Monday, August 27, 2018

Transitions of Age

I have always very much liked old folk and taken great pleasure in treating them. Doubtless this is because I have felt that it is with them, with the drawing near of death and the new scale of values that this gives, that true values are sifted out, the enduring ones. If living means choosing...then choosing becomes the supreme vocation of old age, when life has become privation and earthly treasures have lost their glitter.

Then it is that a purely technical and scientific medical care, less and less effective, gives way to an ever more pressing care of the person...If medicine has no other hope to offer than a limited and temporary renewal of a vanishing ability then it becomes most disillusioning…

To cling to the past, to seek most doggedly to prolong one’s time of action means precisely this: living a useless old age…

Our task is to help men right to the end, to help them to grow up, and to help them to grow old. The new transition means to face, rather than avoid, this question of the true meaning of life.

                                                                                      -Paul Tournier, The Seasons of Life

Friday, August 24, 2018


Tolerance is popularly understood as not imposing your beliefs or ideas on someone else but, "tolerating" the other's belief system, and "celebrating our differences." It's the core of the diversity movement.

In reality this is a false tolerance because those who are its greatest adherents cannot tolerate those who hold to certain views of the world or humans. All of us have some boundary, some point of no return that we can't tolerate. I can't tolerate excess materialism. Others may not tolerate those who believe same sex behavior is wrong or vice versa.  Others can't tolerate the consumption of meat, environmentalists, the wealthy or the adulterers. In reality, we all have things we consider licit or illicit, and we consciously or unconsciously cannot tolerate those who cross that mental boundary.

True tolerance is more of a profound acceptance of others based on our own finiteness, weaknesses and imperfections.

"The knowledge of our weakness is the source of our tolerance."
 -Tournier, The Person Reborn

True tolerance has little to do with keeping my beliefs to myself or paying lip service to accepting other's beliefs. It has everything to do with my understanding of myself. I am fallen from perfection, broken and incomplete. I will never ever have a full understanding of life. I am an interdependent, hypocritical creature, prone to judge others while simultaneously falling short of that elusive perfection.

Others may believe things profoundly different from me. I may not tolerate materialism, homosexuality, homophobia, reproductive rights, the pro-life movement, greenhouse gas emitting corporations, gender dysphoria, binary genders or a host of other ideas, issues or perspectives.

If I am tolerant, I humbly accept and embrace the other. Why? Not because they fall within my boundaries of licit ideas or behaviors, or because I accept that we believe differently. That's a delusion. But because they are a fellow creature, broken and incomplete, in need of acceptance, and redemption - just like me. I may disagree with their perspective in the depths of my soul. Nevertheless, the other is a fellow human, in desperate need for the flood-light of truth to penetrate the soul.

Blessed are the cracked, for they let the light in.

Hi, my name is Rick, and I'm a hypocrite.

Monday, August 20, 2018

A Mature Search

What is important for the aged is not what they are still able to do, nor yet what they have accumulated and cannot take with them. It is what they are.

This is the cause of the dreadful feeling of uselessness that so deeply bothers most elderly people. All those concepts of our modern Western civilization, in which effective action is held above all, contribute to their plight.

If progress in medicine tends to make our society more and more made up of older people, then a radical and authentic reevaluation of old age is absolutely essential. Yet is it not the older person himself who must discover this secret, instead of considering himself a worn-out adult?…

It is not enough to invent some new life goal by hit-or-miss, some consolation prize for old age. It is the true meaning of life that needs to be discovered. The search for this will be the law of old age...

                                                                                       -Paul Tournier, The Seasons of Life

Monday, August 13, 2018

Success and Failure

Successes have their meaning and there is no question of undervaluating them. However, failures also have their meaning, perhaps a deeper meaning. What gives them all meaning is that they work together toward the fulfillment of God’s plan.

                                                                                      -Paul Tournier, The Seasons of Life

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Law of Life III: Man is made for Woman. Woman is made for Man.

First and foremost, physicians are trained in understanding the human body. They are first taught normal anatomy and physiology then pathological anatomy and pathophysiology. Learning how to doctor is fundamentally understanding the normal structure and function of the body, recognizing states that are departures from that normal, identifying the cause when possible,  then providing treatment.

The person coming to see the doctor is body, mind, and spirit: a body with particular structures and functions; a mind with thoughts, feelings and perceptions; and a spirit that relates to God, others and self, that must choose between right and wrong and seeks meaning in life. When body, mind and spirit are in disharmony, it is important to identify the problem. There are many ways in which patients want to believe something about their bodies not based on reality. The physician should compassionately bring that person back to a firm grounding based on physical reality, not feed the delusion. 

If a person presents to me with a distortion of perception of his or her normal body, I am obliged to stand fast on physical reality. I recently had a patient tell me her skull was shrinking. In reality she was depressed and losing weight which prompted this distorted perception. Her skull had not shrunk. The aberration of the normal physiology of brain function resulted in a distortion of perception and mood needing treatment, not her skull.

If a person comes to me suffering with anorexia nervosa convinced she is overweight when in fact she is not, I need to rely on the scale and my powers of observation of the body. The distortion of perception does not change the physical reality that she is starving herself. I should be sympathetic and empathetic to her convictions, compassionate and understanding of what may be causing her to believe thus. Nevertheless I would do a disservice to her by agreeing with her identification of being overweight.

If a person perceives himself to be 6 feet 6 inches tall when in fact he is 5 foot 5 inches, I must trust the measuring device.

If a man with normal anatomy presents to me convinced he is a woman, I must rely on my powers of observation and recognize the person is composed of a trillion cells with the genetic composition of XY and not XX, with the anatomic parts of a  man. Indeed if there are findings of brain function that can be measured in the man's brain by sophisticated imaging which are different than those of persons without such a perception, those findings would simply corroborate a departure from normal functioning.

Anatomy and physiology make the complementary nature of man and woman self evident. The necessary functions of the male and female bodies that result in the propagation of human beings set the necessary standard for sexual behavior between men and women. Indeed it is a law of life that for humans to continue to exist, this relationship must persist. There are aberrations from this relationship, but to be sure, they are aberrations, a departure from normal anatomy and physiology. For humans to exist, man is made for woman and woman is made for man.

Such observations should not prompt me to value any human being less, to think less of someone, to be fearful or spiteful of someone who may believe or act according to aberrations from this law of life. I am called to love. In the end though, I must be faithful to the body and its normal structure and function. I am not loving the other who has a distortion of perception or a disharmony of the body, mind and spirit by calling that distortion normal. 

Thursday, August 9, 2018

A Battle We Don't Need


In the twenty-first century, in an increasingly technological society, a battle is raging for the hearts and minds of humanity. Many materialists, noting triumphantly the advances of science in filling the gaps of our understanding of nature, announce that belief in God is an outmoded superstition, and that we would be better off admitting that and moving on. Many believers in God, convinced that the truth they derive from the spiritual introspection is of more enduring value than truths from other sources, see the advances in science and technology as dangerous and untrustworthy…

Will we turn our backs on science because it is perceived as a threat to God, abandoning all of the promise of advancing our understanding of nature and applying that to the alleviation of suffering and the betterment of humankind? Alternatively, will we turn our backs on faith, concluding that science has rendered the spiritual life no longer necessary, and that traditional religious symbols can now be replaced by engravings of the double helix on our alters?

Both of these choices are profoundly dangerous. Both deny truth. Both will diminish the nobility of humankind. Both will be devastating to our future. And both are unnecessary. The God of the Bible is also the God of the genome. He can be worshiped in the cathedral or in the laboratory. His creation is majestic awesome, intricate, and beautiful—and it cannot be at war with itself. Only we imperfect humans can start such battles. And only we can end them.

                                                                                      -Francis Collins, The Language of God

Monday, August 6, 2018

To Choose

To live is to choose. Those who through a childish notion of what fullness implies want to lose none of their human inheritance, sacrifice nothing, give up nothing, lose out in spreading themselves too thin...Fullness cannot be an accumulation of successes and activities in every possible human domain.

When we are young it is still possible to fool ourselves by charging to the future what the present still lacks. Sooner or later, however, we have to wake up. Behind every objective we attain there gradually take shape ten others...We have to renounce far more than we accomplish.

                                                                                     -Paul Tournier, Seasons of Life