As 2017 dawns I’ll admit I’ve become a bit of a skeptic. “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,” I scoured medical journals for the latest scientific observations and innovations. I always wanted to be on the cutting edge of treatment for my patients. However, I realize that it’s best not to be the first doctor on the block to use new medications nor the last in the medical neighborhood to use the latest innovations.
Actually, it’s more accurate to say I’ve become skeptical of man because even science has become politicized. For example, every issue of the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) has articles about global warming or Obama-care or other politically correct topics written by PhDs, JDs, MD activists and public health policy wonks. Naively, I used to think of the NEJM as science driven. But, then I also once considered the NY Times and NPR as reliable. Now, so much has been corrupted by money, power and politics.
Perhaps the Teacher (writer) of Ecclesiastes was right when he said, “Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” It is said that Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived and he wrote or orchestrated the Song of Solomon as a young man and the Proverbs during his middle age years. As an older man he wrote Ecclesiastes where his skepticism is evident. The Teacher goes on a rant lamenting that “fools are put in many high positions.” And he said of experts, “Of making books there is no end.” Fortunately, Solomon ends his search for the meaning of life on a high note, advising that meaning is found in doing your best, cherishing your wife, enjoying food and wine, and presenting yourself respectfully before the Lord and praising Him all your days.
Obviously, my skepticism does not include God. If I had been wiser when younger I wouldn’t have trusted man, his words or his institutions like I did. If I had understood that even science is driven by funding, grants and politics, rather than the noble pursuit of knowledge, I wouldn’t have been duped so often.
I studied art history in college, but it never occurred to me to question why certain subjects were chosen by painters. We now say, “Follow the money.” With this in mind, it explains why rich patrons and Popes were so often lionized. Today, money explains the global warming cabal, where weathermen can’t accurately predict the weather tomorrow, but say they can predict from computer models what will happen in twenty-five years. Likewise, modern medicine is not immune to the pursuit of profits or Washington’s inexhaustible quest for power.
However, like Solomon, I conclude there is a majestic purpose and a plan, though the latter remains more obscure than I would otherwise choose. The Boy Scout pledge says we must “do our best and our duty to God and country,” and I would add to those we love and serve.
Years ago I wrote an essay referencing the book, “Man’s Search for Meaning.” Written by a survivor of WWII Nazi death camps, Viktor Frankl would go on to found the psychoanalytic school of logotherapy. This concept holds that man is driven to find meaning in his life rather than being driven principally by a pursuit of satisfaction or by instincts, as Adler and Freud emphasized.
What drives you? Man is a time oriented being. We have a past, a present and hopefully a future. My minister recently said that a pursuit of purpose is more important than the pursuit of happiness. He must have read Frankl. Actually, I believe the two perspectives are interrelated. The Psalmist said, “We are fearfully and wonderfully made.” We are complex and thoughtful creatures, and it is too simplistic to think an Epicurean pursuit of pleasure alone will satisfy. Nor will understanding and dealing with instinctual drives make us whole. My minister observed that children often give people purpose. I think he’s right. And like Solomon, I believe seeking God gives us purpose.
I’ve found a new purpose for 2017. It’s called downsizing, and it’s an oxymoron. Our house has served us well for thirty-six years, but with our girls gone we only use half of the space. Becky designed our current home and has now designed our new home which is under construction on our small farm. She’s a woman of many talents. I don’t remember much about the construction of our first home because I was working sixty plus hours a week to pay for it. This time I’ve paid attention and I’ve learned much, including the “trinity” of building: everything gets bigger, costs more and takes longer – maybe Trump’s new hotel in Washington is an exception. Perhaps, if we’d started with a “tiny house” concept our new home would have approached what we need.
We’re hoping for a March completion, and so does my daughter and her family who will move into our current home. My builder has been patient with the semi-retired doctor who now has the time to pester him for construction updates.
Perhaps a welcome aspect of the “Trump bump” is the dearth of available labor and subcontractors which now make it more difficult for Kent to find workers and calm my anticipation. We have a good relationship, though he kids me about my “little truck.” In the construction industry one measure of manliness is the size of one’s truck. My old Dodge Dakota is big enough for a doctor and Kent “agrees.”
We shouldn’t judge a book by its cover or a man by his truck. My father-in-law was an exemplary Christian and a fine lawyer, but cared little for his appearance. One Saturday while working in the yard he loaded his daughters into their old Plymouth for a trip to buy fruit trees. As they were driving home with trees hanging out of the trunk, the daughters told Nelson that his Plymouth was shabby. Being a dad and wanting to please his teenage daughters, he whipped his Plymouth into Rodgers Cadillac. Surprisingly, the skeptical sales force wouldn’t wait on this large, dirty man in a “wife-beater” tee shirt, driving an old Plymouth with a trunk full of trees. Fortunately, the manager recognized Nelson who promptly paid cash for a new Cadillac while the flummoxed salesmen were stuck transferring the fruit trees to the Cady’s trunk.
Wisdom of the ages, and a lesson for the New Year, n’est pas?