Editor’s Notebook: January 2014

Introducing CATALYST’s “Love Your Lungs” campaign.
by Greta Belanger deJong

 

The symbol of the brain is well-known: You see a drawing of it and think: ideas. intelligence. Smart. Same for the heart. An image of the heart implies compassion, love.

But what about the lungs?

As people grow more concerned about air quality in the Salt Lake Valley when the inversion hits, missing from the equation is much attention on the vital organ most involved: the lungs.

The air may look bad, and smell bad. Some people may experience shortness of breath and chest pain. Many of us look for the causes, identify sources, do what we can to lessen our personal impacts on the air—you can read all that in CATALYST’s air quality series (we’re on No. 4 this month) as well as in the Salt Lake Tribune and elsewhere including social media—but what seems to be missing everywhere is a basic appreciation for the lungs themselves.

And so we begin CATALYST’s Love Your Lungs campaign. You will find healthy lung images throughout the magazine, online, and elsewhere in the months ahead to help us remember. It is an act of gratitude. It is simple. Everyone can do it.

We hear about people “with brains,” or someone who has a “good heart.” It’s time to create an iconography for the lungs—so that, when we hear about air quality, we take it personally, because that air is critical to our surviving and thriving.

We do say loud babies have “good lungs.” That’s too literal. I’m thinking more along the lines of using the phrase to describe someone who is full of life. Who has lots of energy.

As William Saroyan wrote: “Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

Let’s acknowledge our lovely lungs. Respect them. Treat them with reverence. They quietly (and, in difficult times, not so quietly) act on our behalf, from our first breath to our last. Send them some love now and then.