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13/40 From the desk of Rabbi Brian



13.40 Upstream and Downstream

A spiritual-religious parable 


I originally published this article as 17/40 in 2007.  It seemed timely, again. Also, Dr. Gabor Mate is coming to LA and I wanted to publicize his talk on 4/29. His outlook on medicine seems to fit this parable. (Details below.)


Upstream and Downstream

There once was a town called Downstream. It was, as its name implies, downstream from another town. It was downstream from a town called Upstream.

A mighty river connected Upstream and Downstream.

One sunny day, a resident of Downstream saw a person in the river, drowning.

The Downstreamer called to a neighbor to come quick and together they fished a very wet Upstreamer out of the river.

About a month later, a few Downstreamers happened to be on the bridge when they saw another erstwhile Upstreamer in the river, drowning. They jumped in and managed to save that soul.

And so it continued.

About once a month a person from Upstream would be found in and saved from the river by the residents of Downstream.

For years, this happened with some regularity.

Then, the frequency increased. Twice a month there were Upstreamers in the river needing help.

The people of Downstream organized. They systematized and patrolled the river with a special boat. They saved more and more people.

Soon, it began occur every week.

Once a week there was a drowning Upstreamer in the river who needed rescuing.

A medical facility on the edge of the riverbank was built to accommodate the recovering Upstreamers.

Before long, there was someone drowning in the river every day.

The good people of Downstream added a second rescue boat so they could save more and more of the downing Upstreamers.

The people of Downstream never wondered, “What was happening in the town of Upstream?”

An interpretation.

We often apply band-aids to our wounds instead of learning about and addressing the cause of our maladies.

We often fail to examine the SOURCE of our problems.

Spiritual-religious advice: Seek out the cause of your problems. (Hint: it might be within.)



Dr. Gabor Mate is the staff physician at the Portland Hotel.  I’ve heard his talks on Democracy Now and loved what I heard.  He talks about how prevalent it is for us to seek a cause without seeking out how to stem the problem at the source — how many medical problems stem from societal and social problems.

On Friday, April 29, Dr. Mate will be at the Skirball Cultural Center speaking about his newest book, In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Trauma, Addiction and Healing. I’m going.  You?  If yes, click now to RSVP.  Hope to see you there.  (CEU’s available.) $15 suggested donation.


With love,

Rabbi Brian

Rabbi Brian

The 77% Weekly

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