Thursday, November 19, 2015
The Devil Lies in Ourselves
When Keith read The Devil Lies in Ourselves, my latest SecSpec post, he didn't deny making a puzzling comment to my declaration that I believed in evil, which is all too evident. but not sin, a mere religious concept. As I relay in the post, he said, "I would've thought it would be the opposite." But, as it turns out, Keith was also mystified by his statement. In fact, he had no idea why he said it. This conversation happened many years ago, but the reason I still remember it is that the comment deeply perplexed me. I pondered it for some time, eventually deciding that the reason he felt that way was he was raised a Christian, while I, as someone raised without religion but of Jewish ancestry, grew up under the shadow of the Holocaust.
But now neither of us knows what was in his mind at that moment. Still, as we watched the live news reports of the Paris attacks streaming from the English language news of France 24 last Friday, my thoughts returned to the ever-present reality of evil.
- In July of 2013, I fell into a six-week coma and nearly died. When I awoke from the coma, I could barely lift my head. It has been a hard road to recovery. The doctors advised my loved ones to give up all hope for my full recovery, but while they were shining lights in my eyes to gauge my level of consciousness, I was telling them grumpily to leave me alone because I was trying to get back to sleep...in my coma-dream. I was experiencing covert cognition, and the coma-dream was my version of a near-death experience. I'm a skeptic, so I saw surreal images instead of spirits or dead loved ones. According to my research, as many as one in five people with consciousness disorders have covert cognition.
Not a miracle recovery, but a miracle of modern medicine
In 2013 I fell into a six-week coma and nearly died after I contracted legionella. The Legionnaire's disease was in turn triggered by immunosuppression caused by the prednisone I was taking for my rare autoimmune disease, dermatomyositis.
I suffered a series of strokes on both sides of my brain when the sepsis caused my blood pressure to plummet. I fell into a deep coma. My kidneys and lungs began to fail, as my body was began dying one organ at a time. My doctors told my loved ones to give up hope for my full recovery. They expected me to die, and even if I somehow lived, I would remain a vegetable or at best left so hopelessly brain-damaged that I would never be same. But unbeknownst to them, while they were shining lights in my eyes and shaking their heads, I was telling them in my coma-dream--my secular version of a near-death experience--to leave me alone because I was trying to get back to sleep. I was experiencing what is known as covert cognition, the subject of my Skeptical Inquirer article "Covert Cognition: My So-Called Near-Death Experience," which appeared in their July/August issue.
But it wasn't a miracle--despite what so many continue to believe--that I recovered so fully. I owe my life not to God, but the miracles of modern medicine, as well as the nature of the watershed-area brain damage I suffered, as I detailed in my article and in this blog.