THE MARRIAGE OF THE SUN AND MOON

DISPATCHES FROM THE FRONTIERS OF CONSCIOUSNESS

The 19 essays gathered in this collection were produced as newsletters while Weil was a Fellow of the Institute of Current World Affairs. The fellowship allowed the Harvard-trained physician to travel in the U.S., Central, and South America, following his heart's desire: the pursuit of altered states of consciousness as a means of realizing the full potential of the human nervous system. The "marriage of the sun and moon" is, just one of many metaphors Weil chooses (based on his experiences of eclipse-watching) to express the transcendent feelings experienced when there is union between complementary states of mind (conscious/ unconscious; higher/lower). He emerges as a very open person, just the sort to try for a "high"—and be successful. Indeed, he makes a point of saying that altered states of consciousness are inherent in the nervous system and can be triggered by many sorts of events—dancing, drugs, the sweatbox, eclipse-watching, even vomiting—which cultists can learn to control. He also stresses that a lot depends on set and setting. (One man's hallucinogen is another man's poison.) Most of the essays deal with drugs; here, Weil emphasizes what he considers to be significant differences between the use of the natural plant (good) vs. the synthesized or purified extract (bad). Thus, in an essay on cocaine he sharply contrasts the merits of chewing cocoa leaves vs. snorting the crystalline powder. He also issues strong warnings on Datura (Jimsonweed in the U.S.), has cautionary advice on marijuana, and makes salient remarks about cultural relativism in relation to all drugs. A surprising inclusion is an essay on Uri Geller in which Weil is seen first as convinced believer—until he spends a day with the Amazing Randi. Still, he likes to believe there is Something There. . . . So, unabashed advocacy of transcendent union, with some sophisticated observations on drugs and cultures.

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 1980

ISBN: 0618479058

Page Count: 324

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1980

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Useful but disappointingly commonplace tips.

A SHORT GUIDE TO A LONG LIFE

In a follow-up to The End of Illness (2012), which explored how technological advances will transform medicine, Agus (Medicine and Engineering/Univ. of Southern California) restates time-tested but too often overlooked principles for healthy living.

The author outlines simple measures that average citizens can take to live healthier lives and extend their life spans by taking advantage of modern technology to develop personalized records. These would include a list of medical tests and recommended treatments. Agus also suggests keeping track of indicators that can be observed at home on a regular basis—e.g., changes in energy, weight, appetite and blood pressure, blood sugar and general appearance. He advises that all of this information be made available online, and it is also helpful to investigate family history and consider DNA testing where indicated. Along with maintaining a healthy weight, Agus emphasizes the importance of eating a balanced diet, with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and a minimum of red meat. Avoid packaged vitamins and food supplements, and if possible, grow your own vegetables or buy frozen vegetables, which will generally be fresher than those on supermarket shelves. The author also warns against processed foods that make health claims but contain additives or excessive amounts of sugar or fat. Regular mealtimes and plenty of sleep, frequent hand-washing and oral hygiene are a must; smoking and excessive time in the sun should also be avoided. Agus recommends that adults should consider taking statins and baby aspirin as preventative measures. He concludes with a decade-by-decade checklist of annual medical examinations that should be routine—e.g. blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol screenings, from one’s 20s on; colonoscopies, prostate exams and mammograms later—and a variety of top-10 lists (for example, “Top 10 Reasons to Take a Walk”).

Useful but disappointingly commonplace tips.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-3095-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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THE END OF ILLNESS

Oncologist Agus (Medicine and Engineering/Univ. of Southern California) predicts that the application of advanced technology for modeling complex systems will transform 21st-century medicine.

The author writes that a remark Nobel Laureate Murray Gell-Mann made to him in 2009—“Look at cancer as a system"—transformed the way he views his own specialty and the entire field of preventative medicine. It made him realize that “[r]ather than honoring the body as the exceedingly complex system that it is, we keep looking for the individual gene that has gone awry, or for the one ‘secret’ that can improve our health.” Agus writes that although the ability to sequence the entire human genome is a great step forward, it is insufficient for achieving a significant breakthrough. Even though it may start with a mutation, cancer “is a dynamic process that's happening…far from the confines of a static piece of DNA”—it involves the body's immune system, its ability to regulate cell growth, metabolism and more. Agus directs his university’s Center for Applied Molecular Medicine and is the co-founder of two personalized medicine companies, Applied Proteomics and Navigenics. His hope is that their research will contribute to developing better analytical tools for preventative medicine and for the treatment of cancers. These will address the functioning of the body as a whole, applying digital technology already used by physicists to provide virtual models of cancers and model the action of proteins that regulate cell communication in the body. He also hopes to develop tools that will provide information on the concentration of different proteins in a drop of blood taken from a patient, which may reveal the onset of disease. The author also includes some guiding principles and warnings about certain healthy practices that may not be so healthy. A refreshing change of pace in the medical field, but by venturing beyond his field of expertise to pontificate on a wide range of subjects, Agus makes his otherwise intriguing narrative difficult to follow.  

 

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-1017-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2011

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