Thursday, September 22, 2016

The "Being Mortal" Revolution

Dr. Atul Gawande
Last night Dave and I, along with several friends, went to hear a lecture by Dr. Atul Gawande.  He is the author of "Being Mortal" and the power behind the movement to change the way we deal with end of life issues.

The event was sponsored by Florida Hospital and was held in our great Dr. Phillip's Performing Arts Center.  When we arrived the line wound around the building.  By the time he began speaking the Center was filled close to capacity.

Dr. Gawande, a surgeon, by his definition "fixes" people.  But what do we do when we can no longer be fixed?  His lecture, which lasted well over an hour, absolutely thrilled me.

He talked about a woman who was in a skilled nursing home and was allowed to eat only pureed food because her condition could cause choking.  The problem was:  she stole cookies, ate cookies and hoarded cookies.  Solutions did not work.  What was Dr. Gawande's advice:

Let her eat the damn cookies!

He took great care to explain how life changes for the good in many ways as we age.  He talked about the word "loyalty" and defined it as - the thing we live for.  He asked this question;  "If you were told that an hour after you died the world would end - would you care?"  The answer, of course, is yes, because most of us care about people and things way beyond ourselves.

He praised Hospice because the goal is not to extend life, but to have each day be the best day possible.  And that's what I want, "A good life as long as possible."  One that includes freedom, friends, family and an occasional oatmeal raisin cookie.


Monday, September 19, 2016


All four of my children are exceptionally smart.  I know everybody thinks this about their kids but mine are middle-aged and I'm pretty objective. They're smart. Where did this come from?  Their father was brilliant in his own way so I'm sure much of the braininess was inherited from him.

I, on the other hand, am not part of this DNA stew.  This has it's pluses and minuses.  I'm a simpler person.  I'm straight up OCD.  (Self diagnosed.)

My symptoms are an obsession with numbers, routine, orderliness - and the list goes on.  As part of my routine I usually read a (deep) devotional every day and also a chapter of a tough book.  For the latter I am currently re-reading a book called "The Intellectual Devotional - 365 Daily Lessons From the Seven Fields of Knowledge."

Yesterday I was feeling particularly stressed so I sat down and read the lesson on Black Holes.  I had forgotten that the last point of the hole is called a "singularity."  Hum!  Scientists know a lot about black holes - but guess what?  It's all theoretical.  They can't actually be seen.

Contemplating black holes calmed me down. And, while this book is not particularly spiritual, there was food for spiritual thought on this page.

Albert Einstein, rejecting the principles of quantum mechanics, once said, "God does not play dice with the Universe."  Stephen Hawking, referring to black holes, once said, "God not only plays dice, He sometimes throws them where they cannot be seen."

So this, once again made me contemplate the nature of God - which took my mind off the election.


Thursday, September 15, 2016


I'd like to get back to doing this.
Jesus said to Peter, "Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and go wherever you wished.  but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go."  John 21:17-18

The above is one strange scripture.  I never fully understood it.  I always thought it was about powerlessness but the belt thing escaped me.

And then, a couple of weeks ago something interesting happened.  As you know, I've been having some problems with vertigo.  So my ear doc sent me to Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy  (VRT).  Is it working?  Thus far, no idea.

But my rehab therapist, Tim, has me doing all kinds of hard stuff, like trying to walk heel to toe with my eyes closed and other crazy exercises that trip me up from time to time.  But I can't hurt myself because Tim ties a belt around my waist and hangs on to it!  And he occasionally tries to take me where I do not want to go.

I recently read this explanation of the above scripture:

When Peter grows old and can no longer care for himself, when others dress him and lead him around, taking him to places against his will, Peter will continue to glorify God - perhaps because of his situation of powerlessness.


Monday, September 12, 2016

Forever 21

The Forever 21 store in my mall is huge.  It started out normal size but now covers a tremendous area, including two floors.  With all of the other dress shops available I wonder what the appeal is for Forever 21 to grow like this.

I figure there must be magic in the name.

Would you like to be "Forever 21?"  I led a discussion group of older ladies a week ago.  This was my opening question.  After a while, most of us decided no, we would not want to be 21 forever.

There were some great things about that age but I've met very few young adults who would describe themselves as having it all - and having life all together.

My current devotional book (that I am loving) is titled Pilgrimage into the Last Third of Life.  So it's about - approximately - ages 60 to 90.  Following is a quote:

Some people believe that life peaks at some point and has an upward and downward slope on either side.  

Years ago I had a friend who told her children to enjoy high school because they would be the best years of their lives.  I thought how sad for them.  And how sad for her because that must have been her own reality.

I believe that life is full of peaks and valleys.  Here's another quote from my devotional.  It's by Martin Buber.

To be old is a glorious thing when one has not unlearned what it means to begin.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

"None" of the Above

Yesterday I had an uncomfortable conversation with a person I consider to be a friend.  She was giving me an earful about her feelings on all the "fuss" over the young people who got shot in the Pulse Nightclub here in Orlando a few weeks ago.  She essentially told me God hates homosexuals.  I was so sad and frustrated that I didn't respond well.  

When we wonder why so many Americans are saying "none" when asked about their religious affiliation it makes me sad but I can somewhat understand it. (By the way, among millennials, more than one-third are "nones.") 

 As Brian McLaren says in his new book "The Spiritual Migration" Jesus often comes across as anti-poor, anti-environment, anti-gay, anti-intellectual, anti-immigrant and anti-science.  That's not the Jesus we meet in the Gospels.


Saturday, September 3, 2016

Hell or High Water

Dave and I went to the movies yesterday.  We had to choose between the Obama date movie or the modern western "Hell or High Water."  We saw the latter and it was terrific (as every one of the reviews I read said it would be).

It's set in modern day west Texas where the recession is still in full bloom.  So it's not the Mexicans or Native Americans against the cowboys.  It's the banks against everybody.  Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) are brothers trying to save their family farm by robbing banks.  One of them is sweet and loving.  The other is a "hell raiser" who's spent ten years in prison.

Marcus (Jeff Bridges) and Alberto (Gil Birmingham) are older (and wiser) Texas Rangers after the boys.   Their dialogue is so funny and so real.

Tanner and Toby
"Hell or High Water," despite the name, is one of those films for grown-ups.  It's dialogue driven.  It's beautifully filmed.  It has excellent music.  Here are a few things I learned:

  • Banks are still robbing poor people
  • Brothers who are very different can still love each other
  • Texas Rangers who are very different can still love each other
  • What "open carry" looks like in west Texas

In one scene the rangers stop for lunch in a dusty, empty restaurant called the "T-Bone."  The waitress, who has worked there 44 years, asks them what they don't want.  As it turns out they just had to decide which they didn't want, corn or green beans.  Because
everybody gets a T-bone and a baked potato.  She goes on to explain that some guy from New York once tried to order a trout.  So I also learned that:

  • They don't sell no trout in west Texas

Here's the only thing that would have made this film better.  My brother Paul died one year ago tomorrow.  He would have loved this movie so seeing it with him (and Dave) would have made it about perfect.


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Orangutans Have Feelings Too.

Add caption
If you give a chimpanzee  a screw driver he'll break it; if you give a gorilla a screw driver he'll toss it; but if you give an orangutan a screw driver he'll open his cage and walk away. 
- Sumatran Orangutan Society

Take your stinking paws off me you damn dirty apes.  - Charleston Heston, The Planet of the Apes, 1968

The Planet of the Ape movie series has given us mixed messages about Orangutans.  They, in fact, share about 97 percent of the same genetic material as humans.

They're smart - they use tools, apply insect repellant and use soap.  They have feelings like love, empathy and a sense of humor.  They also lie.  (Just like us.)

And they are in danger of going extinct.

With all that in mind I read the most tender obituary in the paper the other day.  It was written just like a human obituary but it was for Bonnie, a 31 year old orangutan, who died in surgery when the folks at the Miami Zoo were trying to save her and her unborn baby.  The sweetest and most humanizing line in the obit was the last one which read:

She is survived by her mate, Mango.