Vitalism Signs

By Rebecca Koch 

It’s not as easy to be true to one’s principles when under stress. There’s not much I won’t eat, but I do draw the line at Vienna sausages or, as some of us say in the South, “Vie-EE-ner sawsidjiz.” (No, Southerners are not stupid, but I certainly realize saying things like “Vie-EE-ner sawsidjiz” makes us sound like it.) Here’s the thing with the Vie-EE-ners: I just don’t eat pressed and formed foods that aren’t required to say anything more detailed about the protein they contain than “meat.” I’m sorry. That’s just not specific enough. But, if I were literally starving—or, you know, hadn’t eaten in like eight hours or something—I don’t know how long my principle would hold up. If I were truly hard up for food, I’d eat the Vie-EE-ners. In the same way, living a vital health lifestyle is pretty easy as long as things are going well and you don’t have symptoms or a serious diagnosis. It takes convictions and the ability to communicate them to respond with the most vitalistic choices available when we have symptoms or medical challenges and to use our philosophy to maintain a vital lifestyle, even in the face of difficult medical choices.

So, let’s talk about “expressing vital health.” That phrase says two things because the word “expression” has two primary meanings: 1) to convey or represent a thought or feeling using words, gestures or posture and 2) in scientific language, such as genetics, to describe the various characteristics that result from a particular combinations of genes—the body expressing its own genes as brown eyes or blue eyes, for example.

Clearly, language that accurately describes the philosophy, tenets and practices of a vitalistically based lifestyle is a critical need of the vitalistic thinker. We’re still learning how to express just what it is we mean when we say we’re “leading the vital health revolution.” As with any other meaningful conversation, we must define our terms. And, in the same way genetics uses the word “expression,” a vital health model says we are “expressing health” when experiencing symptoms, such as sneezing, coughing, etc., while the medically oriented society in which we live has always described the presence of such symptoms as “being sick.” For example: Is it good or bad to throw up? Well, if you throw up on your preacher’s shoes at the Fourth of July church picnic because it was 105 degrees and you thought it would be a good idea to polish off the last of the potato salad, well, that’s not too pleasant, and it’s certainly embarrassing. But, if you’ve eaten spoiled potato salad that could potentially kill you, well, then, throwing up is a really good thing.

What about pain? How many of us who claim to live a life guided by vitalism also have the vitalistic convictions necessary to trust that pain has a purpose? The pain of childbirth comes to mind. Many medical thinkers cannot imagine there is any reason for women to experience pain during childbirth and believe the epidural to be the perfect solution. These folks cannot believe that millennia of adaption on the part of a consciously intelligent universe produced the childbirth process to work exactly the way it does for a reason. They cannot fathom that the pain might be less pronounced in mothers who trust the childbirth process or trust that the pain they do experience may be the trigger that prepares their bodies not only for the completion of the birth, but also for the rigors of motherhood. Perhaps coming through the pain with the reward of new life that is completely dependent on her care is the mechanism through which nature impresses on the new mother that she’s got enough invested in this new life to ensure its survival. 

Medical science, despite its many descriptive strengths and life-saving advances, is just like the rest of us in that it has no idea what life actually is, but doesn’t fully grasp that fact as a limitation in its practice. Science allows us to describe the chemical processes carried out by an organism that is alive and that have ceased to operate in one that is dead. But, life itself—that spark that causes the chemical processes to begin and continue until that spark is gone—is the least researched and least well-understood phenomenon known to science. Vital health is about life, about trusting that life is driven by a power—by a conscious intelligence—to know what it’s doing. The hard part comes in trusting the body to heal even when things haven’t gone according to the ideal plan and in developing the language to express our vital health needs and practices for use in conjunction with medical services. Practicing vital health isn’t about eschewing the use of all medical services. It’s about using medical services in ways that are consistent with our observations, through deductive reasoning, that the body knows more about healing itself than we do.