An Email Exchange Worth Sharing

    Recently I began an email exchange with one of the blog readers. I will call him Billy and have decided to share with other of my blog readers some of  the essential content of our interactions. I feel that his questions and concerns represent powerfully challenging metaphysical issues that require open discussion.  I can relate to Billy’s concerns because I share them completely.
    Billy is facing the most basic and terrifying of issues–the question of the existence and survival of the soul. I had once obtained a quote from Dostoevsky  which essentially took note that the survival of the soul was the primal existential question of which all others were derived.
    In an age when many question the legitimacy and authority of revealled scripture [aka organized religion] these primal metaphysical questions become sources of free-floating anxiety.
    Billy has apparently read extensively the literature on the near-death experience [NDE] after-death communication [ADC] and the medium experience.  His references were to books and authors that I have explored as well.  His response is to doubt their validity and to remain anxiety-ridden and possibly depressed about thoughts of death and the abyss which may follow.
   I could glibly refer Billy to my forthcoming book for my own answer to the question, but I have attempted to emphasize to him the importance of the Credibility Quotient, the understanding of how difficult it is to transmit the reality of paranormal/spiritual experiences to someone who has never had them.
    I began to related to Billy several of the experiences that I have shared with blog readers and which are included in more detail in ‘the book’ but I feel that he will remain doubtful and unconvinced.  The truth is–unless he has his own personal experience OR unless he hears from someone he knows and trusts, he is likely to remain not only skeptical [a positive] but an unbeliever [something that he need not be].
    It may not be easy to put himself ‘out there’ in the community of his friends, peers, social contacts to openly announce that he is a seeker of higher reality and to freely declare his interest in such phenomena.  But personally, that is how I began to accumulate my ‘evidence’.  Once I began the process nearly ten years ago, it has continued to proceed as if on its own.
    What resulted from this ‘experiment’ allowed me to then go back to the books of others and truly relate to them.  The literature on the NDE, ADC, the medium experience were no longer nonsense to me because my personal experiences and contacts correlated closely with them.
    There is another important message for Billy and the multitudes of other Billys in cyberspace.  Learn to live in the mystery.  Become comfortable not totally knowing.  This is not easy.  We as sentient beings want to control the chaos and fear of existence/nonexistence.  I don’t believe this is completely possible.
    Look at contemporary science.  Physicists have been forced to confront their growing ignorance about the nature of reality.  To some, it must be extremely distressing because scientists really need to understand the way the universe works.  But Reality has another lesson for them and for us.  We may just be here to deal with the uncertainty of existence. It may very well be another obstacle among many that characterize our lives  And it may offer another opportunity  to overcome that metaphysical angst and live our lives to the best of our ability. 
    Perhaps we are here, after all, to comfort each other in this pass-through known as life. Overcoming fear requires love and the disappearance of all mystery might just make life too easy. It might just take way one of our pathways towards spiritual evolution. 
    Billy might just say that this is ultimate rationalization.  He may or may not be correct.  But how I look at life remains my choice and this is how I choose to view it. 
    So to all the Billys out there–take heart, don’t dwell in despair, your curiosity is a powerful gift and needs to be encouraged and cultivated. Sharing fear is the greatest gift we have. It can enlighten us all.

The Metaphysics of Golf

Golf? Metaphysics? Aren’t the two terms incompatible concepts? Perhaps if one has in mind the stereotypical exclusive private club notion of golf. But golf as with any human activity can be viewed within a deeper context of human behavior and  human relations.

Essentially all sports look ridiculous to the outsider who doesn’t truly ‘get it’. Name one sport is more ‘rational ‘  than another.  Most involve balls of some shape or size propelled through the air, caught, hit or batted in some direction or another.

I view golf as an incredibly frustrating challenge that encourages one to stick to it, to persist despite frequent failure and to maintain an irrational, even nonsensical optimism that the next shot will be great! And often that fantastic shot [all too rare] produces a euphoria which defies description.  Because golf, like life, is extremelydifficult,  when success does occur, it is highly cherished.

There is a particular level of comraderie that can occur in golf unlike other sports. This is because of the nature of golf: the players only indirectly compete against each other.  They are actually competing against themselves and the golf course.  I cannot affect the performance of another golfer directly. I can indirectly ‘psyche them out’ if I am playing well and they are not.  But I cannot touch them, or their ball.

On a recent golf trip with three close friends, there was an atmosphere of closeness and emotional support which is truly rare among adult men. One of the four had just lost his mother-in-law.  His wife was having a difficult time with her mourning period and felt ambivalent about her husband’s golf trip.  He also felt ambivalent about going but saw it as a release for his own stress.

The three of us rallied around our friend, supporting his decision to play, reminding him of his devotion to his wife and deceased mother-in-law.  Now someone more objective might or might not find his actions defensible. My point is that men rarely deal with each other on such a deep emotional level.

Our closeness was rare but powerful.  Like hitting a pure golf shot, the expression of love for one person to another is a thing of great beauty.

This Too Shall Pass

This time last year I was in the process of canceling a much anticipated golf trip with some good friends for the second year in the row.  At this moment I am planning to leave tomorrow for this very same adventure.

Two years ago it had been for something joyful and celebratory, the marriage of one of my partner’s daughters.  Last year it was for the horrendous confluence of two major personal disasters, the imminent death of my Mother and the sudden collapse of my Father.

Readers of this blog will take note of last year’s postings, describing the ‘fog of suffering’ which characterized last summer for my family. My Father miraculously survived more than five weeks of hospitalization for a severe case of pneumonia, no doubt birthed by his immune system collapse after caring for my Mother with progressive dementia.

Although nearly 87 at the time, he did survive to return home to be present at the passing of his wife of nearly 64years.  Even a fractured hip which occurred five days after her death and the Shiva period did not deter him from coming back to nearly full functional capacity.

The summer of 06 was extremely difficult in other ways as well. The details are less important than the point of this posting.  ‘This too shall pass‘ is an important lesson for growth, transformation and healing.

Several legends surround its origin but that offered by Wikipedia regarding King Solomon is most fascinating. It seemed as if Solomon wanted to teach humility to one of his associates, Benaiah ben Yehoyada and he sent him out to find a magic ring which could bring a joyous man to sadness, a sad man to joy.  Assuming that this would not be possible, he sent him on his way.

Ben Yehoyada, the legend goes, found an old but wise jeweler who offered a solution to his problem.  He quickly carved three Hebrew letters into a plane ring, gimel, zayan, yod.  Which stood for the words, gam, zeh, ya’avor–‘this too shall pass’.

The irony was, when King Solomon saw the writing, he understood all too well that his wealth and power were meaningless.

It is a potent truth so noted–our sense of power or powerlessness is always exaggerated. Live life with conviction, gratitude, action but humility. Don’t anticipate tragedy, but don’t be shocked by it either. But be open to gifts of beauty, joy and transformation as well.  They are only moments away.

Rather than see this phrase as a source of sadness or futility, we can choose to view it as ultimate liberation–because all existence is change, live life in the moment, make the best decisions you can make in the moment, experience the joys and sadness of the moment–but don’t burden yourself further my useless worry– let it go. 

This is a prescription for healing–liberation from the burden of age–trying to control it all!

This too shall pass….

l

The Metaphysical Ratio

I have a new concept which I will try to work through within the platform of this blog.  It was not discussed at all in my book, which [thank God] was completed and sent off to Praeger with a great deal of sweat and aggravation.  My kudos to Rev. Laurie Sue Brockway who has guided me as well as assisted me in the entire process of finding Praeger and getting the job done. 

Back to this concept–I have not found the appropriate name for it but it is derived from a very pragmatic approach to health care and concepts of healing. It has been the platform by which I tend to make medical decisions in my practice.  In rough terms it is knonw as the ‘risk, benefit ratio’.  It applies to decisions regarding whether of not a procedure such as upper endoscopy or colonoscopy should be performed on any one particular patient.  It should also apply to other specialties including cardiology and oncology as well. Who is an appropriate candidate for what drug or procedure in light of the risks involved and the ultimate benfit to the patient.

Knowing and understanding that no procedures are entirely without risk of complications and side effects, I attempt to rationally analyze each patient as an individual.  For example, I am often called upon to attempt to elucidate the cause of iron-deficiency anemia.  In most adults this results from bleeding, usually [unless it is a heavily menstruating female] it is from the gastrointestinal tract. 

Endoscopy and colonoscopy are very well tolerated by the vast majority of the patients I see, yet there are side effects and complications which are possible with each, more with colonoscopy.  In this case the bowel preps themselves are sometimes difficult to tolerate.  In the elderly, or those with compromised hearts, lungs, kidneys, or liver the risk of the preparation and procedure must be balanced against the potential benefit from performing the procedure. Anesthesia, as safe as it is in the 21st century could jeopardize an extremely fragile patient’s health.

I attempt to analyze this risk/benefit ratio in every patient.  The risk in a young otherwise healthy patients is extremely small.  The potential information obtained is great.  Therefore the ratio favors doing the procedure.  On the other end of the spectrum is an elderly, frail patient dying of a degenerative disease such as heart disease, emphysema or even cancer. I will discuss this ratio with family members and the patients themselves.

It often comes down to this: is the information that I will obtain from doing these procedures worth the immediate risk to the patient.  Can I effect any meaningful change in their prognosis?  Will finding a colon cancer change the life expectancy or management of an elderly nursing home patient with Alzheimer’s dementia?

At times  I will recommend the ‘easier’ of the two procedures, upper endoscopy.  And perhaps if that does not reveal the source of the anemia, may actually discourage further testing [ie colonoscopy].  There is a fine line which I must navigate in these situations.  Some family members understand and appreciate my point of view.  Others become incensed and believe that I don’t want to ‘do everything’ for their loved one.

This ratio clearly represents the ‘art’ of dealing with patients, families and risk.  It is ironic that I would refer to it as a ‘ratio’ as if it were mathematical in nature.  Yet it does have a rational, cognitive component.  It should be open to discussion and debate.  My thoughts are not fixed  and, in many patients, I am open to other opinions and can change my mind.

Now, the reason I am revisitng this concept is this–I believe it has application to metaphysical and spiritual beliefs.  What we believe to be true about the universe, our metaphysical platform, influences how we view our own lives and the lives of those around us.  I believe that we can choose that lens or paradigm through which we view reality. 

If this is indeed a choice, then it gives us an opportunity to examine the equivalent of the ‘risk/benefit’ ratio in our own attitudes towards life.

I believe it is necessary for our ultimate peace of mind,  happiness, or whatever term seems relevant to be able to examine and choose how to interpret our reality. We may need to examine the risk vs the benefit of our belief systems and ultimately choose what works best for us.

More to come….