Biography Writing Teaching Appearances  

"All Flesh" is what I seek to know . . .

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Historians are not sure whether it was the 1st or 2nd century (AD) when Ruphos, a Greek anatomist (working in Asia Minor), gave the name "pancreas" to the long and ruddy gland tucked deep in the abdomen behind the stomach.  The gland at its longest is about 5-6 inches (that's long for being squished between the stomach and the spine). Its wet clay hue prompted Ruphos (I'm guessing of course) to think of "flesh" and not only "flesh" but "all flesh" (yes, that is the exact translation of "pancreas").  Maybe the flat tapered shape prompted the name "all"-- "all flesh" (encompassing many secrets). For me, the gland has always reminded me of a paisley design. Perhaps I would have named it "all paisley."


Sometimes I imagine the pancreas dressed in a myriad of colors-- multiple pancreas/paisley "all flesh" floating about . . . 


It's a way to make it friendlier-- to connect with the gland, claim it in order to further study it.  But since I am a lover of literature, I think of Christina Rosetti's poem "All Flesh is Grass"--the lines, "So brief a life, and then an endless life/Or endless death; So brief a life, then endless peace or strife . . ."  Rosetti is contemplating Isaiah in the Old Testament (40:6), but I can't help to think about the paisley pancreas.  It so briefly attends to a body's needs (because we live finite lives) but will expire sooner (lose its paisely whimsy) if it's not working properly. "All flesh" but no power if the pancreas is not treated well, resulting in "endless strife"--better known as unmanaged Diabetes. And here is yet another term. 

Diabetes is a Greek word.  Translation:  "a siphon."  The Greek physician, Aretus the Cappadocian, named the disease "a siphon" due to one of the complications from Diabetes which is constant urination or "passing water like a siphon."  
"Sweet water" was another name for Diabetes because of the high glucose content in the urine.  This is how they diagnosed patients at the time.  They would place drops of urine near anthills.  If the ants swirled round the urine, they knew the patient had a high content of sugar in the body.  It was a rudimentary test--but effective. 

Today we know that collecting urine to determine glucose levels will not effectively tell us the amount of glucose in an individual. By the time you test your urine, the levels of glucose in your bloodstream will be different.  That is why testing a drop of blood will reveal a more immediate glucose level. Sweet water, however, is a lovely term. It reminds me of the Yoruban Orisha deity, Oshun, whose domain is sweet or fresh water.  And ironically, Oshun is known for healing the sick. 


So I take these images, these historical discoveries, and my own creative imaginings to connect with "All Flesh," to understand what it does so that then I may continue navigating its actions.  It is important to be the keeper of one's pancreas, to achieve agency and engage it.  

After three years of study, I know the pancreas that is afflicted with Diabetes needs stimulation (exercise), I know it has a very low threshold for dealing with too much glucose (maintain a low carb diet!), I know it can slip away like a paramecium and get out of control if one gets a cold, manifests stress, experiences trauma, loses sleep, etc.  Here-- meditation is the key!  

One of the most important things to do is make friends with this flat oblong gland.  I suppose that's why Ruphus named it. What must it have been like the first time he held one in his hands?  He had no idea about its function.  In fact for a long time it was thought of as an artery or vein yet others doubted that theory because no blood ever came out of it.  It wasn't until the mid 1800s that the first descriptions of the gland as an endocrine system were established.  --such a slow process to figure out a disease that actually wasn't considered an epidemic like it is today.  


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