Mercier, David (2012).
A beautiful medicine: A radical look at the essence of health and healing.
Easton, MD: Still Pond Press.
$21.95 | Pp. 282 + xxxii | ISBN-13: 978-0-9852425-0-3
A Beautiful Medicine fell into my lap at a critical time. A period during which I was/am all focused on “the bright lights of technology” under which to explore mind-body medicine. Fitting A Beautiful Medicine into my reading of “sciency” material dominated by cold, hard research data was a blessing. Yes, we need the science! Yes, we need to scrutinize alternative medicine and mind-body modalities scientifically and with the latest high tech toys imaginable! And yes again; we need to demonstrate clinical efficacy. David agrees with that. But, as a scientist, drowning in the abyss of impersonal, cold, hard data it is easy to forget why I am engaging in human subjects research in the first place.
A Beautiful Medicine reaffirms that healing is a cosmic process! Health and healing are more than an individualized event. “My healing” and “my body” even though true as it were, is philosophically misleading. It is a castle in the air, making us cultivate the belief that we are separate from the universe.
A Beautiful Medicine reminds me not only on the humanness behind each and every human research subject; it reminds on the journey of the wounded healer. David’s story, skillfully interwoven with patient accounts, is a personal tale of an incredible healing journey. As a young man, after setting out to Sri Lanka, plagued with health problems, David had to abandon a dream of becoming a Buddhist monk returning to the continental U.S. During this period, David’s innate wisdom to listen to his own physiology, the symptoms, the pains, the sorrows, charted a trajectory towards health, wellness, meaning and purpose.
As I immersed myself into A Beautiful Medicine, the Jungian archetypal dynamic of the “wounded healer” jumped off the pages. A clear picture of David as an extraordinary healer formed in my mind. David is an artist who clearly understands his medium exceptionally well, chiseling away on conundrums and limitations of earth’s many medicinal systems. Whether it is cutting edge 21st century Western medicine, Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, naturopathy, homeopathy, or Native American medicine, David asks an intensely poignant question. “If we get healthy than what?”
A Beautiful Medicine is a fresh look at old problems. Health is more than the absence of disease. Health is so much more than what is left after our symptoms are repaired. After resection of a cancerous growth, many cancer patients find themselves on a mission to rebalance the entire biochemical soup that gave rise to cancer in the first place. Many cancer patients seem to do extraordinarily well meeting the psychosocial aspects of cancer head-on. Somehow, instinctively, they know that the quest for health is part of a transformative journey. David writes “Health and medicine are authentically meaningful only in light of our larger existential and spiritual questions” (p. 257).
In order to arrive at “the whole” David goes to extraordinary lengths to dissect treatment approaches. His passages on the principles of “Controlling”, “Substituting”, and “Catalyzing” are key points to make a case for A Beautiful Medicine. “Control” for example is an absolute necessity in modern medicine. Several scenarios might serve as illustrations to emphasize the importance and need for immediate intervention and control. A burst appendix, a large open wound that requires immediate suture, or the removal of a cancerous growth before it has a chance to metastasize, showcases the capabilities of 21st century medicine and the idea of control quite nicely.
“Substitutes”, on the other hand, could be medications that restore the body to its former glory. A “Substitute” is an aid to a process that the body usually does on its own. Bacterial infections come to mind. The human body is extraordinarily effective in fighting bacterial infections, but sometimes, our bodies need a little help to stave off serious damage by killing off bacterial invaders quickly.
Much like enzymes acting as catalysts, the “Catalysts” discussed by David allow for life sustaining change to take place. We learn from David that “Catalysts” pick up where conventional medicine stops. “Catalysts” move people from absence of disease to vibrant health and wellness.
This is an area where our current healthcare system gets it too many times all wrong. We use “Substitutes” when we unquestionably should be using techniques that “Control.” We use “Control” when we assuredly should be using “Catalysts.” Foolishly enough, sometimes we propose to use “Catalysts,” when we undoubtedly should be throwing all the “Controls” we can muster at a condition. A Beautiful Medicine is a terrific refresher that the business of healthcare is as much an art as it should be based on the evidence.
David’s concepts struck a familiar chord and are validated by exogenous sources as well. For example, reading A Beautiful Medicine I cannot help but remember Dr. John Travis’ Illness-Wellness Continuum or Dr. Jim Gordon’s Manifesto for a New Medicine.
A Beautiful Medicine is also a call to action. A Beautiful Medicine reminds us that health and vitality have a price. Taking excellent care of our bodies via proper nutrition and an active lifestyle can be the expression of a compassionate responsibility. In regards to our pains and sorrows as actors in La Comédie Humaine, health is not about waging war against symptoms but about embracing these pains and sorrows to decipher their meaning. A Beautiful Medicine, calls for symptoms to be reevaluated as “…unabridged human drama that’s been percolating for years…” (p. xxvii).
Health as transformation, medicine as a catalyst; A recipe tried and tested in ~30,000 patient hours! With A Beautiful Medicine, David provides a clear and concise blueprint for a medicine that aids in the metamorphosis toward full potential of patient and practitioner alike.
Whether you are currently a patient, a clinician, or as I, a researcher drowning in cold, hard data trying to figure out the sexiest statistical assessment and analysis of them all, A Beautiful Medicine belongs on the bookshelf of anyone involved in a healing partnership.
A Beautiful Medicine is a reminder that optimal health is not only the absence of disease, nor just vibrancy in mind and body, but health is a transformative journey.
If you are going to purchase David’s book A Beautiful Medicine – A Radical Look at the Essence of Health and Healing use my affiliate link and I get some coffee money. If you don’t think I’ve earned the “Cup of Joe,” we’ll here is the direct link.
About the Author
David G. Mercier, M.S., L.Ac., is a speaker, seminar leader, coach, and acupuncturist. He holds an M.S. from Case Western Reserve University and a master’s degree in acupuncture from the Tai Sophia Institute. His website www.davidgmercier.com
Please cite this post as:
Absenger, W. (2013, April 1). Review of A beautiful medicine: A radical look at the essence of health and healing by David Mercier [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://amacf.org/2013/04/book-review-a-beautiful-medicine-is-a-terrific-guide-to-wellness/
Gordon, J. (1997). Manifesto For A New Medicine: Your Guide To Healing Partnerships And The Wise Use Of Alternative Therapies Reading Mass.: Addison-Wesley.
Mercier, D. G. (2012). A beautiful medicine: A radical look at the essence of health and healing (1st American pbk. ed.). Easton, MD: Still Pond Press.
Travis, J. W. (2004). The Wellness Workbook: How to Achieve Enduring Health and Vitality (New 3rd. ed.). Berkeley: Celestial Arts.