A funny thing happened on the way to the emergency room…

OK, well maybe it wasn’t so much a funny thing as a ridiculously painful thing. After putzing around the yard most of the afternoon and busying myself shoving furniture around the living room, I noticed a dull ache that seemed to be centered around the bottom of my sternum. No big deal, thought I… I probably just pulled something heaving the couch into its new position. Grabbing a cold beverage and Tylenol, I started making dinner. Well, that lasted about 15 minutes before the pain started moving up and across my chest. Now, I’m not a fancy big city doctor, but I have a sneaking suspicion that this isn’t a good thing. After putting it off another ten or fifteen minutes, I knew it was time to go.

Having a bit of a “typical man” streak, I loaded the address of the local emergency room into my Garmin and set off. I certainly wasn’t in enough pain to justify calling an ambulance… Yet. It’s a quick drive to the ER, especially on a Sunday night, but when the waves of nausea set in, a 5 mile drive seems like it takes hours. Every stop light becomes a personal affront to my sense of order and well being. By this point, I really feel an overwhelming need to toss my cookies. Drawing up a reserve of determination not to spew all over my car’s interior, I drove on. By the time I get to the hospital, I was feeling more or less like someone was busy sticking me in the chest with an ice pick. It’s absolutely as much fun as it sounds.

After five hours of poking, prodding, having blood drawn, getting chest x-rays, EKGs, and meeting with 2 ER doctors, they decided that what I actually had was a bad case of acid reflux. There must be something to their diagnosis, as after giving me some ass-tasting meds and filling a prescription for Nexium, I was feeling much better. Although I’m feeling better and enjoying the unexpected day away from the office, now annoyed at the thought of what’s going to be a ridiculously large bill for a case of heartburn. I’m even more annoyed that I have to take more time off tomorrow to go visit my new “primary care” doc, who I was conveniently referred to by his friend running the ER. He’s supposed to be a specialist in stomach stuff and one of his partners is apparently a hot shot cardiac guy… so two birds with one stone, I suppose.

What separates us from the primates…

Authors note: This is not directed at any individual, living or dead. It is based on a series of observations over the last week. The use of the word “you” does not refer necessarily to “you” the reader, but more general “you” directed at the general public.

I’ve had two separate people tell me over the course of the last week some variation of the phrase, “you can’t always lead with your head.” I call bullshit. I call bullshit on the people who stumble blindly through life from one thing to the next because they’re “following their heart.” I call bullshit on people who turn left instead of right because “they have a feeling.” I call bullshit on a society that values luck over skill and mediocrity over greatness.

People, listen up, because your Uncle Jeff is only gonna go over this material one time. And yes, before someone asks, it will be on the test. Look in the mirror. Do you see that great big melon-looking rock sitting atop your neck? That’s your head. It’s where your brain lives. Your brain is useful for completing all sorts of tasks like addition, breathing, and general problem solving. Your brain, unlike that of say, a swallow, is well developed and provides you with the ability, when used correctly, to apply reason and intellect to even the most difficult of situations. The human brain has developed over millions of years to protect the rest of the body from writing checks that are too expensive to cash.

The ability to apply reason is what separates us from our primate cousins. It’s why we have built civilizations while they pick fleas off one another. I’m not saying that the heart or the spleen or the liver can’t be the point of inspiration, but it’s up to the brain to take that inspiration and flesh it out. It’s through reason that we come to understand the inspiration and impulses for what they are. It’s our intellect and our ability to make the hard decisions without getting waylaid that fundamentally makes us human.

Use your heart, or your intuition, or your ESP for all I care. But at the end of the day, try running things through your brain first before you declare the decision making process to be at an end. Try leading with your head for a change. You might be surprised.