The Secret of Good Health
Dear old and new friends,
I find it amazing how common it is for conversations, especially on the telephone, to begin with the question, “How are you?” For some I suspect this is simply a courteous way to greet another, and not a serious question requiring a significant answer. For others, it can be a polite way to begin a conversation and also a serious question of concern about the other’s health. The irony is that this is an ancient question from about 500 (B.C.E.) in Babylon, once located in present day Iraq.
According to historians, the Babylonians, unlike the Egyptians, had very few doctors because they left the curing of illness to the public! A sick person was required to be seated or placed in Babylon’s city square, and citizens by law were forbidden to pass by the sick person without inquiring, “How are you?” Passersby who had also suffered or had a family member who had suffered the same affliction, or even had seen it treated, would give advice to the sick on how their affliction could be cured.
Paradoxically, today we like the ancient citizens of Babylon tend to often do exactly the same to both friend and stranger by suggesting they ask their physician for this or that medical cure that helped us. If you like so many others today begin your conversations by asking the other, “How are you?”, then let your question be a serious one and not just a polite inquiry. Serious questions require the asker give the gift of all the time the other needs to answer the inquiry, and to listen without giving advice…unless asked!
The Dutch physician and chemist Hermann Boerhaave, best known for his Elementa Chemiae, died in 1738. He left behind a sealed book entitled The Deepest Secrets of the Medical Arts. The book was still sealed when it was later auctioned for $20,000 in gold. When the new owner broke the seal and opened the book he found that 99 of the 100 pages were blank! However, on the title page was a handwritten note by the author Hermann Boerhaavve: “Keep your head cool, your feet warm, and you will make the best doctor poor.”
Two simple easy prescriptions that are not easy to swallow. To “keep your head cool,” not enflamed by anger at others or oneself for stupid mistakes, requires discipline. “Keep your head cool” requires refrigeration by a peaceful lifestyle and living with a non-judgmental acceptance of reality and humanity’s propensity for ridiculous inconsistency. “Keep your feet” warm by having a courageous heart that isn’t afraid to confront authority when it is wrong. Having cold feet is an old sign of being a coward and running from a fight instead of standing your ground. Church and State, the boss and the manager, can all cause “cold feet,” so keep your feet warm and your head cool.