This article first appeared in the December 2019 issue of Lifelines, the Life West student magazine.
Every day on my morning commute, I look out the window of my car and I’m struck by two emotions: terror and wonder. It terrifies me to think that the only thing separating me, hurdling 80 mph down the freeway, from the car next to me traveling a similar speed, are those thin white lines painted between our lanes. It also sparks wonder in me to think that we accept these lines as a protective barrier between the giant metal projectiles we strap ourselves into on a daily basis. The only thing keeping us from meandering across the asphalt on a whim is the belief we have constructed as a society that our lanes are separate entities. But more than 3,000 people die in car accidents every single day. Dividing the freeway by lines does not change the fact that based on their proximity, the fate of one lane is ultimately entangled with the one next to it.
Today’s curricula teach us to believe the human being should be treated the same way as these freeways. We have painted imaginary white lines throughout the body to divide it up into separate and distinct systems that function independently. We have decided that the stomach is an organ unto itself, and have ignored how much control the gut has on the chemistry of our brains – another supposedly separate and distinct tissue. There is no truer example of “organization” than the study of anatomy. But new science increasingly shows us that our body cannot be compartmentalized in this fashion. A look at the extensive network of nerves, blood vessels and fascia that spread throughout every inch of our body is evidence that one tissue cannot be estranged from another. Every part of us is meticulously entwined so that we can effectively interact with the world around us. This understanding of the human body is why Chiropractic is attractive to so many of us. Hundreds of bright and hopeful minds have realized that the best way to heal a human being is to look at the health of the entire being.
This philosophy of vitalism lends itself not only to the human body but also to the human soul. I remember a number of coaches throughout my athletic career told me to “leave everything at the door” when I stepped on the field. Employers have always told me to keep my work life and home life separate. The older I get, however, the more I question whether these practices only serve to hold me back. How can a student learn if their passion has been left at home? How can doctors fully care for their patients if they have left their emotions on a shelf by the door? How are we to Give, Do, Love and Serve if the best parts of us are not available to be given? Why do we insist on creating, and abiding by, these barriers that seem only to keep us from living one whole and fulfilling life?
Berlin has shown us that walls crumble. Jim Crowe has shown us that segregation impedes progression, and Brown v. Board of Education has shown us that it cannot last. How will the care of human health ever advance if we continue to live in the past? Perhaps as members of the chiropractic profession, it is our responsibility to show that mechanistic health care serves only as a barrier to the restoration of real human vitality. Likewise, perhaps it is time we do away with the barriers we have created for ourselves. Just not the lines on the freeway – let’s leave those intact.