There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and miseries.
— Brutus from William Shakespeare’s play “Julius Caesar”
In 42 BC, Rome was at war with itself. Julius Caesar had been murdered in the Senate by Brutus, Cassius and other conspirators. Now, the forces of Mark Anthony (of Cleopatra fame) and Octavian (who would become Caesar Augustus) were arrayed against the conspirator’s army at Philippi in Macedonia for the final battle.
We don’t know what Brutus and Cassius discussed before the battle which would determine their fate and that of the Roman Empire. The conspirators and their army would be destroyed. What we have is the soul-searching thoughts of Brutus from Shakespeare’s immortal play. Leaders sometimes make decisions with catastrophic results which end in ignominious defeat. The parallels between then and now are obvious.
I’ve been wondering if you can appreciate a mountain-top experience without ever experiencing a valley of despair. Life is a series of peaks and valleys and everything in between. It is my observation that everything has an opposite. Examples are yin and yang, up and down, matter and antimatter, even strong leaders and fools. I can envision an ultimate good, which I call God, and evil as the opposite. Some personify evil as the Devil.
For some time I have been distressed about our civil war. The armies arrayed against our country are formidable, and transcend foreign powers like China. I will again quote Jesus who said, “A house divided against itself, cannot stand.”
It is obvious that we are at war with ourselves which is causing catastrophic destruction. How can you reach across the aisle to those who engineered the border crisis with 1.6 million illegals this year, the Afghanistan surrender, promotion of racism with CRT and BLM, as well as other progressive-socialist destructive policies? Interestingly, a recent poll found that 39% of Americans surveyed thought iPOTUS was doing a good job. Jesus had no aspirations of secular kingdoms. But he called out pharisaical leaders in Matthew 23. You should read what actual harsh language sounds like instead of mere guttural verbiage which offends the ears of a snowflake.
I know about stress from a personal and professional level. I have had health consequences as a result of the war. Though I am broken-hearted by America’s suicide, my issues pale by comparison to our soldiers, police or front-line medical personnel. I have cared for patients in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and once read that depression is as exhausting as digging a ditch for eight hours. In medicine we have a term for stress associated or induced fatigue and malaise. It is called psychosomatic illness and derives from the mind (psyche) and body (soma). A caring and competent doctor considers both sides of his patient’s nature.
The modern world has been turned upside down by a tiny virus which doesn’t even meet our definition of a life-form. Viruses are so primitive that they cannot live independent from animal or plant cells. They may have arisen as “genetic elements that gained the ability to move between cells.” Perhaps it bears repeating that viruses have existed as long or longer than more complex and truly living things such as plants, animals and people.
Before 2002 there were four known coronaviruses, and these caused perhaps 15% of common colds. That changed in 2002 when a fifth coronavirus emerged from China causing SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). Then in 2012 MERS (Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome) became the sixth coronavirus. We designate the latest coronavirus scourge from China as Covid-19. It has killed millions, overturned a Presidential election and wreaked worldwide economic harm. It has also caused disastrous health and social consequences including sky rocketing depression, suicide, narcotic addiction and deaths from overdoses, as well as isolation and alienation.
In one of our book groups, Becky and I are reading “Alienated America” by Timothy P. Carney. It is a tome of information, but a coherent message is delivered with good prose. Carney says that the social fabric of our country is unravelling because of declining social cohesion from church and social clubs like Rotary. Additionally, in the Covid era, many now work remotely and the camaraderie and coffee machine advice has been lost. The book’s data is powerful and substantiates what we have all observed. Carney’s description of Obama’s cartoon Julia, who only needed government programs rather than God in her life, is compelling.
I’ve written that man is a social creature and withers in isolation. But how about our children, forced into isolation behind a perpetual mask? I am not an anti-masker, but I realize the limitations of masks and their politicization. I am not an anti-vaxxer because I have taken the very effective mRNA vaccine developed by President Trump with unprecedented speed. I practice social distancing, use good hygiene and common sense. For me, it is not worth the risk going to UT’s opening football game. However, I respect the right of others who accept that risk because of their passion for UT football and the joy it gives them.
I used to share my many axioms (Fergisms) with patients. The last time I counted there were almost 200 of these observations of life and medicine. (Perhaps I should devote a column to such instead of sprinkling them amidst my weekly essays.) I used to tell patients to “Keep your boots on instead of parked under the bed,” because “I want you to get around rather than lying around.’’ And lastly, “I’d rather you wear out Mr. Jones instead of rusting out.” Consequently, I do what I preach. I refuse to sit alone in my house, being too scared to go out into the world and live.
Folks, don’t stop living. Be smart and careful, but do not let them make you afraid to live. If you do, you’re already dead.