, Corbin, KY

October 8, 2012

Halloween or not, that’s a scary thought

The Times-Tribune

CORBIN — If I start walking slower, I might be getting Alzheimer’s. The same might be said if I do not sleep seven hours straight through each night. These are two findings discussed at the Alzheimer’s Associations 2012 International Conference held in Vancouver, Canada.

They further discuss if I ever experience mild cognitive impairment (MCI), that too just might be a serious indicator of my early stage of Alzheimer’s. These medical doctors specializing in Alzheimer’s also found that if I am becoming a homebody, not wanting to venture much beyond my front door, it might well be an additional indicator that Alzheimer’s has chosen my brain as its home.

What really scares me is that all of these symptoms are found in me. And what further blows my mind is that these symptoms have been with me most all of my life. Could it be that Alzheimer’s and me have been life-time buddies sharing the same lame brain?  

Now, if all this does not scare me and flare up my paranoia, the new research on microscopic bacteria surely does. Trillions of creepy-crawly microbes are all over me (in spite of how much I shower) and are even all in me (in spite of how much I Listerine, Pepto-Bismol, or even take enemas). In fact I am told (by Lita Proctor, director of the National Institute of Health’s Human Microbiome Project) that all of us carry around some 10,000 species of bacteria which actually out number human cells 10 to 1.

Yes, Dr. Proctor says we are all a mess, and there is no getting out of this mess unless we want to get sick or even die. This is a scary shocker! Ninety percent of these nasty, stowaway critters are benign — that is, we need them to be healthy!

Traditional medical efforts that have employed “deluge-tactics,” indiscriminately killing our built-in microscopic bacteria companions are being critiqued and severely modulated. The jolting fact that children in developing countries have lower rates of many ailments (eczema, asthma, allergies, cancer, and obesity) is opening up a whole new definition of bacteria in the field of American medicine. It is revealed that we have been killing the good guys (benign bacteria), in our effort to kill harmful bacteria.

Similarly, it behooves those of us who walk in faith to walk with God. It is a bit scary to wade through the human debris of sin and sickness (like microbes and Alzheimer’s), many times not sure where spiritual or physical dangers lurk.

However, empowered by the divine presence we fear not reaching out in friendship and love to every human being. Though realistically surrounded by danger we have no reason to be scared off in our serving, caring and loving all people. This fearless commitment to this primary command of God — that we have love for one another — floods us with that joy and peace that only God can give. “Love your enemies, do good to those who persecute you.” [Luke 6: 27]

And as far as Alzheimer’s and microbes go, there is no need for us to  be scared. For better or worse we can be had by either. Such is life.

Maybe we best wait for the ghosts and goblins of Halloween for a good scare.

The Rev. John Burkhart Ph.D, is a retired Episcopal priest and professor of psychology