4. Health as Infrastructure
In recent years, health is the area I am most dedicated to.
Of course, it includes the nuance of “gratitude when I lose it” because I came to have a few health problems due to getting older.
However, if it is so, on the contrary, I want to take more care of things that “I didn’t lose yet”.
And further, I have a somewhat regretful feeling why I have not been doing so from the beginning.
In other words, as I mentioned earlier, it is the view that health is the infrastructure that supports us physically and mentally. It is same way that city water and sewage systems underpin the foundation of our city life as infrastructure.
And further, when you spread your eyes over the world, it is not just about health, it is the same about the environment and nature.
By maintaining and preserving its normal function all the time, the ability of the city and its people will improve properly.
Not a matter of “youth is ignorance”
Perhaps for not only for myself but for other people, in their youth they tend to believe those matters which could be difficult in reality as our own mission or virtue like effort and patience.
For example, I am still a mountain climbing enthusiast and I was so too when I was in my twenties. I was, if saying so with some exaggeration, a man who was tainted by the simplistic gutsy mentality which is characterised by being strong enough to overcome fears, not avoiding difficulties, and achieving goals. I was proud of performing them and looked down those people and mentalities that could not.
Certainly, my personality was in part cultivated by it. However, there must have been many things which were not able to be seen and abandoned, because they were such simple values.
For instance, in the old days, I walked around the mountains of Japan, and saw that there was a tiny shrine at the summit of each of them exposed to harsh weather. It remains in my memory as only a spectacle, but it was not more than that. So to speak, I was not conscious of much difference from a triangulation marker stone placed near them.
In recent years, however, even though I have kept walking around the mountains similarly, but breathing harder than I used to, I am experiencing something definitely different there.
This was a different experience from what I had in the past when I looked at a tiny shrine at almost every summit, or any religious symbol if it was in a foreign country. But now I can feel differently just walking on an uncharacteristic ridge or in a valley where there was not any feature.
Firstly, I thought it was because that it was a part of the Himalayas for example, and its elevation was over 4,000 meters and sometimes as high as 5,000 meters, because of its altitude, that is, much closer to space.
However, probably including it, there is certainly something there that can be expressed as “talking to me” by something such as the environment or so through something which is not a word.
In other words, I had thought that the sensibility was due to my preference because I am a mountain enthusiast. However, it seems that it was a completely different matter.
If I were a man who had ears able to hear those whispers even in my twenties, my present self might be a different person.
At any rate, it is certain that my mentality with strong consciousness of the sense of self-restraint and order like a kind of soldier was formed in such a way. Therefore I have thought that such a mentality might have caused problems.
“Over-working habit diseases”
I wrote earlier that I quit my first job after only six months. This conduct seems to show that the patience and the selflessness which I acquired in Japanese society did not help so much after all.
After that, I walked a sort of backroad, got a job for a labour union before long, and encountered one occupational accident of a union member. It was a case of suicide from overwork due to excessive work load and responsibility.
Even now, 40 years have passed since the occupational accident case, but still I have to meet frequent news reports on karoshi, suicide from overwork, in Japanese society.
In other words, the custom and common behaviour of must-work excessively, is so to speak the common practice which should be seen as if “eating in advance” one’s future health. Therefore even in the period when they are still in the principal workforce, they have already exhausted their own resources of health.
The eating in advance should be a debt if replacing it with a money issue. Later on, it will come back as a serious illness in the shape of suicide from overwork, like the debt accruing heavy interest.
Until a few decades ago, high blood pressure and heart disease etc. were called “adult diseases” and this behaviour of eating in advance was accepted without special caution.
Those diseases however became to be seen as “lifestyle-related diseases” by the advocation of the late Dr Shigeaki Hinohara. Then the idea of prevention of those diseases began by the recognition to alter such a lifestyle which was like borrowing health from one’s future.
However, even if the name of the disease changed to lifestyle-related diseases, the actual custom of people is stubborn and passive against change. Trying to change their lifestyle, they had to face many patterns of social pressure which gave them some complicated hesitation. Hence, I want to recommend further terminological steps, and change the name to “over-working habit diseases”.
Thus, it should be not seen that the youth issue is that of ignorance. Even more it must not be allowed to take advantage of their ignorance.
Maintenance of the body infrastructure
In Chapter 2, I discussed that our infrastructure, as an “infrastructure to support self-existence”, tends to be harmed rather than ignored, because of being busy to obey the iron law of securing means of living.
We tend to think about health in the shape of a double negative, as a kind of the “state of being not sick” by regarding it as a special state of disease. However, in the first place, health is something that must function normally in our daily life and lifelong as our own infrastructure, and losing it is a matter that destroys the normal developments of our daily and entire lives.
For example, it is appropriate to think about the state in which the road and the railway were cut off by a natural disaster. The damage to such infrastructure will definitely damage the life and economic activity of the region and the country.
With the proactive maintenance of physical infrastructure, a society can avoid unnecessary pause periods and sound functions without waste can be continued. Similarly, the proactive maintenance of our health is far more meaningful than the recovery after it is lost.
If the body as the infrastructure does not exercise, it not only “rusts” like the machine which is not used rusts, but also decreases the function of the whole level as a human being that was supported by the function of the infrastructure in the first place. In other words, for the person who has a rusted body, far from being in good daily physical condition, the comfort and the joy of daily life, productivity on the job, and even the significance of the person’s life itself can all disappear.
To illustrate this, comprehensive equipment management (or “production maintenance with everyone’s participation”) called TPM developed by Toyota Motor Corporation is the one that the automobile production system is operated with, and high productivity is achieved. To learn the secret, there was a TPM-themed course at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States.
In recent years, to go to gyms is getting popular because people increasingly begin to be aware of the effects to improve such physical infrastructure for a state of good condition on the quality of life and work.
Sports tend to be recognized as a kind of hobby. However, for those modern consumers who rarely use their bodies, sports are not a matter of preference like a hobby. That is, it should be considered as an essential element for life activities, same as the food and sleep.
The brain is infrastructure too
As discussed above, for us our bodies are our own infrastructure. Therefore as to the function of the brain which is the centre of my consciousness and action, whether it works fully depends on whether the infrastructure as the body works fully to support the brain fully as well.
Moreover, as to the brain itself, it is brain organ as the infrastructure to support the brain functions such as intelligence, feelings, and personality, and if the organ does not work fully, the person’s own mental function also has failure and disorder.
The brain as such infrastructure is the most difficult organ to understand of the human body organs. So it is a part with a lot of mystery. Therefore a number of beliefs and even faith intervene.
Everyone wants to make full use of their own irreplaceable brain tissue they have.
As to the method of how to use the brain, there is no method other than that you try various ways and feel them, and you find out how your brain works as a result. It is trial and error. That is a method of a sort of experiment and observation.
The first step in such trial and error, as repeatedly mentioned, is the importance of exercise, and the physical functions and infrastructure functions that are improved by it. In short, without healthy heart activity, there is not enough oxygen or nutrients sent to the brain. Such a brain with a lack of oxygen and nutrition would be dysfunctional. On the other hand, when a brain has been supplied with them sufficiently, it provides a far more comfortable feeling to us.
Second, the method I have judged to be effective in recent years is to maximize having resources or blessings from nature, especially from the sun.
In particular, it is to consciously perform activities such as sunbathing and exposure to sunlight outdoors. Normally, when cooling down after an exercise, I sit on the grass in the park and gaze towards the sunset. In Japan, there has been a traditional custom of worshipping the sun. By having sun-gazing, (do it within one hour after sunrise or before sunset to avoid too strong sunlight in daytime) the strong light, electromagnetic waves, or particle beams act directly on our brain tissue through our eyes and have the effect (less recognized) to increase its activity. I especially feel that it has the effect of relaxing the mind and sharpening and broadening intuition.
Fake “private insurance”
When someone asks me whether he should take out cancer insurance, for example, I express my opinion that such so-called “private insurance” is a “fake” insurance system.
Insurance is a security system for risk, and health insurance is a system in which advanced medical care is guaranteed at a free or low cost when you get sick. The system is a scheme that to maximise its effects, it is based on a large population, so all the population of a country can receive the benefits based on a relatively small insurance premium. The larger the number of contributors, the greater the security effect. Japan’s health insurance system, known as the everybody insurance system, is one of the best systems in the world and has kept the health standards of Japanese people high and maintained their life expectancy at one of the highest levels of the world.
If this scheme is turned into that health insurance system centred on private insurance like that of the United States, it becomes a system for the rich in fact because the insurance premium is quite high, the poor people cannot afford to join, and it leads to the situation where many people cannot consult the doctor even if they become sick. President Obama, when in power, aimed to establish a health insurance system for all citizens, but he was forced into failure. That was because those people who already had private insurance opposed the establishment of the Obama insurance system, saying that if it is established, the benefits to the sick poor would increase and the overall level of coverage would be lowered.
In addition, if an individual thought about the merits and demerits of joining private insurance, the necessity to do that is for when you have lost your health, but it never gives the person health itself. In other words, the insurance system provides those medical services such as medicine and surgery, but it does not provide health itself. Hence for those who have firm confidence in their health, such an insurance system is meaningless. But there is an illusion that the insurance system is a key method for health. That is, many providers of private health insurance state in their advertisements that they “provide peace of mind”, hence it tends to divert the eyes from the effort to maintain people’s own health.
In that sense, if you can afford to pay for the private insurance, it is more effective for the purpose of maintaining health and preventing disease to spend money to buy athletic shoes to do exercise or buying and eating safe and healthy food.
In a word, it is easy to have the illusion that it is possible to buy health with money because people get used to such a cycle of making money by their labour and buying various things. Needless to say, health is not something that can be gained through such insurance, but something that you have by working directly on the infrastructure and supporting your body.
Health is truly “only appreciated when it is gone.” Especially when you are getting old, your body conditions deteriorated in may ways and each one of the deteriorations detracts from a comfortable life little by little.
Therefore, I think that the person who entered retirement age in particular is better to think that it is “work” to exercise for health. If you can maintain a good quality of life, it is sensible to do such a job, as described below.
In addition, if we go back to the concept “health is infrastructure”; it supports the foundation of its normal function, whether it is an individual or a society. If its importance is not understood, it is damaged by over-use. When this happens, then it requires money incentive system by fee like a toll road and private insurance. Should such a change be welcome when replaced by such a meaningless system?
Future society built by healthy elderly
Now, let us think about the theme of such an infrastructure of health in the problem of the elderly. In other words, I would like to investigate the perception that it is natural that aging is accompanied by poor health.
As described in the previous chapters, as a result of being exhausted by the iron law of securing means of survival, we use up health resources already during active work service, actually even with “debt”. So when we reach retirement, there is a reality of many sad cases which we might be almost sick person.
However, let us assume that we could manage to overcome the various restraints associated with life and reach the rosy retirement period with good health. Such cases are no longer hypotheses or rare cases.
In other words, it is the arrival of the rosy life, called pension life, which was liberated institutionally from the iron rule of securing the means of living.
Of course, the reality is that the level of “liberation” varies depending on the pension system of different countries, and it is also a story with a large individual differences.
What we must focus upon is the magnitude of difference when one can reach the state of being liberated from such an iron rule. That is, which is you of a sick person or of a healthy person when you reach there?
Certainly, there are differences between countries in the level of the payment of the pension. The differences become important, especially whether it is possible to compensate for the income shortage by working part-time if one can reach retirement with health and fill the gap by using your own health resource. Also, it is possible to secure social contact, that tends to be cut off by retirement life, through volunteer activities and hobby activities, and raise retirement to a richer life state. In addition, the ability to do such activities will contribute to satisfying the significance and worth of retirement life and greatly enhance our daily fulfillment.
I think that the life of such a high quality old age should be one of the goals that every society aims for. If quality old age can be expected in their future, it is possible for the working generation to demonstrate their full potential with peace of mind, and that is why it is encouraging. Of course, it is needless to say that such an approach can also lead to increased productivity in society as a whole. And most of all, it can contribute directly to the reduction of medical expenses for the elderly.
Therefore I think it is very reasonable that the pensioners who have retired think that “maintaining health is work”.
If the retired person not only does not need nursing care, but also does not become a burden on the family or society, it is beneficial for everyone, and it will reduce the burden on the whole society. The practical and economic benefits that it generates should become a huge social resource.
In this way, the huge difference between leaving the old people’s problem as a burden on society or using it as a new resource should be practically studied as a policy issue – so far not enough progress has been made. Further, it seems that it is a critically important issue for society in the future, and the more we work on it as soon as possible, the greater the reward.
For now, I have been reaching this stage mentioned above with good health, and I am finding possible areas for research and development. In addition, while it is a matter of my own concern, in order to follow the development of amphibiology, I am establishing a plan to develop 理論人間生命学 (theoretical human life science) which studies the area of “life on the cross-border”, regarding the aging issue as a concept of the other “birth”.
Health of the Earth
At the end of this chapter, I would like to describe a story that greatly broadens the chapter’s perspective. It is the view that “health” has already reached the time when man should think on a global scale.
In addition to pursuing health on a whole human scale as mentioned earlier, it is because that the deepening severity of climate change itself begins to refute its denial with its own body, no matter what excuse human beings make any longer. This is because in every year and every season, high temperatures, large forest fires, violent typhoons and hurricanes, heavy rain and floods, and landslides continue to cause the earth to suffer. This is the same way that the lifestyle-related diseases and overworking habit diseases are harming human bodies.
We discussed earlier about nature and earth environment as the infrastructure for our body and life. The reason for the discussion is that we should have the concept of “the chain of health” which is the connection of our body to the body of the earth in other words as an ecology system.
Thinking about the health of ourselves and our families, we have wanted to build a house and live in a natural place with a good environment. And we are doing this.
For that purpose, roads and residential land were made by excavating mountains, and not only that, but also the mountains and islands were scraped, a huge amount of sediment was transported, artificial islands were made, and these have even been change to a city and an airport.
On the other hand, after I finish my exercise as part of my health, I look up at the sky while lying on the park lawn. At that time, it is makes me feel comfort that it is possible to say that I am held by nature or nature and I are unified. It is exactly the feeling of “the chain of health” if I use this term.
If I state this I might be said to be making a leaping argument. Nonetheless, now the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the world, aviation demand has evaporated in a moment and airports incomes have fallen into the red due to their excessive capacity. In other words, the pandemic may not be a simple phenomenon of a large-scale infectious disease. I will omit it here because it is discussed in detail in my website (in Japanese), but it seems not necessarily inappropriate to see it from the viewpoint of “an act of nature”. Just what is the corona pandemic which makes the human race worry greatly.
This is as if pointed out by the deterioration of environment of the earth as the evidence that we are not considering it, although we are in a “give-and-take relationship” with it. We can build our own health only with considering the whole ecology body (in Japanese) that is connected to all the surrounding environment, including COVID-19.