Last week, we received an email at HumanaNatura, entitled “Everything For Your Health In One Place.” Perhaps you’ve received this email, a solicitation, or will in the not too distant future.
When the email came in, I was naturally intrigued by the subject line. My first thought, I have to admit, was that someone was writing to comment on the HumanaNatura website and natural health resources. Pride, as they say, so often comes before a fall.
I then had an afterthought, moving from unfounded pride to unwarranted fear – that maybe HumanaNatura had a new competitor, another group that had assembled an online natural health program like ours. I caught myself and wondered if they had made improvements on the HumanaNatura model we could learn from.
With these low and higher thoughts in mind, I opened the email. My initial interest quickly changed to disappointment, however. The email offered neither commendation nor a new source of competition. It was only yet another offer for online medicines, in this case of a variety used recreationally by some these days. You may have guessed this already, so familiar is this pattern of unabashed and unjustified claims, made in the relative anonymity of the Internet. Though a bit disappointed, I did see an opportunity for learning in the solicitation, which is why I am writing on this topic.
I could use this story to rail against Internet spammers, or even to lament the crass commercialization that has made its way into so much of the health establishment these days. But you know this all too well, and don’t need my voice added to the general din of disgust and protest. I share in our common sense of disenchantment with this trend, and will leave it at that.
Commercialization is an area of practical concern for me and other health advocates, however, since the trend makes it more difficult for non-commercial programs like HumanaNatura to reach our intended audience. People today are apt to see the words, natural health, and begin running, suspecting pills and therapies and miracle cures. In the end, though, commercialization is an obvious phenomenon and more of an inconvenience. Our experience is that persistence and good ideas overcome it, by fostering networks of person-to-person referrals. It is rewarding to know that, in our electronic and global world, some things have not changed: word-of-mouth still trumps spam.
What struck me as most noteworthy about the “Everything For Your Health In One Place” email, and what I wanted to focus on today, was not the method, intention, or products of the sender, but simply how far their offer and subject line was from the truth, and what this reveals about both the sender and society today. By this, I mean not just that it is shocking how intentionally wrong and misleading their subject line is, but that their pitch even misleads in unintentional and pitiable ways – in ways that are important, unappreciated, and revealing about the state of our health today and the outlook of email senders and their typical recipients alike.
Having had a chance to read through the email and scan its offerings, I would first suggest that a far better title for the subject line would be, “Nothing For Your Health From Many Places,” a complete reversal of the phrase they chose. Such a turned about phrase would have been far more factual, slightly refreshing and more amusing, and maybe even more attention-getting too, although no doubt sales would suffer. We could take declining sales as a good thing of course, as resources saved and available for the true pursuit of our health and wellness.
If you think about these and similar “health” products, offered in the now ubiquitous new wave of electronic solicitations, “nothing for your health” really is the correct description. Most or all of the compounds offered, if they work at all, are designed to counter, but not cure, one or more symptoms of reduced physical or emotional health. Their aim is to offset sickness in other words, for a price and with the requirement of regular use. In this sense, there really is nothing for our health in these solicitations, only items to counter or forestall symptoms of illness or failing health.
From another perspective, the marketing of these medicines highlights and even perpetuates a persistent and quite common social myth about our health – a myth and misunderstanding that sees our health as precarious and in need of outside assistance. This outlook is deeply woven into the fabric of our society, a part of our past and present, and one that is expressed in various forms and patterns around the world. For this reason, “from many places” would be an appropriate subject line too. It would embody the widespread misunderstanding of our natural health that motivates the interesting both consuming and producing these compounds. This is the unintended misunderstanding of our health I spoke of before – one revealed by and ultimately enabling these solicitations.
Though my revised title would be enigmatic and less successful commercially, it is strangely intriguing and would importantly serve as a window into the state of our health today. It would underscore how unnecessary these compounds are to our health and how unnecessarily mysterious and misconstrued our health still is to many people. It might even cause a few people to look up, dazed and in amazement, and ask, “What can this mean?” From the viewpoint of a natural health advocate, this would be a favorable development, an opportunity and potential new starting point for these people, an opportunity for new health in the world.
If given the chance, I would counsel these awakened people that our health is not in need of treatment, that it is disease and poor health only that require intervention, and these can be generally avoided throughout our lives though a life in harmony with nature. I would ask them to consider the idea that vibrant health is and should be seen as our natural human condition, one that occurs whenever we allow it.
Mostly, I would ask my new students to change, beginning today and even if it is in little ways at first. I would ask them to take responsibility for their health and to actively create their health for themselves, today and every day throughout their lives, and even if our society soon seems bent on impeding their health and perpetuating myths at every turn. These health impediments and misunderstanding are never intentional. They are contrary to our nature and natural aspirations, and a sign of limitation and frustration. They are why there is so much “health” spam, why so many symptom-mitigating drugs and chemical aids are demanded and purchased, and therefore supplied.
A final thought from this solicitation, which occurred to me while writing to you, is regarding the HumanaNatura program itself. As suggested earlier, our intention in developing the community and online health program was to create a place that had “everything for your health in one place.” And this, of course, is not quite the truth of what we have created. Our website falls short of everything and must inevitably for a very important reason – because our website and our health program are external things. Not like pills and chemical aids, perhaps, but like them in some ways too.
It is true that the HumanaNatura website provides comprehensive information on natural health enhancement in one place. It includes guidance in key health areas and a natural health program you can follow on your own. HumanaNatura thus creates the potential for natural health and learning in our lives, and for new personal connections and community dedicated to health, but a website and network of email exchanges are neither our health nor a true community. Health and community are much more personal and human than this, and can only be pointed at or enabled with technology.
Our health is within each of us, as we are in our lives in the world today and however healthy we may be. Health is created through the way we live and the choices we make each day, and the imperatives we attend to and do not attend to amidst our lives and choices. A website or health program can awaken these imperatives, but cannot anticipate the number and scope of choices we can and must each make ourselves in determining how we will live and what choices we will make. Our lives are unique and complex, and our choices require improvisation and self-knowledge. For this reason, we are each endowed by nature to know and choose what is most healthy in our lives and the world, including opportunities for healthy community.
This very personal knowing and choosing of our health is also essential for us. Choice is transforming and health promoting in itself, and no one can or should do this for us. We are our choices and must live with our choices, which reveal our values and assumptions, if we are to be fully healthy, learning, and growing. In the same way, a natural health community is formed from people sharing a common and tangible commitment to create healthy life together. It is only as deep and lasting as the strength of the human commitments that either exist or do not exist within our email addresses. The act of creating community is required to create and understand the true nature of community.
In keeping with the theme of everything for our health in one place, if health is our natural state and you naturally aspires to this state, even if imperfectly, you then are the everything you need for your health. You and each of us already have everything to create our health, in one place. That place is our lives, ourselves, with our own personal ability to seek and maintain health in our lives, each day of our lives and over the course of our lives. This capacity includes our human ability to create and foster health in others – to form family and community in the spirit of our health. You don’t need a website, ours or any others, to create your health. At best, we can speed you along in your own finding of your own health, in your making and learning from your own choices, and in your finding others who share your commitment to action and learning.
If we want, each of us will find a way to eat naturally, to exercise naturally, to live naturally, and to cooperate naturally in these and other areas aimed at our health. We each will create healthy and enriching lives, in a way that no one else can for us. We each have everything we need to live well and to be well, and to help others live and be this way. We need only begin, to begin.
We each are everything for our health in one place.
Mark Lundegren is the founder of HumanaNatura.
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