If We Are Unaware of Human Suffering, Does It Exist? Thoughts on Chronic Pain

My sister posted this article on Facebook recently. She suffers from chronic pain and has had trouble getting a diagnosis. This article by psychologist/ neuroendocrinologist Chandler Marrs discusses pain in terms of a philosophical principle. We don’t need to be in the forest to believe that trees fall when we are not there, and that they make noise even when no one is around to hear them.  She says that we tend to think that “awareness predicates existence,” when that is clearly not true. If we close our eyes, the world doesn’t cease to exist.

The big idea in this article involves depending on our ability to “measure” pain objectively as prerequisite to its existence. Does pain only truly exist only when the clinician can objectively perceive it? Is it possible that there are some disease states for which we do not yet have adequate tools to be able to measure it? The fact that millions of people complain of pain where clinicians cannot identify the causes should make us consider the limits of our knowledge and tools. 

Why is this important? In my experience as a healthcare provider, if someone higher in the chain of command ran all the available tests and couldn’t identify a known cause for the pain, then often the conclusion was not favorable. We thought that the patient was seeking drugs, or that they had some kind of mental imbalance. The polite term may have been “somatoform disorder.”  They were often lumped into that big diagnostic basket of “fibromyalgia,” which basically meant “you have pain and we can’t find a reason for it.”  This label could easily function as a flag to dismiss the reality of the patient’s claims.

Marrs also discusses how our perception is affected by our humility and our humanity.  Our compassion is based on our ability to believe that another person is truly suffering.  A lack of empathy can result in an inability to perceive someone else’s problems.

If we put these two factors together we may find that our insensitivity prevents us from believing someone’s  complaint, and concluding that it is not real.  And since there are real “malingerers” and drug seekers out there, we can easily put people into that category when they don’t fit. The result is tragic.

She writes:

“In the case of modern medicine, if the suffering is invisible to current diagnostic tests and intractable to medical therapeutics, it is not real. Indeed, whether cognitively or reflexively, every time a physician dismisses a patient’s complaint or prescribes an anti-depressant for pain, he denies the existence and veracity of their suffering. He denies the tree in the forest, because he does not see or hear it himself in the context necessary to recognize it – e.g. by currently available diagnostic technologies and taxonomies. Here, medical technology, and the physicians who wield the technology, assume an infallibility that precludes the existence of realities beyond their sight lines, beyond their control.”

Source: If We Are Unaware of Human Suffering, Does It Exist? – Hormones Matter

Six Easy Ways to Tell If That Viral Story Is a Hoax

This is a really cool article that explains some of the ways that amateur internet detectives (as well as pro’s and, yes, you can use them too) can easily determine if elements of a viral story (such as photos and vidoes) are genuine.  These tools can be used for much more than defeating a hoax.  And there are some tools here that I will definitely use in the future.

“…News in the digital age spreads faster than ever, and so do lies and hoaxes. Just like retractions and corrections in newspapers, online rebuttals often make rather less of a splash than the original misinformation. As I have argued elsewhere, digital verification skills are essential for today’s journalists, and academic institutions are starting to provide the necessary training.”

Most fascinating to me? The reverse image search, Youtube Data Viewer, and Fotoforensics. Check out the site for links.

Also, note this one:

Jeffrey’s Exif Viewer

“Photos, videos and audio taken with digital cameras and smartphones contain Exchangeable Image File (EXIF) information: this is vital metadata about the make of the camera used, and the date, time and location the media was created. This information can be very useful if you’re suspicious of the creator’s account of the content’s origins. In such situations, EXIF readers such as Jeffrey’s Exif Viewer allow you upload or enter the URL of an image and view its metadata.”

Source: Six Easy Ways to Tell If That Viral Story Is a Hoax

Essentialism Ch. 5 Questions for Discussion- The Escape


Solitude Quote Picasso

Questions for Essentialism  Chapter 5

This is a list of discussion questions to help work through the content of the book “Essentialism” By Greg McKeown.

Download a pdf of these questions here: Essentialism Questions Ch. 5

Major principles:

In order to figure out what is essential we need designated times and spaces in order to think.  These must be free from other obligations and distractions.

Key examples/illustrations

  • “Do not call Monday” from Frank O’brien of Conversations
  • The d.school at Stanford and their thinking spaces.
  • Isaac Newton and his time of solitude writing the Principia Mathematica
  • Jeff Weiner CEO of LinkedIn schedules 2 hours everyday where nothing is planned.
  • Bill Gates habit (think week) of taking 2 weeks off each year to read and think.
  1. Often our distracted schedules and frenetic pace prevent us from having time to think and reflect. How would you rate your life and schedule in this regard? Does the idea of carving out time for this seem like a reality in your life?
  2. Frank O’brien sets aside one day per month for his employees to get away to think and reflect. This helps them maintain a level of clarity and innovation.  Availability for this is also a barometer for him to understand his work force. “If somebody can’t make the meeting because of too much going on, that tells me either we’re doing something inefficiently or we need to hire more people.”   What does this barometer say about your life?
  3. It is often difficult to make time and space for reflection because of our daily demands.  We get caught up responding to needs and emergencies that we cannot extricate ourselves to improve the systems and organizations behind the emergencies. Which parts of your weekly/monthly schedule keep you from time to reflect?
  4. What is keeping you from scheduling uninterrupted time for peaceful reflection?
  5. Do you have a place where you can “escape” and think? How well is this working? List 3 possible locations you can use to escape the calls, tweets, emails, and emergencies that keep you from time to reflect.
  6. According to McKeown, “focus is not only something we have, it is something we do.”  What keeps you from “doing” focused work? Make a list of the top 5 interruptions and distractions in your life and business.
  7. What can you do to get several hours away from these top interruptions and distractions from #6?
  8. Does technology distract you? What aspects of your connectivity hinder you from the most important things?  (smart phone, social media, email, voicemail, etc).
  9. McKeown tells the story of the highly distracted executive that just couldn’t disconnect. In a moment of desperation he decided to give his phone away and to go to a motel with no internet access to get work done. He stayed there for 8 weeks until the major project was completed. What major project or life goal could you accomplish if you were willing to get away for just a day or two? Explore this idea before moving on.
  10. What nonessential things can you give up so that you can schedule regular (weekly/monthly) time for solitude and reflection?  List something to give up or “quit” this week for a higher purpose.
  11. Jeff Weiner of LinkedIn said his single most valuable productivity tool was planning 2 hours every work day where nothing else was scheduled.  (p. 68) Right now take a moment to dream (in writing) about how your life and work would change if you did this? What can you imagine would happen to your stress level? To your focus? To the way you treat others? To your productivity?
  12. Whether you take a whole day or week off to read and think, where can you build in a small amount of time to enrich your mind and soul through reading and thinking?
  13. List 3 books/articles that can help you understand your life/business/market better.  Take a moment to write out what the potential benefits of this. If you can’t think of any, write down the names of 2 people you can talk to for suggestions. What will you ask them?

15 Mobile Trends to Watch in 2015

15 Mobile Trends to Watch in 2015.

“2015 is, more than anything else, the year the smartphones and mobile tablets will be used more than all other devices in the market”

This from Mashable. Interesting stuff. I am not an old guy that hates technology, but to be honest some of this causes anxiety for me.  The changes that are coming along with our technology and devices is accelerating faster than our security, ethics, and our ability to navigate a connected world.  So… we will be able to be constantly connected all the time, everywhere, with every device. But is that actually going to help us live a good life? Questions that we need to ask before we quaff the whole bottle.

One big take away for me is the need for two factor authentication for accounts such as Google, Banking, Evernote, etc..  This is a procedure that requires 2 “passwords” to confirm access to an account. It prevents someone who may steal a password or device from accessing your stuff.  You can find more info on two factor authentication here.


A Good Source for Info and News: The Pew Forum

From time to time as a pastor or student I find myself looking to find some statistics about religion in America or current news related to religion and culture. The Pew Forum may be a good place to look if you are looking for similar info for research purposes. They conduct research but also give links to current news in issues such as gay marriage and the death penalty. It is a good resource.

Some Irish Music, for Free

I found this website on Podbean. It is pleasant flute music with a little drum in the background, enjoyable to listen to and Free. You can listen at the site, download or podcast.


Here is another one:


Let It Out!

Have you ever felt the need to express yourself in a dead language? Ever felt empty because you didn’t know any dead languages with which to express your deep, personal, innermost thoughts? Well now in these moments of despair you can have hope, without having to spend lots of time studying (glacies, amicitia et rex!). You can use the Latin Motto Generator website.

Here are a few very important samples. Who knows? There might be deep hidden meanings within these ancient words:

Ex scientia focus (from knowledge, hearth)

pertinacia et aqua (determination and water)

In vento ultio (in wind, vengeance)

Seminary Lectures and Training for Free

I love to find free stuff, if it is good quality. BiblicalTraining.org is doing a great job. They offer a bunch of seminary classes from good evangelical teachers for free. I am currently listening to the one on Philosophy and it is good. There is a series of 3 lectures on the history of the English Bible by Daniel Wallace. It is wonderful. He is a true scholar and presents compelling reasons to thank God for our Bible translations. (and also to see that the King-James-only position has some serious historical hurdles). Anyway I hope you enjoy. There is no excuse in America to be ignorant!

Great Internet Resource

I found this site at the recommendation of a friend. It is kinda like an internet library. It is an attempt to make public domain materials available free of charge. They have lots of out of print books that have been scanned, and also access to lots of free audio books. not all of the audio books are of good quality. Some are read by a computer, ghhhplt! But some others are well read by volunteers. There is lots of other stuff too, it is a good resource. lots of good quality FREE stuff.

Internet Archives