No matter how health is measured, people tend to view it as something that some individuals have and others don’t. In a recent ABC report, Japan was reported to have ranked No. 1 in healthy life expectancy among 187 nations for the second time in two decades, and The Christian Science Monitor reported that the traditionally high suicide rate in Japan was lower last year than it had been in the prior 15 years.
In the area of mental health, Japan has been slow to realize how best it could turn around the tragic suicide rate when one faces personal and societal failure, financial failure being the No. 1 cause of suicide.
In the last several years, an individual and collective protest against helplessness turned this trend around. Those who have seen close friends and loved ones take their lives have felt moved to form grass-roots organizations to detect and prevent suicide.
A group of barbers and hairdressers, for example, are now trained to identify people in their salons who might be at risk. This was not initiated by a government program but by an individual who acted upon his inner voice – an instinct or calling.
In Japan, we are seeing more grass-roots movements related to mental-health issues after seeing so many lives lost because of the earthquake and tsunami in 2011. It is a shift in consciousness that makes these changes possible.
The need to live in good health is obvious, but if we dig deeper, we see that people are realizing that healthy living includes loving our neighbors and not living, as the Bible says, “by bread alone.” The entire statement from Deuteronomy, quoted centuries later by Jesus, is “[M]an does not live by bread alone, but ... by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3, Revised Standard Version). I’ve observed that the disaster made many people realize that we indeed don’t live by bread alone – or high tech alone – but live by a higher pursuit of happiness through loving our neighbors.
It’s not surprising, then, that many senior citizens in Japan today, those who witnessed the devastation left by World War II – one of the greatest man-made disasters in Japanese history – are expected to have a healthy life expectancy. Many people of this generation have long been aware of the need to love their neighbors and have realized that happiness and satisfaction cannot be found in material or territorial gain.
So what can be done right now, during this period of Japan’s great need to revitalize its economy and to find confidence internally and globally? Japan could, in a sense, “export” health. The two survey results mentioned above give me hope that Japan could share with the world what we are doing right in regard to loving our neighbor, and keep vigilant mental guard not to allow materialism to run the show. Our spiritual intuition or instinct is to help one another survive, eventually leading to more harmonious living, including even the elimination of war.
I’m grateful that it’s becoming more apparent that health is not found simply in many components working together harmoniously but rather in an innate spiritual intelligence that gives less power to chemicals and materialistic theories and more power to understanding and living one’s spiritual nature.
So let’s go back to the first question, Is good health the natural state of each of us?
The answer is yes, when we see that health is not the means just to live long but the means to enrich our lives by bringing more peace and harmony into our daily living. In other words, health may be pursued not sporadically but consistently and constantly, more spiritually.
As a result, we may decide not to live “by bread alone”; and by loving our neighbors as ourselves, we may finally find more permanent health individually and, as a result, socially and nationally.
It’s time to revisit the instruction that the master “life coach” and healer Christ Jesus gave to humanity centuries ago: “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’... But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:31-33, New King James Version). We can see this instruction as health-giving and peace-giving to ourselves and others. And in the near future, universal health care may focus more on our spiritual well-being than on blood pressure or symptoms of diseases. And “all these things added” to us will include more consistent health and happiness.