The Chicken or the egg?

The Chicken or the Egg?


There are numerous references to both Zen Buddhism and Emergency Medical Services throughout this story. They do represent pivotal points of reference, if not an actual horizon line within this account.


Although the author is experienced in both subjects, he does not wish to be considered a spokesperson for either of them, any more than they would want him as a spokesperson. He also does not consider himself to be religious; religion demands too much commitment, due to its essentially political nature. Spirituality, on the other hand, demands only that one should pay attention,


The members of the EMS community seem more prone to regarding their realm as sacred than do the followers of Zen. It is in fact the separation of religiosity from Zen that distinguishes it from the rest of Buddhism. If you don’t try to label and judge anything as either sacred or profane in and of itself, you just might be able to strip away a few of the Illusions, like the Dance of the Seven Veils. At least, that is the author’s contention, although he would himself encourage you to decide that for yourselves.


There is a frequent flaw in logic that is referred to as sic hoc ergo propter hoc, meaning after this, therefore because of this. The author claims not to remember which came first. Regardless, of any speculation over the chicken or the egg, it is the author’s contention that although his involvement with Zen as well as his career in EMS did influence each other significantly, they should be regarded as nothing more than a series of interestingly appropriate coincidences. Although parallel lines never intersect, once you see the connectivity of everything in the universe, Cause and Effect represent one field of view only. Everything else is both connected and separate. Even coincidences are perhaps more accurately regarded as influences.


One of Jeff’s mentors, “Fat Tony”, was an ex-partner in EMS and the godfather of his eldest son. He used to say: “Everybody is a signal 20 (person with psychological problems), one way or another, but there are good signal 20’s and bad signal 20’s. You gotta be crazy to be in this line of work in the first place, but if you’re a good signal twenty you can still do good things, and help some people in the process, including the bad signal 20’s without getting hurt, or hurting anybody else who doesn’t already deserve it. In fact, being a good signal twenty can actually prevent you from becoming a bad signal 20.”


This was about the time that CISD (Critical Incident Stress Debriefing) was just beginning to gain popularity. In the meantime, advice and council such as this was handed down from generation to generation as a way of protecting ourselves from The Madness…a generation back then lasted about five years. By that time, the squeamish and weak of heart were already culled from the herd, and all that would be left were either seasoned veterans or the dangerously insane, with varying mixtures of both. If you worked in a busy system, you soon saw it all. Twenty years’ experience was more like your first years’ experience repeated twenty different ways.


Much like a news cameraman, an EMS provider’s focus becomes riveted on the perverse, the grotesque, the gruesome, and the sorrowful aspects of the human condition.

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