Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Trying to Make Sense of the Senseless
The weather around Virginia is bleak. Dark grey clouds fill the sky and the wind howls through the trees like some possessed banshee. All is not right with the world and all you need do is turn on the television to find out why.
Yesterday’s events on the campus of Virginia Tech will long be remembered as part of one of America’s darkest days. One deranged man inflicted his insanity on 32 fellow Hokies in a dark, expressionless mechanical manner. 32 families have been given great cause to mourn today, and every single one of them will be asking one unanswerable question.
There is no single answer to that question. No one person will be able to get inside the head of the shooter and know what truly drove him to such a murderous rage. Yes, there will be those who will claim to have what those who grieve seek – but in truth those words will ring very hollow.
As human beings, we seek to make sense of senseless acts. Investigations – both those official and those from other sources – will be conducted. They will claim to be focused only on the events in question, but all they’re really interested in is assigning blame.
There will be those who blame America’s gun culture on both sides of the issue. Some will use this tragedy as a springboard from which to launch anti-gun campaigns. They believe the only way to prevent similar tragedy is to rid the landscape of all firearms. There will also be those who will claim the answer to this tragedy is for more guns to be in the hands of responsible people.
Personally, I’m wary of anyone who would attempt to place the foundation of any argument atop the coffins of 32 college students and teachers.
There is, as the Preacher says, a time to every purpose under heaven. This is a time to weep, and a time to mourn those whose lives were taken just as they had begun. With time, however, perhaps we can remember them for how they lived rather than how they died. Then this time to weep and mourn may turn itself into a time to heal, laugh, and yes maybe even dance.
It is difficult now to look upon life as a transitory state. That said, I take comfort (and hope others will as well) in the poetic words of W. W. Phelps:
There is no end to glory.A few weeks ago the world celebrated Easter. Easter is a celebration of life beyond this mortal sphere and at times like these I take comfort in knowing the tomb is empty.
There is no end to love.
There is no end to union.
There is no death above.
Here endeth the lesson.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Good News On The Stem Cell Front
With all the hype given to the possible medical breakthroughs contained within the Holy Grail of medical research commonly known as Stem Cells, very little if any actual results have come from that final frontier.
Many proponents of embryonic stem cell research claim that, if given access to federal funds, stem cells could unlock the panacea of medicine and lead to cures to everything from cancer to male pattern baldness. All it takes is the federal blessing to take that which many people consider to be a life and sacrifice it on the altar of science so that others may live in a disease free world.
The most recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association has some fantastic news on the stem cell front, though if you look hard enough you’ll find it has nothing to do with embryos. In a Brazilian study conducted at University of São Paulo in Ribeirão Preto, recently diagnosed Type I (insulin dependant) diabetics were injected with stem cells from their own bodies after undergoing a light round of immune system suppressing therapy. I’ll let you read the details for yourself, but what I’m most interested in is results.
According to the co-author of the study, University of Chicago’s Richard Burt, 93% of the patients in the first trial did not need synthetic insulin after the “autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation” therapy.
Some of you may look at this study and say “So What?” Well, thanks for asking. Let me illustrate.
Diabetes kills more people than AIDS. It is the number one cause of blindness in the United States, in addition to being one of the leading causes of heart disease, kidney failure, and a host of other ailments far too numerous to mention here.
Any person receiving a diagnosis of Diabetes Mellitus today is faced with a lifetime of daily pricks, injections, and blood tests which said person must endure on a daily basis. Many great advances have been made in the past decade in diabetes treatment and management, but that’s just another fancy term for life support.
In my opinion, this true breakthrough in diabetes research holds the first real hope to cure this disease which ravages far too many people – millions of whom are children who want nothing more than to be able to eat a piece of birthday cake without having to worry about how much insulin they’ll have to take to function afterwards.
This is where the stem cell research money should go – an effort which shows real promise for real results.
And best of all, the source for the stem cells can be found within the person getting the therapy.
This might just be one of the few times everyone can be happy about something.
Here endeth the lesson.
Memo to the Gente Fina at the University of São Paulo in Ribeirão Preto: Bem feito, gente! Se ainda precisar de sujetios, me liga!