Tag Archives: health

August 6 and August 9

August 6, the day Little Boy fell on Hiroshima, and August 9, the day Fat Man fell on Nagasaki, have become haunting days for me. Oblivious until the 80s, I became involved when Church Women United planned a Ribbon project. They sought a mile’s worth of individual yard-long muslin pieces decorated with a peace message to be held hand to hand around the pentagon.  More than a mile of ribbon and people converged on Washington.DC for that march.

For me the most profound part of that weekend was sitting in the park across from the White House observing the annual moment of silence concurrent with the people of Hiroshima at exactly the time, their time, the bomb had fallen..

That moment has been surpassed by this year’s installation, Suspended Moment. It’s the first time I’ve attended an installation enacted and not just one in a museum with a continual loop video.  The artist, a third generation Hiroshima survivor, made a sculpture, a cloth version, to size, of Fat Man, the Nagasaki bomb. She made it from silk from her grandmother’s kimono studio and stitched her hair into it to meld the generations.

D setting

The installation, lasted half an hour. The action was a poem read at the beginning and end that consisted of words from Obama’s speech at Hiroshima. Single words. First in English then in Japanese, as chanted dialog, each word repeated several times. The two walking toward each other, then together, then apart. “Mirror.” “Suffering.” “We look.”  “We survive,”  “We survive fear.”  (I don’t remember them all.) In between a butoh dance (somewhat like mime). In the Q and A afterwards, the choreographer said he’d aimed to create moments rather than a narrative, moments like combing hair, putting on lipstick. And there were more obvious moments of fear.

Dance 1
The sound was part vocal and part computerized music, haunting, along with occasional voices of children playing and an almost continual drone of planes.

Suspended Moment has been performed at Los Alamos, where the atomic bomb was developed, and at Hanford, where nuclear waste is awaiting cleanup.
The atrocity of Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings (and all the health/environmental aspects of nuclear programs) is certainly one of the “Never again” moments of history. To that end, 122 nations recently ratified the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (info here and here)

It is not a big surprise that the nuclear holding nations boycotted the negotiations. However, the hope is that making nuclear as illegal as biological and chemical weapons will change the discussion. To that end we can communicate with our representatives.

The memorial event was sponsored by Physicians for Social Responsibility . They are concerned with other problems (“we must prevent what we cannot cure”) as well and are worth following.

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An Important Book: Being Mortal

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the EndBeing Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I thought that I had thought all the necessary questions about end-of-life decisions, and I had thought many. But Gawande opens up new questions for evaluating those issues.

Gawande also opens up new ways to think about dealing with debilitating changes forced by disease or age. He offers a critique of traditional nursing homes, of what “assisted living” has become, and of medical practice based more on procedures than persons. His illustrations with case studies–some showing failure, others showing success–take the book beyond theory to readable.

Gawande challenges the narrow focus on safety and extending life and replaces it with concern for quality of life. He notes that people making quality-of-life decisions for patients often think in terms of what they, themselves, want, not what the patient would want. He questions the Maslow hierarchy’s application to all ages and stages. “Freedom to be the author of our lives” within whatever circumstances we are dealt becomes primary. He offers discussion questions for medical personnel and family to use to understand what the patient sees as desirable quality of life, then urges discussion of ways to accomplish it.

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