Taking things a step further, certain fairly recent studies have reported evidence of a strong positive correlation between the pursuance of goals related to living meaningfully and an increase in, for example, natural killer (NK) cell activity. This has been shown to occur in individuals being compared with others maintaining that meaningful goals in life had, for whatever reason, decreased for them. On the other hand, it must be clearly stated that the ways in which the discovery of meaning and purpose ‘gets under the skin’ and into the system so to speak and thus is able to influence immuno-competence and functioning (if indeed it is really as simple and straightforward as that) is a very long haul from being crystal clear.
The question that I suppose we all now face is; can we move on beyond this point to one where we are able to effectively translate our newfound approach to coping, into a dependable mode and guiding philosophy for everyday living? I once came to know an elderly retired schoolteacher, in fact on a morning paper round, whilst still a schoolboy. To me Mr. Hanks ever appeared to be a man of immense learning and sagacity and I well remember how at times, he would assume something of a boyish grin, simultaneously tapping his forehead with his index finger, saying; “Young man, insight will forever be the essential prerequisite of foresight”. At the time, many who knew him simply regarded it as just another contribution from his seemingly inexhaustible repertoire of “weird and wonderful” sayings. I happen still to possess the dictionary, which ‘said’ then as it does now: “insight”, “the ability to gain a rapid and clear understanding, often otherwise hidden or complex”: and “foresight”, “the ability to consider maturely and make provision for the way ahead”.
Take another cursory glance if you will at the “contents pages” of this volume of posted blogs. What you see there – hopefully now supported by what you have read over the course of this correspondence – could well lead you to conclude that many, if not most of the common concerns facing patients with life threatening illnesses, have been acknowledged and hopefully – at least to a greater or lesser degree – addressed. And – certainly in the everyday pragmatic sense – that might well seem here to be a perfectly reasonable conclusion to draw.
Yet, fundamental though the issues addressed herein unquestionably are to daily well-being and quality of life; any thorough-going account of coping, “roots and all” as a basis for confidence and optimism, requires that we should take things further. And – such is my conviction – it will be in that “extra mile” of “insight”, where the real account of the human journey and adventure in coping truly begins to take “foresightful” form. Just as waves pounding the shoreline and signalling an incoming or outgoing tide are but the visible and peripheral extremities of mighty oceans, so our daily dealings in life are but the present and observable outcome of an incredible journey – both backward in time and forward into what we are in the process of fast becoming. Again and again throughout these pages, I have either hinted at or lightly touched upon man’s incredible historical and developmental background, i.e. of how the human kind has evolved to function, respond and thus cope, in ways, sometimes simple, at others, inordinately complex.