Groucho Marx mask befuddles coronavirus

Octogenerian Cal Samra, editor of The Joyful Noiseletter, with his Groucho Marx mask.

For 35 years, the editors, humorists, cartoonists, comedians, clowns, medical doctors, pastors, and subscribers of The Joyful Noiseletter have been insisting that "laughter is the best medicine." So, before the recommended self-quarantine, Cal Samra, editor of JN, recently put on his Groucho Marx mask (above) and toured the PNC bank, a ping-pong tournament at the Portage (MI) Senior Center, Shawarma King, an ethnic restaurant, the tennis courts at Kalamazoo's West Hills Racquet Club, his church Bible study class, and his yoga class. When he announced that he was wearing a newly designed and improved coronavirus mask, Samra was greeted with peals of laughter.

This started out as a joke, and people warmed to the humor, but it took a serious turn when, after his bizarre tour, Samra's yoga instructor surprised him with some valuable medical information about COVID-19, which at that time had been neglected by both the secular and religious news media. Somehow, Groucho had the last laugh on Samra.

After his yoga class, Samra's yoga instructor took him aside and said she had heard a health podcast by Dr. Mark Hyman, medical director of the Ultrawellness Center in Lenox, MA, and best-selling author of health books, focusing on the importance of eating healthy, living healthy, and building a strong immune system that rejects viruses.

On his website, Dr. Hyman wrote:

"A poor diet affects our brains in more ways than one. What we eat influences everything from our mood, ability to focus, and memory to our tiniest gut friends ‒ microbes ‒ and how well they function and fight off invaders."

For good health, Dr. Hyman recommends:

  • "Make sure 75% of your plate is veggies.
  • "Eat plenty of healthy fats rich in omega 3s.
  • "Optimize protein – we need about 30 grams of protein per meal.
  • "Avoid sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and transfats, food additives, and preservatives.
  • "Exercise regularly.
  • "Learn to actively relax the mind.
  • "Consciously build your network of friends, family, and community."

Dr. Hyman is not alone in his health recommendations. His advice is remarkably similar to the advice of the editors of the best-selling Blue Zones books, which JN featured in its catalog several years ago; and very similar to the Mediterranean diet recommended by Jewish, Christian and Hindu health reformers centuries ago, as featured in Cal Samra's new book, In Pursuit of Health and Longevity ‒ Wellness Pioneers through the Centuries (available from Barnes and Noble bookstores and www.joyfulnoiseletter.com).

Dr. Mehmet Oz also jumped aboard on his TV show and offered some "simple tips to strengthen your immune system," including "good sleep hygiene, exercise, meditation, and loading up on healthy fruits and vegetables."

The Joyful Noiseletter's article in the last issue paying tribute to Rachel Carson and her book Silent Spring as the mother of the environmental movement, and the article in this issue (pages 5, 6, 7) paying tribute to the grandmothers of the environmental movement, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Catherine Doherty, may also shed light on so many people's vulnerability to the coronavirus.

Is the ongoing pollution of the world's air, water, and food supply by chemicals, pesticides, and additives weakening the immune systems of many people, making them vulnerable to the coronavirus?

As a former lay executive director of the Huxley Institute for Biosocial Research, a medical research foundation, Samra hopes that the medical profession and the news media follow the lead of Dr. Hyman and the medical researchers of The Blue Zones and study why some people succumb when exposed to the coronavirus, while others suffer only minor, passing symptoms and many more are not affected at all by contact with the virus.

Samra also hopes and prays that they would study what effect the ongoing pollution of the world's air, water, and food supply has on people's immune systems, and help us look for ways to strengthen our immune systems.

(Groucho is long gone, but after all these years, Samra also learned that Groucho still has a positive impact.)

Church sign outside First Baptist Church of Macedon, NY.
“An example of the timely wit and wisdom of my colleague, Pastor
Steve Matteson,” commented Pastor Carl Prostka of Farmington, NY,
who sent it to JN.

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