A recent article by Jane Gross in the New York Times science section again touched on the issue of end of life treatment.  Whether an elderly, demented or end-stage cancer patient is subjected to a battery of tests, treatments or resuscitation  often falls into the hands of the treating physicians.  This occurs despite the 'living will' or health care mandates of particular individuals which clearly states that such treatment is contrary to their wishes.

It seems to me that my fellow physicians need to take classes in the great metaphysical issues–the nature of life, of death and the role of the physician in the process. The process should begin in medical schools but needs to be updated for those who actively take care of patients, who practice in the real world.

 We are trained to treat, not withhold treatment.  We are programmed to diagnose, to combat the enemy of disease, and never to admit failure.  We are also paranoid about failure to successfully defeat death.  The specter of malpractice law suits has permanently scarred our collective psyche.

My colleagues need to discuss these issue from a new perspective–one that combines philosophy, ethics, spirituality, religion  ie–a metaphysical approach.  But their efforts cannot possibly succeed without society as a whole facing these same issues.  End of life discussions are always difficult and painful but until we see them publicly debated and discussed on Oprah's show, in houses of worship and between individuals in their private lives, change will not occur.

Despite our individual differences, I believe an open forum will allow us to narrow such disparities.  'Allowing' physicians to withhold unnecessary and expensive testing and treatment to patients at end of life must be validated as the humane approach.  Society needs to re-explore the nature of life and death, to accept death as natural and unavoidable and to extend to our loved-ones the gift of a peaceful transition.

Our entire death-denying culture is as much to blame for physician's responses as anything.  We need to allow fear to be replaced with compassionate realism.  It will be healing for us all.


Several blog postings in November 2008 dealt with the topic of overcoming adversity.
I discussed the challenges that confront each and every human being and suggested that our attitudes regarding these difficulties is crucial in order to 'overcome' them.  It is preferable to regard them as necessary, expected opportunities to challenge our soul's growth and development.  From  a metaphysical  perspective,  overcoming adversity  may be the reason for our existence in the first place.

I also discussed how adversity leads to a re-evaluation of our values–how materialism and constant striving for money, power, prestige becomes less desirable or even achievable.  Instead, our personal relationships, our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being become foremost.

Adversity and suffering can also make us more humble and more compassionate of our fellow man.  We can share in life's traumas and by doing so, mutually heal.

A necessary component to healing through adversity, of learning to view stress as necessary and even useful, is to understand the need to exercise control over chaos.

Chaos is like free-fall.  It is the ultimate source of intense anxiety and panic.  They feeling that you have no idea what is happening, no idea what to do next can be disruptive and dangerous.
A recent NEWSWEEK article on stress emphasizes this point.  Making an effort to exert control over extremely stressful situations is first step towards regaining one's equilibrium and being able to move forward.

For my patients who receive a terrible diagnosis such as cancer, I advise them to only think about the next step.  Our tendency when problems hit is to project into a future which may appear desperate and bleak.  To do so, to worry about future tragedy merely adds to the paralysis.

I suggest to everyone facing sudden unexpected adversity–whether an upsetting medical diagnosis, a firing at work, a notice of foreclosure, a troubling report about  a child or loved-one—plan something proactive for the next moment.

Do something that will attempt to control the chaos.  Immediately take action, even if it is placing phone calls, scanning the internet, making lists of your immediate plans,  discussing the problem  with trusted friends.  This action may not even be ultimately productive.  But it will be incredibly important.  It will signal the universe, and more importantly you, that you are not prepared to give in or succumb to the chaos that surrounds you.

Being active sets the tone for your own perspective on yourself.  Do you fall into a state of helpless panic, seek drugs or alcohol to lessen your panic ?  Or do you make it clear to yourself and all others, that you won't go down without a fight.

This approach is actually self-fulfilling.  Being optimistic, upbeat will charge you with the energy you need to make something positive develop from the chaos you are facing.  Seeking to reign in the chaos sets you on the right path to overcoming adversity.


I had hoped that I would no longer have to be appalled by those absurd, annoying and outrageous Joe Kennedy adds supporting the subsidized oil from 'our  good friends from Venezuela.

I had hoped that the precipitous drop in the price of oil would have ended this nonsense, would have chastened Chavez to take care of his country's own problems. Instead, he has played the Adolph-pretender by insisting on trashing any semblance of democracy and attacking the country's small Jewish population.

Perhaps I had hoped that Joe Kennedy would have taken his tainted money from this most despicable despot, dictator and just disappeared.

Perhaps I had hoped that he would have recalled the price his family has paid for the bad karma of grandpa Joe as well as some other Kennedys, and become quickly enlightened.

I will not provide a list of tragedies that has  befallen his family members.  They are well known and do not rejoice in anyone's sufferings.  But if there is any doubt about the power of karma, just recall some of them, silently and solemnly.

But no—today I saw another commercial for the "Citizen's Emergency Committee"–pathetically offering to help unfortunate Americans whose own government could not be there for them.  Of course  it is a sham, of course it is outrageous.  We should be up in arms about it.

But of all people–Joe Kennedy should be aware of the power of  bad  karma.   The universe will balance itself, after all.


A recent article from the New York Times describes the panic and distress among the super rich these days.  The article doesn't exactly define who these people are but refers to the observation that although many have lost nearly half their "net worth" [see my blog on this topic] they still have at least 'tens of millions' of dollars left.

Psychologists are being recruited to deal with the emotional melt-down that has ensued.  They lay the blame for this 'crisis' on the fact that many such individuals base their entire self-worth and self-image on their enormous wealth.  Some have memories of poverty or low self-esteem in their youth.  Such has been the driving force behind their maniacal desire to have enormous wealth.  The reality of tremendous loss of wealth allows their long suppressed fears to surface.  Many are truly panicked despite ridiculously large amounts of money still there. Some have hired security guards to protect their assets against the 'hordes' who they perceive as threats. 

Economic psychologists refer to this as 'present event bias' which implies that we tend to believe whatever is occurring now will remain so forever.

Clearly the problem arises because of the role that wealth has played in their lives to date.  When we identify our intrinsic 'net worth' with our financial net worth, then it is understandable how tragic the financial chaos and decline may seem to us.  Many such individuals exist within a social and personal circle of similarly minded individuals.  They are seeing their entire 'way of life' affected and they are tremendously distraught.

Perhaps, just perhaps the silver lining in this financial disaster is the opportunity to review and re-adjust our values.  This over used but under appreciated concept is over due for an examination.

Perhaps we are all being forced to look at life, our lives, existence itself with fresh eyes.

Most of us are not starving.  Most of us have not lost the personal relationships we have developed with family, friends and loved-ones.  Most of us still have some modicum of stability in our lives on its most fundamental level. 

The super-rich need to wake up to the reality that they have been able to ignore.  Millions are in far worse straits.  Millions have lost jobs, homes, marriages over this crisis.  These are the people who justifiably are fighting off a meltdown.

Perhaps the super-rich would be better served jettisoning their worries about how many millions they still have and turn their attention outwards, to those fellow human beings who are true need.  Perhaps the answer to the financial and psychological meltdown is to feel compassion for those who are truly affected by what is happening to all of us.

Even those of us who are not super-rich but are somewhere in-between—who do not have millions still present but who are not facing total economic collapse can learn healing lessons as well.

We are  all being forced to recognize the  ultimate truth–we are all alike, we are all  in the same boat.  Facing outward with charity, compassion and empathy may ultimately be healing for those people who considered themselves above the rest. 

Perhaps, just perhaps in the long run we will all be better off for it.






This children's poem of uncertain origin can offer a sense of calm  by virtue of its gentle rhythm and soothing tones.  But a closer, metaphysical perspective can offer some alternative and perhaps interesting understanding.  Certainly as when interpreting any written material, there is roon for disagreement and/or discussion.  Try this one —

ROW, ROW, ROW YOUR BOAT–  Life is an exercise is seeking order out of chaos.  We fear the unknown, that which we cannot control.  Life will provide such unexpected challenges whether we invite them or not.  Rowing implies an act of free will, of attempting to direct our lives.  A boat is a vehicle which helps us survive in the midst of water, the source of all life but also of threatening chaos.  Few of us can persist for long in water without assistance.  So rowing is a metaphor for living in the world.

GENTLY DOWN THE STREAM—An interesting line which challenges us to find a path which the universe may offer us.  Many of us struggle to row UP the stream of life.  We often believe that we need to do this, to prove ourselves, our power over life's mystery. Perhaps we miss the cues, the open doors, the gentle clues and cues that our path is elsewhere.  But perhaps we would do better to seek a path which the universe provides for us.  Perhaps we would do better to find where the stream of our own lives exists so that we can direct our lives into the path it is trying to show us.

MERRILY, MERRILY, MERRILY, MERRILY– Most spiritual traditions speak to an underlying joy which pervades the universe.  This is often hidden, difficult to perceive and easily denied.  Mystics and those individuals who have survived near-death experiences frequently struggle to explain this experience of bliss to the rest of us. If life here is regarded as a necessarily challenge to our soul's evolving journey, adversity can be seen as necessary and inescapable.  Being able to see the light beyond the darkness which  frequently seems to surround us is truly a challenge.

LIFE IS BUT A DREAM– Once again a frequent spiritual perspective from mystics whose experiences led them to see our lives as episodes in the evolution of our souls. Many of us seek fame, fortune, power, prestige, material 'success' as the ultimate goals.  Perhaps there are more spiritual values such as kindness, compassion, empathy and connection with other beings which may be more worthy goals.  Reincarnation offers us multiple opportunties to face challenges and to regard each lifetime, as important and blessed as it is, as temporary and ephemeral.



See the film DEFIANCE  I know that there are those of you who are tired of Holocaust Films per se.
But there is a change in the content and context of recent such films. THE READER   is remarkable because it offers the perspective of the post WWII generation of Germans who are struggling with the metaphysical and moral implications of their parents and grandparents actions.  DEFIANCE  speaks to the capacity to defend oneself and retaliate on whatever terms possible.

I believe that sixty plus years after the most brutal action of Western civilization, we just beginning to be ready to truly deal with the implications of such heinous acts.  It has taken sixty years to pass through the shock of the event.  The generations that follow will ponder what it takes to perpetrate such devastation and murder.  All of which was calmly and dispassionately planned.  There is no possibility to invoke the passion that surrounds spontaneous acts that arise out of emotional turmoil.

I recently heard of such an example of calculating evil.  A good friend was one of the youngest survivors of the Auschwitz death camp.  Kept alive as a young boy by the efforts of Oscar Schindler [of Schindler's List fame] he bears the tatoo of his numbers to this day.
He related to me a story recently told to him by a woman who survived the gas chambers.

Apparently the Nazi's preferred their victims to enter the gas chambers unaware of their fate.  They were to believe that they were merely taking showers.  The possibility that they might suspect some perversity could send them into panic and possible revolt.  The proof of this policy is the survival of this particular woman.

She survived the gas chamber because of 'technical difficulties'.  The gaseous discharge didn't work.  Instead of returning these particular  women to the rest of the group where they could tell the truth of the 'showers' they released them  instead!

Yes, as much as they plotted and calculated  the destruction and annihilation of European Jewry, they were willing to let a few go free rather than disrupt their plans.

The depth of planning to exterminate innocent human beings must never be forgotten.  This is not a story about Germans and Jews.  It is truly about human beings and their capacity for such  calculated evil that it truly boggles the mind to ponder.

When we talk about 'never forget'—-let us never forget !