By Dr. Jim Ferguson

I admire the prose of Rick Bragg, the southern writer and author of several books and a monthly column in Southern Living. Perhaps if I had followed a different timeline I might have had a writing vocation rather than a mid-life avocation. But who knows, if my destiny had been different my writing may have been for an assignment or under the control of others rather than following my own muse.

I managed to make it to the Knoxville Pops concert last week despite my recent GIs. Our entire family has been beset with this affliction – aka gastrointestinal upset – currently ravaging the Knoxville community. Our version encompassed diarrhea with abdominal cramps, as well as the ever popular nausea and vomiting. I told my symphony group not to shake my hand or stand too close to me as I had just been released from quarantine. I garnered considerable empathy from them because most had experienced the “bug prep” which had sufficiently prepped me for a colonoscopy, though my doctor had not scheduled one.

I think it’s good to occasionally move outside your comfort zone and expand your horizons. Last year I attended a Knoxville Pops Concert featuring the group ABBA, whose music I do not care for. Nonetheless, I went and received more than I bargained for as I learned about music and speech patterns that translated into a story for The Focus. Similarly, you should never miss an issue of The Focus because you never know what you’ll learn!

Last week’s concert featuring the Cirque de la Symphonie again challenged me because I don’t particularly like circus acts or clowns. Seinfeld’s TV character, Kramer, is afraid of clowns and my grandson, Oakley, views the “tickle monster” with a similar mixture of delight and dread. The Cirque de la Symphonie is unusual in that it is the only Cirque company that performs with symphony orchestras. There is a certain schtick associated with the Cirque du Soleil brand that I best describe as edgy artistic athleticism..

Europeans, and especially the French, view the world differently than most Americans – except perhaps John Kerry. I was beguiled by the Cirque’s unique interpretation of  movement and dance, counterpoised with strength and balance, set to magnificent classical music selections played by our outstanding Knoxville Symphony. I have Generally I prefer opera to the symphony because there is just more eye candy with opera. In opera there are costumes, dance and of course operatic drama accompanied by beautiful music with sublime vocalizations. Mozart felt that the human voice was the acme of music. He never experienced Cirque du Soliel, but if the movie Amadeus provides any insight into the prodigy’s temperament, he would have loved it.

No, this column does not emphasize a medical theme unless you identify with the GIs or have had the pleasure of a colonoscopy prep. I’ve considered abandoning medical themes all together, but there’s probably still too much doctor in me to do an about face at sixty-three. I’ve already been through several course corrections. I began my writing career at fifty, though I never knew this was my destiny. My writing began as a challenge from a friend who advised me to begin daily spiritual journaling. It’s interesting that Mr. Webster doesn’t recognize this word. Apparently, he doesn’t keep up with “sniglets,” a camp term for words that are not in the dictionary, but should be.

The definition of the word beguile is interesting. It connotes a mixture of interest and deception like the illusions of Cirque’s harlequin. I consider the daily news beguiling. I find it hard to resist checking headlines and the news blogs, though I’m seldom made happier by the discipline. There is an element of stewardship involved. I tell myself it is my duty to be informed so that I can make the best possible decisions. And yet experience teaches me that the real story has become subverted by the narrative. Perhaps its always been this way and I was just too naive to understand this truth. Now my worldliness and experience leads me to doubt the intentions of our leaders and the words of the journalist caste. They tell me that their vision is what I must embrace. I’m told that my fundamental principles are antiquated and that I may need reeducation or an attitude adjustment by the politically-correct thought police.

Freedom of conscience is actually the only freedom an individual possesses. And tyranny abhors freedom of conscience as much as nature abhors a vacuum. Therefore, I conclude that I cannot surrender my principles and remain free. Socrates and Jesus understood this, and now I do so as well. I can’t compromise with what I know from experience and conscience is wrong.

About a year ago I read a book entitled “How Should We Then Live” by Francis Schaeffer. The title was not a question, but a quote by the prophet Ezekiel. The book was an overview of western culture as shaped by Christianity, a philosophy now under assault all over the world as well as America. Schaeffer advised believers how to comport themselves in a fallen world which sees no practical value in a spiritual perspective. He said that believers should seek truth in the Bible. They should speak this truth in love as part of the Great Commission. They are to have compassion for the lost and the confused. And daily we must push back the darkness by reaffirming that God is with us.

Sometimes it’s tough for a feisty Ferguson to turn the other cheek when he knows the miscreant in front of him would benefit from the school yard lesson of a busted lip. My nature is to take responsibility for myself and to help others, but I’m also told to dust off my shoes and walk away if a person won’t listen. I’ve had to do a lot of that lately since the clowns seem to be in charge of this country and the world.