Paint thinners

Right – why the devil would I want to write on or refer to ‘paint thinners’, on a sunny Sunday morning in my patch of the UK?!! Have I not anything better to do? Of course not! I decide as usual what’s better or best for me to do with my time, as always.

paintthinnerWell, something small has been bugging me for about 20 years and this morning something finally snapped!! Yes – somebody out there is thinking, “Oooh.. he’s lost his rag again!!.. This guy is so angry at the world!” Oh shut up – people always seem to know my emotional inner state. So because I say I’ve snapped means I’m furious or in a state of rage? Oh puhleese. What’s snapped is my lack of tolerance for the issue. Calm down – if you read my blogs regularly, you’d know by now that you don’t get the story as instantly as you like it. This is Britain – or more specifically England and Wales – where natives jump to conclusions – so I always feel a need to wrestle with what the ‘culture’ may choose to define for me i.e. my own thoughts and emotions. The Brits of course like to think that they are balanced and non-judgmental but of course, they’re quite the opposite.

So  – what’s got me onto paint thinners this morning, is a medical report I came across about ‘warfarin’.  Now, warfarin is an anticoagulant. It is commonly – and has commonly been – referred to as a blood thinner. The idea of a thinner is unarguably borrowed/theived or hoisted from that of thinners used for paint or painting related activities. What do paint thinners do? I think most people will accept that paint thinners are used for cleaning used paint brushes and/or making paint less viscous. At least most of the uses of paint thinners arise from those functions/qualities.

Warfarin however, does not dissolve anything and it does not ‘thin’ any part of the blood in terms of making it less viscous. Just to be clear, warfarin doesn’t loosen up blood, make it flow better or less sticky!! Immediately I expect unknowing idiots to reach for the “.. but .. but.. I thought.. “ sort of argument. Warfarin works on certain chemicals in the blood to interrupt clotting [Google is your friend]. Specifically warfarin targets the a vitamin K related pathways and eventually affects clotting Factors II( Prothrombin), VII, IX and X. Yes – trust me – you don’t need to be a medic to grasp any of this.

Amusingly, people who are not doctors are not hesitant to lecture me on chemical pathways in the brain which may be  modified by antidepressants – but hey, I’m just a quack – or made to feel so? So what’s amusing about that? It’s that people back off and go “I’m not a doctor.. “ rather selectively and conveniently. Anyways, as I was saying – it’s enough to know a little about what warfarin does, even if one does not understand the depths of it all; in order to get to my point on ‘blood thinner’.

Okay – so interrupting chemical pathways that have to do with clotting is not about thinning the blood, not even by a ridiculous stretch of imagination. And to repeat myself the effect of warfarin is not to make the blood less viscous, to flow better, or to be less sticky to anything. Even if the clotting mechanism is made less reactive that cannot be said to be thinning the blood, in the way that paint thinners work [re-reading of this paragraph recommended, though it may not help most].

So why am I on about this?!! One of the handicaps of human language and thought is the propensity to turn a metaphor or an idea into a fact. Whilst at one level facts (primary ones) exist independently of states of mind, secondary facts (the ones people accept as truths) which depend on minds collectively or individually, become powerful and take on a certain force or weight. Secondary facts that become distanced – dangerously so – from primary facts have very powerful and obviously potentially dangerous effects.

This business about thinning the blood with warfarin is just an example of how secondary facts take on a life of their own.  But secondary facts (which depend on beliefs and acceptance) can turn into myths which have a broader and deeper reach; affecting large numbers of people. I say this is a serious weakness of the human condition. And no – it’s not that I mean to say ‘I am better than thou’ – not because I criticise the human condition means that I am adopting a position of arrogance.

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