Giving Blood

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In a few minutes, I will be taking a calming drug so I can give some of my very popular blood and not faint. Yes, Dr. Bossypants was born a universal donor (meaning I’m O-negative). They love me, but I’m a needle-in-the-vein-phobe. When they begin draining blood out of me, I drop like a stone. And I get very sick when they yank me up from the howling blackness. They don’t like this outcome, nor do I. So, by introducing the magic of a vasodilator, we all win. The first time I tried the prescribed drug, and didn’t faint, I was so happy I bought a chainsaw.

Giving blood is different than giving a kidney, or bone marrow, or part of your liver. It is different than donating sperm or eggs. It is different than making sure your body can be used for pieces and parts after your death. And it is different than sharing your uterus and a lot of bodily functions so a fetus can develop into a fellow human being. But there are similarities. Each of these kind acts can give, save, or improve lives. Each should be a loving, conscious act that involves willingly extending the use of the body you were born with.

Such acts are tremendous and praiseworthy gifts. Sometimes, such acts can be quite painful or inconvenient. But they should never be mandatory. Autonomy over one’s body and body parts is foundational to human freedom and dignity. We are rightly appalled when we hear of forced use of someone’s body for slave labor, sex, or scientific research. Forcing someone to use their body to bring a pregnancy to term should be equally appalling. Yes, people die because we choose not to give in certain situations. Yes, the unwanted fetus’s chance to develop and be born is ended if the use of the woman’s body is denied. But as I’ve pointed out in an earlier blog, I suspect, if given the choice, many fetuses would not wish to be born unwanted. It is never an easy choice.

These profoundly personal decisions must entail adult reasoning and be left entirely to the individual. Even though giving a gallon of my nice O-negative blood would save more lives in the short run, it would be a very bad idea. It would end the source. Giving of our bodies to save or nurture others must be done in the context of our overall responsibilities to ourselves, our families, and our community.  People, we are in dire need of wisdom and compassion. Legislating the use of someone’s body involves neither.

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The Eyes Have It

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There are many philosophies, faiths, and religions that purport to explain the human condition and offer a path to salvations of various sorts. None are entirely accurate. Part of the human condition is that we are destined to understand in part, not in whole. Dr. Bossypants is frustrated by this, but she bravely soldiers on. She would rather have all the answers, and she would very much like them to be correct. However, she manages to meekly accept these limits most days.

Another part of the human condition is for “true believers” to deny the incompleteness of their understanding and jump into a given system with both feet and every available neuron. Dr. Bossypants is horrified and frightened by this. The absolute rigidity of fundamentalism provides a shelter from uncomfortable truths, an excuse for ignorance, and failure to change or repent of actions that cause great harm.

Once, decades ago, when Dr. Bossypants was experiencing anxiety about public speaking, a colleague named Diana shared a strategy for overcoming this fear. Diana said that before she began speaking, she looked out over the crowd and put love in her eyes. Yes. Love. Adoration. Unconditional acceptance. Compassion for every single person wiggling in their folding chair, waiting for the speaker to entertain or enlighten.

Dr. Bossypants was a bit skeptical, but she tried it. It worked. The anxiety abated as Dr. Bossypants tapped into that part of the brain that produces endorphins of love. The muscles around the eyes soften. The lips relax and turn slightly upward. The eyes themselves moisten a bit and draw energy from deep within the brain—the right supramarginal gyrus, to be exact. Empathy replaces self-consciousness. When we will ourselves to emit compassion through our eyes (and face), we change our center of mental gravity. We can get past our isolating and destructive fears and join a larger community.

The astute reader has already made the connection here. The world is filled with people who do not put love in their eyes before speaking. They may be less anxious and more cocky–clinging to the idea that they know the whole truth—but Dr. Bossypants hastens to point out, again, that no human being knows the whole truth. Way down deep, we all realize this and are all a little afraid. We just cover it up different ways. People of all faiths and no faiths, listen. It is time to humble-up. It’s dangerous to believe you have the whole story because this leads you to do things that violate the most basic necessities for human functioning and survival:

  • Compassion (love for the enemy, love for the neighbor, love of our home—the earth)
  • Hope (for the future, for the now, for a better way)
  • Generosity (what goes around does, indeed, come around)
  • Honesty (lying never leads to a better community)

Love is not involuntary. Humility is not involuntary. Salvation has many definitions, and survival is not assured. So what’s a body to do?

Well. Like Diana said, put love in those eyes of yours. Let the muscles in your face surround and enhance your loving eyes. Be brave. Be forgiving. Be honest. Do this as if your life depended on it because as they say, the life you save may be your own.