A PLACE OF DARKNESS — Poem

there is a darkness so profound

that here and there become unbound

the light is but a stranger there

its absence adds weight to the air

and yet the eyes perceive a white

the mind so wild to find the light

in such a state a man will find

his hands and feet become

a kind of traveler's tool

the road unsigned

though vision normal

all is blind

no self-reproach

no looking back

it only darkens what is black

there's panic in the wall's hard touch

and I am bolted out of such

a floating, lifeless state of will

that bades me close my eyes, be still

the darkness sits upon my chest and face

and holds me prisoner to this place

an voice arises from the night

"cast off your fear, seek healing in the light"

A SEARCH FOR SELF — Who Are We ?

It is the ultimate metaphysical question–who are we ?  There are biological, existential, philosophical, spiritual dimensions to it.  But one aspect of self that seems compelling to me is how we are different with different people.

We seem to react to individuals when we are in their presence.  In some way we pick up cues from them and create a bond of some kind which changes, in sometimes subtle ways, who we are in the moment.

Several quick examples are illustrative:  how do we act around our parents versus our contemporaries.  Perhaps young individuals learn this intuitively.  They come into conflict when they forget who they are with.

The classic example is the college student who returns home from school for a vacation and blurts out to his Mother, "could you pass the fuckin peas!"

More subtle examples can be noted when we are with different groups of friends. We usually sense their interests, sense of humor, attitudes and can morph ourselves in order to facilitate the connection.

In our particular professions and lines of work we may create a persona, a mask, which we deem necessary in order to perform our roles.

Then there are some individuals who seem to enjoy being contrary.  It is not clear why except to bring attention to themselves.  By sensing the flow of personalities or conversation, they clearly go against it.  This often brings a sense of unease to others who are seeking a more tranquil interaction.

Woody Allen's film ZELIG was a humorous but enlightening attempt to describe an individual so intent in "fitting in" with others that he literally could change his skin color when jamming with an African American jazz band.

In addition to a basic personality which has evolved throughout our lifetime, it does seem that we possess a flexible, amorphous aspect of self which can and does modify itself according to those around us.

It is fascinating to observe ourselves when we are with others.   It seems as if we do become somewhat different people when in the presence of others.  It is as if we form a new self which has an existence, however, transient of its own. 

Sometimes this self works for us, at other times it may work to our detriment.  I recall a former medical associate whose persona as a physician was rather stern and harsh.  Patients complained to me that he often frightened them.  Yet when out socially, he was totally different–friendly, light-hearted and engaging.

Somehow he never picked up on the difference, nor perceived the reaction from others.

In any case, don't become so self-conscious that in inhibits the phenomenon.  Go with it.

END OF LIFE — Revisited

A recent NY Times article in the health section on 2/23/10 titled MURKY PATH IN DECIDING ON CARE AT THE END by Gina Kolata merely reinforces my belief that this topic needs to be addressed on a continual basis.  This is a painful, difficult and complex issue.  It is not clearly defined.  The paths of action are to be undertaken carefully, sensitively and on an individual basis.

The essence of the article involves two patients–one a two year old with severe developmental issues and the 90 year old demented grandmother of a physician.

In both cases when death seemed imminent, cardiopulmonary resuscitation was utilized.  In the case of the boy, despite his death and the poor quality of his life, his parents felt vindicated in insisting that "everything be done".  It is hard to argue against such an attitude, despite the boy's severe incapacity's.  Age is a factor which cannot be dismissed.  Even a young severely disabled child is still "too young" to die in the minds of his parents.

In the case of the 90year old demented grandmother, however, I disagree with the decision of the family to have CPR done.  Despite the emotional attachments we all feel towards our loved ones, in this situation, a long life has been lived.  The elderly woman suffered from dementia.  The success of her CPR meant she would stay "alive" in the physical sense only.  Her family of doctors felt it was a necessary act.

From my point of view, however, such a decision should be based on what is in the best interest of the patient, not the family.  I would have elected NOT to have CPR done on my mother under such circumstances because I know that she had no meaningful quality of life. 

Yes, to me that phrase does have meaning.  Living does not mean existing in a vegetative state.  Would I want my family to take of me, to see me in that state of being–absolutely not.

There is no quality of life.  A cognitive existence is over.  Death is certain and sometimes a form of healing for all concerned.

I know this attitude may seem inappropriate to some.  This is not euthanasia. It is also not hypocrisy.  I apply the same standards to others as I do to myself and my family.

It was the course of action my family adopted for my own Mother who died in her own bedroom, in her sleep, without the benefit of CPR.

MESSAGE TO THE 44% — Evolution Is Real !!

I had to check for myself.  In an article on evolutionary biology which demonstrates why certain diseases exist in our present population (later for that) I came across an astounding figure–44% of the population does not believe in evolution.

In fact according to the Gallup poll from 2008-9, these 44% believe that human beings were created by God in their present form about 10,000 years ago.

No, this battle is far from over.  Darwin has apparently not won over a gazillion of our fellow Americans, even in the 21st century!

Now I am not naive.  I have been aware of the large numbers of religious fundamentalists who claim the Bible is revealed truth about everything.  Still the number staggered me.

Nearly half of all people I encounter on the road, street, in my office do not believe in science.!!

The concept of 10,000 years is astoundingly absurd but fits the bill.  If one believes the Bible to be absolute truth, then simply calculate the lives of all the Biblical figures and assume the earth was created in seven daysThe birthday of the world is clearly 4004 BC.

But just do me a favor.  Understand that ALL religion is man's interpretation of something greater than him/herself.  What that is, is unclear. 

Understand that ALL religious texts were written down and interpreted by human beings.  There is absolute historical evidence for this truth to anyone who cares to investigate.

Science is, of course, man's interpretation of data.  But just examine the data.

My plea to the 44%–just think for yourself! Seek evidence for your beliefs.  Don't accept the word of anyone, including me.  The internet offers an enormous array of ideas.  Some are valid, others not.

Just use the common sense that you have (God given or via evolution, it doesn't really matter).

Question everything (A Buddhist notion) and look for the best evidence, a consensus of opinion of experts.

Science is not your enemy, religion is not your friend.  Free up your mind to do what it is best at doing.  Thinking !

MY SISTER, MY DAUGHTER–A Tale of Past Lives Connected

I quite recently ran into a nurse whose personal past-life experience helped convince me of the reality of reincarnation.

As I have noted in previous writings, the quality of credibility is proportional to how close one is to the experience.  If you have had your own or heard first-hand from someone you know, the credibility quotient is quite high.  To read about a stranger's experience, no matter how compelling, results in a considerably weaker sense of reality.

Despite that awareness I would like to share her experience with the reader. Denise (I'll call her) is a middle age woman of Polish-Catholic background.  Her early years were characterized by an intensely real "dream" in which she was a Polish woman during World War II and was attempting to hide and protect her daughter from Nazi soldiers.  She 'knew' this was in the Warsaw Ghetto.  She could describe what she looked, like what her daughter looked like, the street scenes and the intense fear she experienced during each dream.  She would be running with her daughter, attempting to escape the sounds of Nazi boots.  As the dream ended, she and her daughter were discovered hiding under a stairwell.  She would awake, sweating and shaking.  It was a truly horrible recurrent experience.  Of interest is that she did not know that the inhabitants of the ghetto were Polish Jews.

During one family holiday, she and her siblings decided to share frightening dreams.  Although she had never revealed hers to anyone previously, on this night she shared hers.  At the conclusion of her story she noted that her younger sister was sobbing.  When everyone asked why, she responded, "I have always had the same horrible dream….but in the dream I'm the daughter !"

Now Denise was not totally shocked.  For her entire life, she has regarded her younger sister as a daughter and often spoke of her that way.

Is this "proof" that we reincarnate, that we share past lives with loved ones?

Hard to say.  I offer it as evidence of a true experience.

HER HANDS — A Poem

My heels click on the newly polished floor

The hall elongates as I walk forward

Just left Mrs. Pulaski's room

Her quiet eyes touched  the back of my head

She said I looked tired

Needed more rest

 

I had just held her fingers

Frail, gnarled, her skin a pearly sheen

They were like ornaments, now

Like collectibles in an antique store

 

But I had met her robust grown  sons the other day

She must have grabbed them by their collars when they fought

Pulled clothes off the line with a flick of her wrist

Rolled cabbage leaves with chopped meat

 

But she asked how I was feeling again

And we exchanged weak smiles across that touch

As I gently pulled away, she squeezed, then let go

I did not turn back

TIGER TO BRIT HUME — My Religion is Not the Problem

In Tiger Wood's statement today regarding his personal travails and hopes for redemption, he essentially responded to Brit Hume's plea that Tiger should adopt Christianity in order to facilitate his goal.

He spoke of his Buddhist faith, the one introduced by his Mother, the one he has drifted away from in recent years.

In effect he expressed the truth about all religions–they all offer guidelines for moral living.  The problem lies in us, the humans who choose to follow or disregard these precepts.

It is how we interpret the variety of examples and teachings that determines how we lead our lives.

Horrific acts of moral depravity have been offered up in the name of religion–as have the highest acts of compassion and caring.

Unfortunately, the belief that my religion is "better" than yours.  Or that someone else needs to adopt my belief in order to be a good human being is fraught with danger.

Once human beings feel emboldened to divide the world into "correct" and "incorrect" beliefs, the possibility of forcibly coercing others to become "enlightened" is present.  Under such circumstances some of the most despicable acts such as the Inquisition or Jihadist terrorism have emerged.  And all in the name of God.

And what about those who reject religion completely?  Are they not capable of exemplary moral behavior ?  Clearly.

So let's talk about actions, not words.  And let's keep religion out of the discussion once and for all.

 

THE FRIEND —

  He was a retired physician

   Well respected I am told

A GP from the days when doctors really knew their patients

   Strapped  into a geriatric chair at  Hillsdale Nursing Home

His grey hair in cloud-like wisps 

Bound in blue plaid restraints

His gown barely covering his scrotum

   Without visitors I was told

   Like so many others

   Calling out in scratchy voice–

  "Death is my friend, my friend

  "Where is my friend?

  Then fall asleep again, then wake up

   A constant maddening refrain known to all

   He said nothing else—

   "Death is my friend, my friend

   "Where is my friend?

   Everyone ignored him

  They squirmed when he called out 

   The staff tried to quiet him

   Other patients and families gasped

   I walked past him quickly

   Opened one eye just enough

   He saw my stethoscope around my neck 

   Beckoned me with a bony finger

"Come here, come here" in a dry raspy voice

"I need to tell you….,

" very important, very important

     Nurse Jackson was shocked to hear him speaking at all

"Come here, come over here and listen to me"

He said nothing but had my fingers in a bony grip

"I know you" he squinted deeply

  I leaned in, hesitating

" I was wrong" he croaked barely audible

  His face changed, he looked off into space

     " All those years 

   "I was wrong

    I tried pulling away, he tugged harder

   "I was like you, once

 "I thought I knew……"

   

 " Look at me!! He rasped loudly

  His grey eyes were red/clear and large

    "All those years….." He drifted but returned

" I thought death, the enemy, like you do but…

  He drifted off again then  grabbed my hand hard

  "Time will come

 "You will know……

" Now I know–death is my friend

  " Where is my friend…….Where is he?

  " Is he here yet?………

   

 

  

MONOGAMOUS BY NATURE ?– Look To Your Testicles For the Answer !

A perusal of our national and international media seems to indicate that one of humanity's greatest challenges is marital fidelity.

So the question arises–is it in our "nature" to be monogamous ?  And are the unfaithful merely the products of human evolution, acting out unbidden impulses about which they have little control?

Statistically speaking, while 90% of bird species are monogamous, only 7% of mammals are.  Last time I checked, human beings were mammals.

And even among mammals and more specifically primates, there is in interesting correlation with testicle size and sexual fidelity.

Strange as it may seem, in comparison with gorillas and chimps.  Human beings have intermediate size testicles. more closely aligned with those of chimps.  This correlation corresponds with DNA comparability as well.

Of interest is that gorilla testicles are comparatively tiny because they mate with a harem of females.  There is virtually no other male gorilla competition.

On the contrary, female chimps are quite promiscuous.  Therefore, male chimps have evolved comparatively enormous testicles capable of copious amounts of  sperm rich semen.  The better to compete with other males who have made deposits shortly before.

Ah, so what are the implications for comparative human testicle size ?  Clearly we evolved with large testicles for one reason–our females were far from faithful !

So there we have it–sex and science together. 

But does that truth offer excuses for marital infidelity ?  And does it suggest that it is the female of our species that has the more biologically programmed wandering eye ?

Clearly, neither sex is off the hook despite all this evolutionary biology.  We still have free will, I am told. 

We still are held responsible for our actions–despite the call of the wild!

 

THE CLASS OF POETS

  They enter the class

  Faces fixed

   Sit down in old-fashioned hard wooden seats

   Unfold books, loose leafs, laptops

   Glance through their work

   Sigh

   Look down

  When called upon

   Speak their words

   With a quiet fire

   At class end

   Disperse

   Into night rain

  And sizzle with

  Each step