My friend Boyd Bahney recommended the book The Path Between the Seas. It's a fascinating history of the construction of the Panama Canal. Thanks Boyd for the tip. Perhaps some of you will want to read it.
One of the things that really struck me was the huge loss of human life. It was especially large during the French effort from 1881-1889. Many of the lives lost were Jamaican's and American's. There is really no way to know how many lives were lost, some speculate around 26,000. The biggest killers? Malaria and yellow fever. They did not discriminate between the most prominent French engineer, and the poorest Jamaican laborer. No one was protected. Many suffered horrific, but quick deaths. They got sick by day, died by nightfall, and were buried immediately.
It's not that the French did not prepare. One of the first things they built was a large hospital. They anticipated death from what they thought was toxic swamp gases.
To protect the trees around the hospital from ants, they pooled water in crockery rings around the bases. To protect the patients inside, they put the legs of the beds in containers of water too. Of course these pools of water were breeding grounds for the real Killers, mosquitos. Given they didn't have window screens they managed to kill many laborers through ignorance.
One Cuban doctor correctly theorized and presented evidence as to the real killer, but no one seemed to listen.
This isn't the first time in history that our lack of medical knowledge actually contributed to death. The most popular treatment in the middle ages for everything that ails you? Bleeding. It had no medical value, and did plenty of harm. It probably hastened or contributed too many deaths.
On the Lewis & Clark Journey the only person to die was Sergeant Charles Floyd. On August 20, 1804 Floyd died in what became Sioux City, Iowa some 53 years later. In the early 20th century, a large obelisk monument was constructed to memorialize Floyd. Floyd died of what is now believed to a burst appendics. While this would not have been curable by the best Dr's of the day, the treatment, a laxative, hastened and added to the misery of his final days.
How often are we drawn to things we think are going to please us and make us happy; to cure what ails us and make everything all right? Perhaps you're not drawn to gambling, pornography, alcohol abuse, or illegal drugs. Many of us though, are drawn to other allures of this world; money, power, recognition…..
No matter where you have been looking for your cure, do not be Ignorant. Just like the French at the Panama Canal, the cause of all our illness is right there if we will only listen. The great physician has the only cure and the truth is in his word. Don't chase the cures of this world, and those trying to sell you snake oil. Those things won't heal you, and in fact are hastening your death and adding to your misery.
1 Peter 1:14
As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.