak slowly ~ Communicate the right meaning.

Immortality is a myth! ~ All life succumbs to time! ~ Uh huh.

So, Live it!

Friday, April 13, 2012


The debate lingers as the fiscal crunch hammers away at our psyche. Some decry the high cost of drugs, others the cost of healthcare. Some give ill-founded reasoning for employing less diagnostic procedures, all this while the human lifespan continues to increase as a result of better care and earlier diagnosis. We beget what we set out to do and then having that which we sought, now we wish not to. It is the ultimate human irony. Beneath all this angst is the ever-lurking question of money.

So I was asked what my thoughts are in terms of the worth of human life.

My answer:

It is impossible to place a dollar value on any life. Think about it for a minute. If the worth is based on an annual worth then people living in poverty have a value of less than $35,000. While those that have jobs in the financial sector may be earning in the millions. Equally if it is based on net worth then some may exceed the 12-digit number of the billions. But truly is that it? No, it seems too ill thought, superficially practical maybe but gives absolutely no value for the individual’s mind and it’s worth to the rest of humanity.


Well, now, think about it for another minute. What about the intellect that never rose to the level, where it could be weighed in dollar amounts? A pregnant pause ensues, where you might bring all your brain’s synaptic transmissions to cease for a moment, blunting any directive to other thoughts, for this is a complex question. Isn’t it?

Indeed, how does one equate brilliance? Remember Srinivasa Ramanujan the Indian mathematician who died at the age of 32 with more numbers, axioms and answers to riddles buried deep in his brain then were available in the library. You could have asked G.H. Hardy of Cambridge, England for his opinion and you would have heard this, “A mathematician, like a painter or a poet, is a maker of patterns. If his patterns are more permanent than theirs, it is because they are made with ideas..”  Ramanujan’s abbreviated life offered much and still had much to offer when it was cut short. Or, look at the complex tortured mind of John Forbes Nash who won the Nobel Prize but it meant nothing to him. Prior to the prize he had been committed to a mental asylum for his own safety. Yet he is the author of the Game Theory that is in daily use in large corporations vying for customers and the template for modern day commerce.

Before you go thinking that I am equating numbers with dollars and trying to eke out a cost basis of the human life. This might change your mind. Ever think how lonely, dry and totally “unwashed” literature would be had Shakespeare not written his plays and sonnets. He was not wealthy. But for his poverty in needs, our wealth has multiplied many fold from his written words.

Consider this Shakespeare gem:
Sweet are the uses of adversity,  

Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, 

Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;  

And this our life, exempt from human haunt, 

Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,  

Sermons in stones, and good in everything. 

I would not change it

 Or take Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart who can still pluck at anyone’s heartstrings with the cadence of his symphonies. He died of consumption, a pauper, at the age of 36 years, yet since the 1700s he has provided us with the joy of music.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,Violin Concerto No. 5 in A, 2nd Movement.

Imagine if he had lived.

Or think about Margaret Mitchell, the author of the “Gone with the Wind” fame, who died at the age of 49 years by a speeding drunk driver. That book brought her fame and is still worthy of rereading many times over. How much would we spend to save these lives?

So is there a worth of the human life that creates magic on a $5 million Stradivarius in the middle of a DC Metro train station before the daily workers or in Carnegie Hall or the Lincoln Center in Manhattan in front of wealthy patrons? Yes Joshua Bell is wealthy but oh what gentle breezes of sound waves he creates that push and twist the sentiments of our souls.

Joshua Bell at DC Metro Station

Speaking of wealthy, imagine how mundane life was before Steve Jobs burst onto the scene. 

From his fruit of labor to the pixels of screen magic to the ubiquitous device in the hands of millions, 

Steve Jobs’ worth in employing thousands across the globe and giving birth to an industry that employs millions cannot be put in numerical value. Similarly Bill Gates follows in similar path. He is a billionaire who’s talents has spawned millions of jobs across the world.

Speaking of the lowly human life of a tyrant, what would one place a price on that infamous head, such as Hitler, or Mussolini or Genghis Khan. These people snuffed lives in their prime. What would their worth be in the bazaar of life?

This then brings us to the remote question that originates from the far reaches of human calculus. What is the price of a human being?

The answer is in a little story that follows.

He was born to a single mother. He did not receive formal education, nor did he receive any vocational help to gain a reasonable employment. But he had a gift of solving puzzles. At the age of six, he had figured out the Rubic’s cube in 15 seconds. At age ten he had figured out the mathematical derivation of the Beethovan’s Ninth. At age 15 he had written a few million lines of software codes for a friend. At age 20 he contracted a terminal disease and at age 22 he was gone. He died alone, penniless in the arms of a nurse in the hospital. What would be his worth, had he lived? A question that shall remain unanswered for the rest of human existence.

You see, or maybe you don’t, but there is no easy way to define the monetary value of a human life.

It is the glorious predicate of the human spirit that drives the gears of progress and its unfathomable worth. Within each human is embodied the splendor and dynamics that can and does change the world for the better.

And you say?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Ambition, Prestige, Greed and Love

I am flummoxed sometime by naked ambition, as I am with greed. How could they do that, I ask? I am also cognizant of the glory of their prestige. Yeah, its there to behold. As equally as that is rendered a landscape in my brain, fertile to till, grow and understand fully, I am reminded about love. Do these people have any essence of love in their hearts at all? Or is the “drive to thrive well” the aegis of their epitaph? Is ambition the fossilized dictate of the four-letter DNA double helix that grinds out our Darwinian edicts? Is greed etched into the code of their existence? Are they so desirous of this “vice” that all “virtues” are relegated to the heap of obscurity? Are they blind to the need and desire of others? What do these people have in common? Is every person’s grand dream of advancement a beacon of distrust, rebuke and worthy of anger? A common man who struggles with very little material wealth all his life, eventually realizes a dream that brings in great wealth -a “rags to riches” story now, therefore, qualifies for the role of a villain?


These are the aching questions for humanity. What constitutes a good person from a bad person, poverty? What constitutes morality from immorality, the lack of wealth? I find it hard to believe that intellect be sodden with self-proclaimed virtue finds such animosity in the very nature of every human desire. These elusive vapors that survive and mount the staff of self-proclaimed virtuous expressions, by the touch of envy, are the very essence of failure.

Human Desire:

Every human has a desire to be good, to do good, to be successful, to achieve a lasting presence in this impermanent existence. Every human has a moored confidence in his or her innate ability. It is the unmooring of these desires to the morals of life that seed the land of monsters. There is no food without someone’s till, as there is no progress without someone burning the midnight oil. Thus all the benefits of today exist through some entrepreneur and his or her singular motivation. But life is a zero-sum game and for very human who desires to greatness there is one that desires to just exist. This is the yin and yang of living contrary to all the hue and cry that permeates the written and spoken word. The enfranchised equal the disenfranchised. Science without facts is similar to art without imagination. Each must have the other to move. The tiny spark needs to be there for all who are desirous and absent in those that don’t.  If those that don’t have the desire or the spark or show the willingness for it then they must of moral goodness be silent to those that do and have. The philosophical grounds of the haves and the have-nots are rooted in their own deeds. Abject power grab for prestige can only last for so long. For instance history shows that every greed that found hubris to exploit for prestige, ended up in infamy, brought down by its own devices. Life finds its own modicum of truth and justice.


Speaking of love. Are these ambitious, prestigious and greedy people capable of love? Ah but if you have to question that, then you do not know your own mind. Or you do not wish to know yourself to answer that question. We are born in differing circumstances, some left in a basket to float on the river swells to find the comforts of a loving embrace, others coo their way into the hearts and find the glow with every meaningful smile. Love is a nurtured, nature’s bounty. It is everywhere, some find love in their desire to achieve the goals of their dreams, others find it in the arms of another. Some find love in the paint upon the canvas, while others find it playing with words or playing notes of a musical interlude. Love plays a different song to different people, but has the same pull and tug to their heart of hearts. Love in its most abstract terms is a human emotion expressed in venues that sometime we cannot or are unable to decipher. Love is complex. Love is also simple, but it has roots and it is lasting.


In ambition one sees the monsters of perfection and the insatiable need to question. The irritability of intolerance that arises from insufferable impatience in these ambitious kinds is nothing more then the will to see through to the ends of their dreams. It is like a boater wanting to trim the sail to its perfect camber and achieve the best lift and speed over the water, or a pilot trim the aircraft to create the most efficient lift with the least drag in the air, or the confectioner to place the perfect red rose atop the vanilla iced cake, or the child that spends hours sitting on the beach to draw the perfect circle. All such endeavors emanate from the same seed. They all have the same genesis. They all have love for their dreams. Individual ambition is the hallmark of innovation, not the gregarious groupthink mentality that is the current vogue. The desires of the individual reside in the solitude and the confines of his or her brain. It is here that the seed is planted and here where it is harvested.

Remember the story of a foster child that fostered the desire so great that he breathed through all the hiccups life had in store for him and created an enterprise so, vast and so great that his story will be a tale for the ages. His ambition was relentless. He was called ruthless, intemperate, soulless, crafty, sullen, angry and all sorts of adjectival descriptions that satisfy those that don’t understand love and desire. Yet he created many an industry. His last industry now employs thousands of people worldwide, from whose borne several million people have directly or indirectly benefited. He was ambitious, he was prestigious and he was called greedy, yet he had love for his dreams. His name will survive his life and times.

We can now connect the dots backwards, for his life, to realize what he meant by “Stay hungry, Stay Foolish.” ~ Steve Jobs.

So is greed good? Gordon Gekko would say so (Although his premise was skewed, never the less it touches the basic nature of human in humanity):

Is it immoral for the haves to have? Milton Freidman would say, no. And he is factual.

There is an unfortunate desire to lay blame and in the American culture, the pointed finger of blame keeps turning back to the ambitious and in so doing the cult of mediocrity raises itself another rung to achieve their own greedy dominance. For blaming is nothing more then personal greed by the finger-pointers.

The neuro-circuitry of ambition is tied in the behavioral portfolio of every human being. Those that rise up to that challenge are successful and should be worthy of our gratitude, because they inspire us to equal greatness and they mold our beings into newer searchlights towards better horizons. We should not envy them. We should learn to love the love they have and inspire in others the same desire and ambition.


Ambition is good! Ambition for prestige’s sake on the other hand, is bad. Prestige is a powerful elixir that soaks through the psyche. It can change the course of one’s history. If prestige subjugates innate desire then brazen greed will drive itself on the avenue of mediocrity towards self destruction from unrealized dreams. 

Wanton desire for prestige is akin to the larva emerging from the egg planted on the belly of a spider by Polysphincta Gutfreundi a wasp, that then co-opts the spider’s ability to spin a web and usurps its mechanics to create a cocoon of silk for its own benefit. The larva survives and turns into a wasp, but the spider is reduced to inaction. A destructive force has been unleashed. So ambition and greed for its own sake is destructive.

A greed based on an underlying dream to succeed within the morals of the human society is good, but unmoored to the underpinnings of humanity they have the spark to turn a human being into a tyrant. There are examples in history, from Hitler, Mussolini, Lenin, Mao, Saddam Hussein, Gaddaffi, Mubarak, Genghis Khan and several others that have turned the tide of human history by using the “common good of all people” into a dictatorship of unbridled tyranny.  

A society that nurtures the individual desire and ambition towards a dream, controls its destiny. The society that demonizes individuality for the view from a collective lens of group think is on its way to oblivion. 

So light the flame of your desire and help humanity seek its own fortunes. Strive for your dream. Live and shine the beacon of your success so others may follow in your footstep.

I raise a glass to you and the future fortunes of your hard earned success.

Mazal Tov!
Mubarik ho!

Go get 'em!

Friday, April 6, 2012


...And Lessons...

Be great in act, as you have been in thought ~Shakespeare

The stage is set. The dark and the light shades of the terrain spread far into the distance. The sun has risen, the rooster is silent, the silent rumble awakens the landscape, the mental drumbeat sounds. All is in ready. All is now, here is the past, the present and the future. It is the microcosm of human thought and action.

The two armies stand erect with nary a sound. The infantry is in full battle dress. The horses carrying the horsemen with their colorful banners stilled to the silence of the solemnity. The queen stands proud beside her king looking down the fort walls. 

Each army with its complement of colors stands ready to the call of the mental bugle. The strategies are in place, what ifs and if-thens have been addressed. It is now up to execution. Who advances is a predetermined fact. How the other responds is the calamity.

The drum rolls and the march begins, as the armies signal the beginning of the end and an end to this beginning.

The war rages… but we will come back to this later.

Somewhere there is the mobius of thought, an explication of an internal tremor of the neural network of the brain. A thought is externalized and a genius is born. She studies the concept and through the magic of her being and in the caverns of her mind molds and folds the thought till it shines its light and behold something is created from nothing. That something will change the world. She is one of many. She is the future.

As certainly as the wheel traces back and forth, back and forth finding the true circumference in a set of non-repeating numbers. Ah but then here is the proof, arrived at over millennia through experimentation, hypotheses and validation. The mind set of pure contemplation. As the wheel turns so does night into day. A new industry is born

The Newton’s Cradle bangs away at the pendulum balls transferring energies slower and slower into an ever higher state of entropy. The pull and push of nature is bent to a set of laws as understood in the limited capacities of the gyral hills and valleys of the human brain. The forces conspiring with masses to overcome inertial sedation create momentum and in so doing the forces transfer their goods from one form into another. The dynamics of thermal flow reaches the ebb from the flow. Yes, life moves on slowly inching its way to oblivion as the astronomical giants spread farther apart and their glow diminishes to collapse into the pulsating, magnetic singularities that signal ultimate doom of quiet oblivion or the magnificence of a supernova and maybe the “Big Collapse.” Give me light cries Macbeth. Yes indeed for there is too much contemplated darkness here, whether fathomed or real, proven or contemplated, understood or spoken. Light ensures perception that creates reality. Indeed, give us all light.

The hourglass supply of sand falls steadily, as each grain passes the stricture of time and the full empties into the emptiness and makes it full again. The arrow of time is in flight and the monarchs change their costumes and faces to suit their own idyllic sense. The pauper waits by the doorstep looking for something, while the ordinary person walks by evading the drabness of poverty’s costume. The dull colors of silk that flutter in today’s breezes are a reflection to the inner shine. There is much ado about what must be done, but no one to do it. There is much empathy about caring but no one to give it. There is much emotion to fill the heartlessness but no heart that will govern it. The bleat of the sheep, the finger that points, the eye that wants to tear, the mind that desires, all laden with the selfish purpose of the personal flesh, exist to populate the cries and screams that linger in the breezes. Oh what have we become?

But ah, there is the Escher of Escher with its black and white lizards side by side, stuck in the permanent dance to the symphony of existence. 

The staircase that climbs back to its beginning and 

the flight of birds masking the sky, flying away from the doom. Yes life is  juxtaposed between to be or not to be, to do or not to do, to love or not to love, to care or not to care within the personal self. Echoing fantasies with the point of the finger to some other version of humanity’s failings is akin to the same selfishness and personal ambition of superiority that drives the hidden greed. This greed dethrones our better angels in search of shields to protect our personal desires under the guise of “Look, what a tragedy, that is.”

As the Pascal triangle fills itself, fulfilling its destiny with ever-increasing progeny, the world fills itself with life yet all thoughts are never aligned. Thus the warring factions meet on the black and white terrain of win or lose. It is the predicate of the human mind of independent thought that drives the desire. It is the weakness of the human thought to co-opt that of another, it is the strength of purpose that drives the wheel of all our fortunes. We shape or are shaped, we live or allow ourselves to be lived through another’s eye, we desire or wantonly flow in the stream of another’s whims. The choice we make is ours. The battles we fight must also be ours.

And here they are again, armies, bloodied, battered and mostly dead. Only a few samurai of mental and physical strength remain on the battlefield, while the kings castle behind canons and their queens to shield themselves from death and destruction. The massacre is complete and the wounded lie in anguish. The victor stands with his colors over the vanquished and the king and queen bow to the victor who governs half of a half of a half… where a foolish king, never a match to common sense, risks his fortune to the 64 squares of indulgence.

The chess game is over.
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts... Shakespeare

Monday, April 2, 2012


“This above all: to thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Farewell, my blessing season this in thee! ~ Shakespeare

On the eve of a spring morning, a layer of snow compressed beneath the wind swept snowdrift of several feet. The compression caused some heat and a layered boundary of water and ice formed. The ice layer shifted its weight just a little and the whole system of frozen moisture started a journey down the southern face of the mountain. It slid, it rolled, it cascaded down with a roar that seconds later could be heard distance away. As it journeyed downward, it uprooted trees, the hunter firs, the maples, hackberry, hawthorn, the aspen and the crabapple all rolled into a gigantic mass of white rushing down to devour more of the mountain side. The blur of this rush with its sound and fury masked all other thoughts and visuals for that moment. This was it. This was the defining moment for the valley below.

And it was, for that moment in time.

The avalanche ended as they all do at the base of the mountain. There, the huge storm of snow, ice, rocks, trees, some wild animals and human built dwellings lay down its battle dress, swords and shields. The sound echoed for moments later and then it too died. The cacophony of the human spirit awakened, investigated the debacle and there was a wire-to-wire coverage on the news media, which so loves disasters. Fear mongering started soon after that other places were also susceptible to the same. Teams of “experts” were sent with various equipments to measure the snow-depths and the stability of the terrain. Many predictors predicted the potential of a larger avalanche. Traffic below on highways diminished for fear of a flash avalanche. Snow guns boomed day and night to dislodge any such shifting ice sheets. And as always this died down too.  And soon as all things are forgotten, life resumed once again.

So what of this?

Ideas are like that. They get harnessed, from a whim, experience, information, knowledge or ideology, and then compressed and with the will and desire of one idea-maker, are pushed perforce-demanding acceptances. They catch fire in another’s mind, one becomes two and the conflagration spreads. The drumbeat increases, the cacophony becomes deafening and ultimately the whole structure collapses in a charred heap. The more the idea is propounded with the fierceness of the underlying motive and harsh advocacy, the more the idea becomes a cause celebre. The validity of the idea is questioned little and those that question are gathered up in the turmoil and anger of the sentiment, like the trees and the innocent animals.

Not until the winter thaws into spring and time matures, the ice and snow melts, can you see the ruin. The shattered tree trunks, the broken branches, the uprooted early saplings, the animal carcasses and the remnants of human habitat all deposited in the valley below become a testimony to the rage of the cause for that time.

Over time, the abandoned area becomes covered with nature’s foliage and time is forgotten in this buried mass.

Ideas that arise out of a sheer forceful secretion of raw will or hubris without evidence or truth accompanied by vilification of an expressed contrary opinion usually take a temporary force of their own, but they always die with the same intensity from whence they are born. There is insanity in most intensity.

Kenneth Galbraith in his book Anatomy of Power observed that; "power accrues not to the individual who knows;  it goes to the one, who often out of obtuseness, believes that he knows and who can persuade others to that belief."

The louder the vitriol and higher the intensity and temperature of a concept is nothing more then an avalanche, sooner formed, soon rested, soon forgotten and soon buried in time.

The slow plod of a carefully dissected concept persists and goes on to change the world.

As the brilliant theoretical physicist, Richard Feynman said, “Nature cannot be fooled.” Neither can truth.