Hanging It Up

We are what we repeatedly do.

Historian Will Durant

By Dr. Jim Ferguson

Last week the Christmas spirit came to me. Each year I search for the spirit, and it finally comes, sometimes early and sometimes later. Jesus said, “Seek and you will find,” so I seek Him, his Spirit and his essence of love at Christmas.

As my readers know, I love Christmas music and movies. I have dozens of Christmas CDs and even homemade cassettes. Younglings may not know of such old technology. I also stream Christmas music on Pandora. Here’s a Christmas gift: Go to YouTube and search “That’s What I Want for Christmas” by Nancy Wilson. You won’t be disappointed and the message in the lyrics is the essence of Christmas love.

By the time you read this essay, Becky and I will have completed our annual pilgrimage through our repertoire of Christmas movies. Just as songs can be enjoyed over and over, so can Christmas movies. In addition to old standards like “Christmas Vacation” and “Home Alone,” we love the wonderful rendition of Charles Dickens’ “Christmas Carol” with Patrick Stewart. This year my Christmas spirit returned with Nancy Wilson’s song and the movie “One Magic Christmas” with Mary Steenburgen. Disney once made inspirational G movies. This story is about a young, disillusioned mother who lost her Christmas spirit, only to rediscover what she lost because of her young daughter’s faith.

At year’s end businesses close their books and many of us reflect upon life in anticipation of plans or resolutions for the new year. We are time-oriented people, perhaps more so for those who still work at jobs. Those of us who are retired have fewer time constraints or deadlines. I do have an early publisher’s deadline for the next two weeks so that Focus personnel can be with their families at Christmas and New Year.

I am now retired from medical practice, but some remnants of my old life persist with, for instance, medical malpractice insurance. In the mid-1970s there was a crisis when medical malpractice insurance companies quit offering coverage for Tennessee physicians. As a result, Tennessee physicians formed our own company, and the State Volunteer Mutual Insurance Company was born. It has been an A+ rated company since that time. Recently, I changed my status to “retired,” having been with the company for 45 years and never sued. I was fortunate, but I was also meticulous with my patient’s care.

Several years ago, a retiring colleague described his reluctance about surrendering his medical license. He said he had worked so hard to acquire his medical degree, achieve specialty training and then practice medicine for decades. However, the requirements of continuing medical education, the expense of maintaining a license he no longer used and additional state professional fees forced his hand. He said to me, “I just no longer feel like a doctor.”

Sometimes when you are on unfamiliar ground insight seems to come from nowhere. In such situations, scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit will teach us what to say. I reassured my crestfallen friend and told him that he will always be a doctor, even if he does not have a piece of paper sanctioned by the state to hang on his wall.

I thought about that conversation when I recently surrendered my DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) license. I had maintained this license to prescribe medications since I graduated from medical school in December 1975. And in May 2023 another milestone is coming, when I allow my own medical license to expire since it is no longer relevant for a “retired” doctor.

We accept things as we perceive them to be. Einstein defined special and general relativity which describes the physics of the universe. Among its many arcane principles, relativity holds that there is no privileged place in the universe. And philosophically, everything is relative without standards or a reference point. And taken to absurdity the Me Too movement and gender identification results.

On a more practical level, most of us perceive the passage of time as linear. I am writing now. An hour ago, I was not and, in an hour, or so I hope to have a rough draft of my year-end musings. As a corollary, I offer the observation that men think in a linear fashion, whereas women are not bound by such contrivances and require no segues in conversation with other women!

Our western notion of the passage of time is not present everywhere. Some cultures view time as circular. Examples were the ancient Mayan civilization of Mesoamerica and some far eastern cultures. The “circle of life” concept in “The Lion King” movie was an artistic adaptation of circular time and the ancient concept of the “wheel of life.”

The Doctor Is Still In, but medical topics interest me less these days. I still read medical journals, but I recognize that one will become obsolete when the so-called fire in the belly departs. We have all seen people hang on when their time has passed. There is a saying, “There is no fool like an old fool.” Our erstwhile president is an example. “It is best to step down before others tell you to sit down” (Ferguson’s axiom #213).

These days, I’m more interested in other things like writing and the lone dove at my birdfeeder. In the harshness of winter, I’m more diligent in keeping my birdfeeder filled. I have learned that doves mate for life and I feel for the lone dove without a group and seemingly without a soulmate. I don’t think that animals experience the notion of love as in the Nancy Wilson song. Nor do they imagine time as depicted in “One Magic Christmas.”

I’m about done with 2022, and I’m hoping for a happier new year. In the meantime, I will try to stay in the moment and sing Psalm 118:24 throughout this Christmas season and each day of life that I am blessed to receive.

And I wish all of you the Merriest Christmas ever!