By Dr. Jim Ferguson


I love rainy spring days, and still whisper the childhood rhyme, “April showers bring May flowers.” Of course if you’re having a picnic or a garden wedding you’d wish for a sunny day, but without rain and water, life as we understand it could not exist. So, I’m glad for the restoring and refreshing rain that produces springtime’s green of new life.

I’m no longer youthful, but I continue to grow, at least in knowledge and hopefully in wisdom. I acquired a head full of facts in my years of formal education which I eventually organized into a compendium of workable knowledge by the end of my medical training. However, I wasn’t very wise then. Now, as I continue adding to my data base, I use knowledge, tempered by experience, more wisely.

I’ve been watching a young cardinal at my window. She seems to be fascinated with me or at least the inner space she can’t enter. In an instinctual or “mindless” fashion she keeps flying against the window she can’t see, understand or traverse. I feel sorry for the beautiful red male cardinal who watches from a nearby bush as his paramour seeks the unattainable rather than him. Perhaps we humans sometimes chart courses outside our destinies as well. We have chickens on our small farm and the proverbial “birdbrain” certainly applies to them, and perhaps the young cardinal as well. I hope she eventually figures things out.

I suspect the cardinal and our chickens are smart enough for birds. My dog Jack is smart enough to chase squirrels and find his supper bowl which I fill with nourishing victuals. Humans are another order of life. Our greatest survival advantage is our ability to reason. I see this attribute as a gift from God (read Isaiah 1:18) who longs to “reason” with us.

Scientists believe other animals think, but reasoning is of a higher order. We hear much these days from luminaries like Bill Gates who worries that “thinking” robots will become a threat to humans. Stephen Hawking recently said that artificial intelligence “could spell the end of the human race.” With so much wrong in the world, I’m not threatened by technology, artificial intelligence or birdbrains, except those in Washington.

You may be surprised to learn that human intellectual quickness peaks in our twenties, and then declines thereafter. Many new theories or discoveries occur in the fertile minds of youth rather than in more “seasoned citizens.” However, don’t despair. Those of us in middle age or more may not discover the physics of relativity or quantum mechanics, but we are wiser now because of the school of hard knocks. Life’s lessons more than balance losses of quickness in our thinking. I can testify that I had a reasonably quick mind as a twenty-something, and I received a good education. However, I had little wisdom then. I just hope our millennials and X generation folks figure it out before they vote more disasters into office.

Dualism is an ancient concept of opposites. In fact, I think it is a fundamental relationship of all things. If I can imagine anything, I can conceive of its opposite. Consider these examples of opposites: up/down; left/right; matter/anti-matter; yin/yang. I can even conceive of an absolute good I call God. And I can conceptualize the opposite of good we humans refer to as evil. We even personify the opposite of God as the Devil.

During the Babylonian captivity, the monotheistic ancient Hebrews encountered the notion of dualism. The eastern religion of Zoroastrianism was prevalent in ancient Babylon, and imagined a cosmic struggle between good and bad. The generational enslavement of the Hebrews came to be understood as not the work of God, but actually the work of God’s opponent, evil.

It seems that patterns have surfaced in my thoughts and writing. This is not unprecedented because I have done connected essays before. I once did a three part travelogue describing my “bucket trip” to the Adriatic. Other series have focused on medical issues such as aspects of a doctor’s examination. Perhaps I just need more space in the Focus to elaborate and connect my thoughts. Nah! I believe longer stories are not in style in our culture of headlines, sound bites and fast food.

Physics and philosophy have been my focus lately. Both disciplines seek wisdom. Nothing is more emblematic of applied physics than my iPhone. The ability to interact with the Net and satisfy my curiosity is wondrous. During the day I depend on my hand held computer to keep me informed and help me connect and care for my patients. However, at night I still love the feel of a book in my hand. I like to make margin notes when I’m reading something substantial, though unashamedly, I also read for fun. Science fiction is my “trash” reading rather than Nora Roberts.

I also prefer Newspapers to on-line publications. I realize that those like me are giving way to the new order, and soon all newspapers will be on the Net rather than in print. The world is changing rapidly forcing me to also publish my new book in an electronic version for those with Kindles and such.

April 15th 2015 was especially exciting for me not because I saw the first lightening bug or because it was tax day. On the 15th my book was published and a box of them arrived at my home! Now, I can shamelessly promote this fruit of my labors.

I don’t have Simon and Schuster behind me, just the Knoxville Focus who will co-host my book signing party at First United Methodist Church, 3316 Kingston Pike on Sunday afternoon May 17th from 3-5:30. Come and join us on a sunny – I hope – spring afternoon at my Church’s beautiful covered Pavilion on the Tennessee River across from the old UT agricultural farm. Have some lemonade, get a signed collection of my essays and savor a day the Lord hath made.