The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life
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Sunday, July 12, 2015
Public Policy ... Spirituality ...

Back in November, 2014, I was discussion Obamacare, and I cited a then-recent poll indicating that public support for Obamacare was improving, closing the excess of disapprovals over approvals down to 6%. Shortly thereafter, new polls came in showing that this poll was a fluke, and the overall disapproval margin was hovering around 10%. Well, don’t look now, but it appears that some better results are finally coming in for the Affordable Care Act of 2010. A recent Gallup Poll showed the disapproval margin down to 1 measly percentage point, and a CBS / NY Times poll actually showed a 3 point favorability margin — the first positive poll since early 2013. This is a very recent trend — two polls in May showed disapproval margins of 12 and 15 percentage points.

If the recent trend continues, however, then perhaps Obamacare is here with us to stay, no matter how the big 2016 election goes. I personally wish that the GOP would just stop being so pigheaded in its opposition to the ACA, and get down to proposing ways to implement more market-driven mechanisms and fewer government-managed aspects of a national health insurance system. That probably won’t happen, however, unless they win the White House in 2016. They will then propose to replace Obamacare, but in the end, when the dust settles, it will be Obamacare with a few more market-based features and a few less government control mechanisms and oversight boards. That is, if the public popularity trend continues. Stay tuned.

Oh, while I’m here — one more odd topic, having nothing to do with health care. I was reading an article on the Atlantic website about one of those recent neuroscience studies regarding the brains of Buddhist meditators, and all the wondrous things that lots of mediation can do for you (or did to them, anyway). Neuroscientist Richard Davidson Davidson

ran a simple experiment on eight “long-term Buddhist practitioners” whose had spent an average of 34,000 hours in mental training. They asked the subjects to alternate between a meditative state and a neutral state in order to observe how the brain changed. One subject described his meditation as generating “a state in which love and compassion permeate the whole mind, with no other consideration, reasoning, or discursive thoughts.”

Why is it that everyone who writes about Buddhist meditators always say things like that? I meditate myself, and sure, it’s plenty easy to feel lots of love and compassion for humankind and the universe when you contentedly sit in a quiet space. But how about when you’re stuck in traffic, or have a headache and your wife or kids need your attention, or someone at work really needs your help but you have a really big meeting to get to in 2 minutes?

All that love and compassion doesn’t permeate the mind so well in such moments, no matter how much you meditated yesterday. Meditation is great (and perhaps should be a part of Obamacare, if it’s not already), but as to love and compassion . . . sorry, there’s no shortcut to it, there are no techniques to develop it. Other than just deciding to take the time and make the effort to be compassionate, especially when it doesn’t give anything back to you (not even a “glow inside” for being such a groovy person).

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:01 pm      

  1. Jim, When it comes to Obamacare I think that it’s about time the government do something to try to help people who have need of medical care. I *do* find myself wondering if the premiums paid for the insurance obtained under Obamacare outweigh anything the insurance itself may pay; but, then again, perhaps that’s the skeptic in me. There are so many poor people in this country who are in desperate need of medical care and have few ways to get it that it seems to me that Obamacare (or who cares however a new administration might want to call it) is finally something that may be of some real use to the poor people in our country. Other nations have built in medical care for, not only the poor, but everyone, with seemingly few complaints. It’s about time the U.S. get up to par with the others, or so it seems to me.

    As to the neuroscientists who were studying the brains of Buddhist practitioners: I find myself wondering just how the neuroscientists might be sure their subjects were actually alternating between “a meditative state and a neutral state”. How might they know for sure when a person switched from one to the other except by either the scientists asking the person to switch or the meditator saying he/she switched the mode of their mental state. Would each meditator define the two separate states the same way?

    Then too, you could not be more right. . . It’s one thing to feel love and compassion permeating the whole mind, presumably for all the rest of the people in the world. It a totally different thing to have to live day in and day out dealing with individuals on a personal basis; love and compassion can go out the window pretty fast in those cases.

    I’ve noticed that it’s almost always those who live solitary lives, who have little interaction with others who tend to live longer lives than say parents who have to deal with children; adults who have to work, take care of their parents, and those who are responsible for and care for those they love. Somehow love and compassion for the people in the world come easy when one doesn’t have a lot of contact with those people; put day-to-day contact with others in a person’s world and one quickly comes to the *real* test of love and compassion for others. I agree with you 100% on that. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — July 13, 2015 @ 2:46 pm

  2. Mary,

    Re healthcare, I totally agree that it would be great to expand Obamacare. But can we as a nation afford it? There are ways to make healthcare (or significant parts of it) more cost-efficient while at the same time more effective. Business-based market incentives do a much better job of this than government agencies and committees. I agree that government is here to stay in our health system, but more incentives should be given for companies to make money by giving better service at a lower cost. In other words, let’s have the best of both worlds. Right now, I think that Obamacare is tilted too far towards government control and management, even though I totally agree with the basic premises of government oversight and standards-setting (and subsidy, where needed). I’m looking for the best of both worlds, the golden mean. If the GOP weren’t such an atavistic political animal, they would get involved and work towards such an “optimization point” for Obamacare. But politics are politics, unfortunately.

    Comment by Jim G — July 13, 2015 @ 7:13 pm

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