The Columbo inhaler is a nice example of quack medicine from the 1920’s. It’s named for Christopher Columbus (rather than everyone’s favorite trenchcoat-wearing detective). I’m not sure what Columbus has to do with medicine, but there you have it. The inhaler gives specific directions on how to use it – one end is for inhaling through the mouth while the other is for nasal use. It mentions that the inhaler protects against coughs, asthma, colds, and a host of other respiratory problems. One thing is rather conspicuously absent from the instructions – the actual contents of the inhaler.
When I first received this bit of historical quackery, the first thing my kids said was “Try it out!” I explained that I had no idea what it contained and so there was no way I was taking that into my lungs because there’s no easy way to get it out again.
This got me thinking about the various environments we place ourselves in and what we decide to admit into our minds. In an average week I visit a bunch of places – work, home, church, the karate dojo, my kids’ schools, the grocery store – the list goes on and on. Everywhere I go I hear conversations, some of which are uplifting and wholesome and some of which contain mostly four-letter words.
Those conversations have an impact. The brain is remarkable at remembering all kinds of information and this can be a double-edged sword. Sometimes during quiet moments I recall funny things my kids said, a bit of science trivia I heard in a podcast, or a scripture someone quoted during a Sunday school lesson. On the other hand, sometimes my brain brings up an off-color joke I heard from a coworker or the provocative lyrics from a song on the radio.
We naturally protect our lungs from questionable substances, but we should also guard our minds from that which is unwholesome and demeaning. Once it’s in there it is generally there to stay.