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New Year's Resolution: First, Do No Harm

by Sandra Smith

My friend Jane is incapable of throwing anything away. She filled up her house, then the garage, and began buying tin storage sheds to hold her stuff in her back yard. Some of it is new, most of it will require hard work to be transformed into treasure. She claims she'll get to it all someday.

I give her a hard time, but because I'm curious about how almost everything works and love to read, I have similar miscellaneous clutter in my head. Would I choose to deliberately get rid of any of it? No. You never know when some bit of information might be useful.

So I rummage around for ideas, looking for interesting patterns or connections. I've been thinking more about connections since I saw the movie What the Bleep Do We Know? I came out reflecting on what an amazing experience I had mixed up with quantum mechanics, addictive behavior, paradox, and who knows what all.

I remember a claim that addictive behaviors such as over-eating actually create change at the cellular level where such behavior is rewarded, creating even more desire for the addiction. I don't know if it's true, but it feels true.

Many of us have always felt that there is a direct link between emotions/attitude and our physical well being. Now we know that it's true. A study was just published by researchers from the University of California-San Francisco that explains basic cellular effects from chronic stress (http://pub.ucsf.edu/newsservices/releases/200411227).

It isn't our imagination. It seems that people who are under long-term chronic stress really do get sick oftener and age faster. What's interesting is that it was found that people's perception of how much stress they were under was key. The more stressed they felt, the greater the physical effect on immune cells

We're being told that emotions really can create physical reactions. It seems reasonable to presume that if we can do it to ourselves, then we can also do it to each other.

Connections. I think of my son, David, and his partner, Jeremy. They got married in San Francisco February 16, 2004. When they came down the courthouse steps with rain cascading off them, and the crowds cheered, Jeremy said, "I felt accepted for the first time in my life."

David and Jeremy have been threatened by fear and hatred all of their lives and now they must fear constitutional amendments — institutionalized hatred. On November 24, 2004, the day before Thanksgiving, they received a letter saying they weren't married after all, and did they want a refund of their license fees?

So I ponder connections between strong emotions and physical effects. It appears that we actually can make ourselves and others sick in body as well as sick in spirit. I also suspect that indifference can be just as harmful as hate. We have large groups of invisibles in our society ­ for example the homeless, the very old, anybody who isn't just like us.

Imagine if it were you were the recipient of all that hate and fear. What could it be doing to you at the basic cellular level? Aren't strong emotions, good or bad, also addictive?

The Holidays are now over and I will try to put into practice what I've learned. I'm going to try to sweep the harmful or angry or spiteful or irritated clutter out of my head. I'm reminded as always this time of year that I should treat others as I would like to be treated.

My New Year's resolution is, fallible human being that I am, that I will do my best to do no harm to others, even in my thoughts.

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