How shall I know, unless I go to Cairo or Cathay,
Whether or not this blessed spot is blessed in every way?
Now it may be, the flower for me is beneath my nose;
How shall I tell, unless I smell The Carthaginian rose?
— Edna St. Vincent Millay
Well…I have. Years ago, while traveling with family, our ship was detoured from Sicily because of storms. We landed in Tunisia and were disappointed, but decided to make lemonade out of lemons. I was able to use my pigeon French to negotiate with a taxi driver, a day trip to Sidi Bou Said, the town now occupying the land of ancient Carthage, where Hannibal once stood. Magical! So, you see, I have “smelled” a Carthaginian Rose.
In my tribute to my brother Steve last week, I noted that, just like me, he loved to travel, and fondly remembered our sojourn to Carthage. Apparently, our parents instilled in us a wanderlust. In the final years of his disabling illness, Steve’s desire to travel abated, but he continued his travels in his mind. And although I am still traveling on this side of the “bar,” my wanderlust has also abated.
I have exhausted many traveling companions walking to see another cathedral, gaze upon a distant vista or see the original painting in a museum. Steve’s horizons shrank and, instead, he focused on family and the simpler pleasures of good company. Life teaches you if you are open to such lessons of wisdom.
Since my wanderlust has waned, Becky and I have discovered another travel option. Instead of booking plane and hotel reservations and then suffering the rigors of travel, we are sending our Knoxville daughter and kids to Portland to visit with the other daughter and her kids! We will miss being with the gang, but putting the two families together for a nice summer vacation is, for us, more important, and yes, less painful!
As a doctor I have traveled with numerous families through life, suffering and death. And though I realize it was Steve’s time to go, his death has moved me more than I expected it would. I guess this is obvious because I’m still writing about my brother. Perhaps the church bells in John Donne’s poem (last week’s essay) are still “tolling” in my soul.
Steve’s mind remained clear, remembering the travels and joys of a lifetime. His was a life well lived, but cut short. His final gift to his big brother was a study of courage, emphasizing the most important aspects of life.
As I’ve said many times, I write about what is on my heart and mind. This is not an excuse because to write something worthy of my readers requires me to be interested in a topic. I used to write about medical issues more than I do now. Perhaps this was because I was practicing medicine then. About a year ago I realized that the fire in my belly for medicine was gone, and I knew that I would eventually become obsolete and perhaps dangerous. I have seen old doctors hang on too long. So, I decided that it was “best to step down before others told me to sit down.”
Perhaps the signs that you are a “seasoned citizen” are reflections on your life and work. I had a long and meaningful career in medicine. But I have learned there is a huge difference between being responsible for a patient’s care and merely answering questions or explaining “medical-ese.”
But my travels are not over. I am now in my second career. Although for me writing is an avocation rather than a vocation, I have concluded I am more impactful as a writer than I was as a doctor. The old saw goes, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Perhaps the same goes for the stethoscope.
I will continue to write about medical conditions, but there is plenty of fodder for the pen diagnosing the maladies of our country and culture. Last week I wrote about guns and violence. The week before the topic was abortion. And previous essays have discussed gender dysphoria, sexualization of children in school, critical race theory, indoctrination rather than education, The Great Reset, American Marxism and even delusional thinking promoted by progressive socialist Democrats. If you ever get bored, you can go to knoxfocus.com and look in the archives for previous essays. And if you’d like to hold a book in your hand, you can get a collection of my essays at Amazon entitled, “Well…What Did the Doctor Say?” My wife is on the cover, but in costume!
Readers are my fellow travelers. I know because I hear from some of you, and your comments are appreciated. My brother Steve was no wilting flower, nor am I. I will use reason and endeavor to “speak the truth in love,” but I will not shrink from my duty in this culture war in which we find ourselves.
Therefore, you can expect to read essays regarding politics, history, philosophy and, of course, apologetics for country, conservatism and Christianity.
I’ll conclude with a story from a fellow traveler, and reader. My friend was having trouble reconciling why God allows bad things to happen. (This is the “theodicy” question of divine justice for those who would like to do more research.) The classical explanations are the following: there is no God; there is a cosmic battle against good and evil; we are all sinners and get what we deserve; adversity builds character; or justice occurs in the next life. Karma is another non classical explanation for why bad things happen to seemingly good people.
I explained to my friend that I am no expert, but the simplest way of encapsulating this for me is Acts 17:28. In his debate with the stoic and epicurean philosophers in Athens, Paul quotes the pre-Socratic philosopher Epimenides who said, in Him “we live and move and have our being.”
Unfortunately, because of free will, God allows forces in creation antithetical to God’s goodness and desire. Fortunately, we are all His travelers in this journey we call life. Our job is to trust, obey and be faithful. History records a long list of Ahabs and Jezebels. They never last. It will be OK as we stand firm and courageously witness for the Way.