Some of you may have already noticed I often refer to our ancient ancestors when analyzing reasons for, and the treatment of, our aches and pains. Although there is fossilized evidence that early homo sapiens cared for the old and infirm, it’s well-known the average length of a prehistoric human’s life was only 20-30 years.
When asked by my patients why they’re physically suffering at the age of 50 or 60, I often remind them to give thanks to the many factors which have allowed them to live this long life, including their body’s ability to heal itself.
During the holidays, we often give thanks for our health. Many times we’re thankful to some modern medical treatment which has given us back our life or quality of life: something like a triple bypass or a total hip replacement. But let’s look back even further, beyond the obvious medical miracles at some of the simple things for which we should be thankful. Things which have allowed us to prosper on a profound level… like shoes.
If a caveman got a thorn in his foot and couldn’t forage long distances for food, he would die and so might those relying on him.
Or laws, without which, killing our competition, even women and children, was as much a scourge on prehistoric and early civilized life as any bug. Look at the average lifespan in places like Angola (38) and other countries with political instability and lawlessness. It’s amazing what laws have done for our life expectancy and the quality of our lives. It’s by no means perfect, but laws deserve a big note of thanks on our list.
General anesthesia… It speaks for itself. Discovered in 1846, imagine a world without it.
Vaccines and antibiotics… Despite our fears of dangerous side effects, our world would be a more sparsely populated place without them.
Birth control… I’m not just talking about pills and IUDs. Because childbirth was a leading cause of death for both mother and child, just the knowledge of how to control birthrate has had an amazing impact on the lives of women.
The roofs over our heads, seat belts, Vitamin C, sterilization… These are all things which now seem commonplace and no longer receive thanks around the dining room table but are every bit a part of what has kept humankind alive and thriving.
So give thanks for that quadruple bypass, but also give thanks to the lowly rubber glove.