In So Many Words

Info-Comics by Larry Paros

The Secret of Good Health

Looking for a silver bullet for what ails you? When inscribed with the initials "JMJ," for Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, this versatile and powerful weapon works especially well against a coterie of creatures, including werewolves, witches, and shifters. On a more mundane level, as the calling card of the Lone Ranger, it symbolizes the quest for justice and the rule of law and order.

Though it shares a kinship with the magic bullet; the two are distinct from one another. A silver bullet is "an action which cuts through complexity and provides an immediate solution to a problem." While a magic bullet is "a quick and easy solution for a difficult problem — a means of accomplishing the impossible."

Many people are looking for a bullet — any bullet — to penetrate the mystery of their undefined physical ailments, which means that what they are probably looking for is a panacea, or cure-all.

A good place to start would be their physician's symbol — the sign of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine. The serpent on the staff represents the renewal of youth and eternal life; shedding old skin for a new year. The mythical Asclepius also had a daughter with the happy name of Panakeia, "the all-healing." And it's from her that we derive our panacea.

The search for panaceas began with medieval alchemists, who employed an imaginary substance called al-iksir, literally "the dry powder." in their efforts to turn base metals into gold.

This led to the notion of an elixir vitae or "elixir of life" which promised eternal youth. Faust searched for the elixir in his laboratory. Ponce de Leon sought it in Florida, as do retirees today who also lean heavily on medical science to deliver the promise of life extension and all that good stuff — just like in the movie, Cocoon.

Most people today use the word "panacea" in a pejorative sense, as an illusory solution to all problems.

And, oh yes — speaking of illusions — you might want to check out the rest of Panacea's family: Hygieia (Hygiene, the goddess of health, cleanliness, and sanitation), Iaso (the goddess of recuperation after an illness), Aglaea (the goddess of beauty, splendor, and glory) as well as two of her four brothers who might come in handy on the road to recovery: Podaleirus who had a flair for diagnostics, and Tricca, the master surgeon.

Asclepilus and his kids aside, time spent looking for a panacea might be put to better use living life as you find it. What would you do if you actually found the silver bullet? How would you fire it, and at what? Most people would probably end up just shooting themselves in the foot.