When I was a high school student in our little town of Lestock Saskatchewan in 1950 our town doctor made house calls in the winter with his bombardier. He had a driver, Joe Lucas, and his service area was about 25 miles in diameter, frequently bad or no available roads were passable other than as you can see with the bombardier. His role was crucial because despite our town's small size we had the only hospital in the area and the vehicle could also transport patients if need be. Our doctor, Chuck McCullough was a good friend of our family and for a young boy the imagined romance connected with the saving grace of rescuing the sick, bounding over drifts of snow, over fences trapping snow, in blizzard conditions was inspiring. It may have been the single most important matter that captured my desire to go into medicine. It tells us once again that the ability of a solo practitioner managing such a large area by himself, treating a large farm population in a hospital and at home with his own hands and own brain was crucial. This was the state of affairs in the country practice in the winter of 1950 in rural Saskatchewan. Who wouldn't be swept up with this kind of life and this kind of effort.Talk about value. Priceless.
Having read Wikipedia I was refreshed with the original description of factoid, a word with the suffix "oid" meaning "resembling or like". Resembling or like a fact, is not a fact. It may be mistaken for a fact but it isn't . However, unfortunately the newer definition of factoid is a fact that is merely trivial or less germane. It's better that a fact that is trivial or marginally germane be called a factlet . This is not yet a word but could be.I like the original word and definition which was originally concocted by Norman Mailer and he was clear that a factoid was not a fact. The modernized definition of factoid allows use of the word for the simple reason that none has made it out of the bush that is better. However, better that the trivial fact should be described as a factlet was suggested by William Safire. "Let" is a suffix that means a diminutive like piglet and a marginally germane or trivial fact fits a factlet. Whatever is happening now to information, we are subjected to colossal collections of factlets and all factoids that we must sort through. The need for these words arise because of the repeated hammering by fake news. The information age allows the diminutive size of the factlets to slip through apertures in the loose web. I believe that "terms of definition" will help us sort it out. Words matter.
Were you aware that the first production of oxygen in the atmosphere was by the first plant-like form on earth, the Lichen? The Lichen is a composite of a fungus and a cyanobacteria or blue green algae that live in a symbiotic relationship, the fungus harboring and moisture producing while drawing sugar from the algae. Possibly a paradox like the baby nourishing the nursing mother. The algae, an anaerobe, produces oxygen and sugar by way of photosynthesis, CO2+H2O producing free oxygen that is usable. Moreover the O2 molecule when unstable produced free radical O that combined with O2 to produce O3 (Ozone) a layer that resists ultraviolet rays from the sun that can kill. That the lichen is the first plant-like form on earth is clear from fossil records and the appearance of oxygen seen from ferrous mineral records at the same time, tells us of the importance of this gift that would grow on bare rock and eventually produce the gas of life for the animal world and provide our protection from ultraviolet rays. In 2011 I wrote a poem celebrating the Lichen in my book An Elderly Eclectic Gentleman. I called the poem Succession and will repeat it here since we owe the Lichen so much. Please bear with me because if the foregoing doesn't thrill you much, it does me.
The Lichen grows on bare rock,
no earth, little sustenance,
a tenuous foothold to life.
It asks for sun and time
and grows, defeated, grows again.
It rains, it grows, summer drought comes,
it dies, to grow again with rain.
And when it dies it leaves a little behind.
Soil? Or is it the merest memory of Lichen
So.Mosses grow, a succession plant,
thicker, greener, richer
because of the poor precursor
which took a foothold where no other could.
As I look at my ruminant reading of my blogs that detail my life in the olden days, chewing the cud of yesteryear, I wonder, like Bugs Bunny, "What's up Doc?" Why are you constantly going back to these collections of diaries? Good question? One answer is, " For every thing there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven:---" (Ecclesiastes 3, 1 ) I just don't want to forget that season and those times. While munching my story books like a carrot, it's possible that I have reached an age that resembles or at least seeks to copy the best parts of Bugs Bunny: he was smart, funny ,loved life and is still contemporaneous and as long as I live and I don't ever wish to be like Elmer Fudd. It always becomes a secret worry when those of us who are 85 contemplate Elmer Fudd. Rereading my blogs is in effect a prayer to God, Ecclesiastes and my alter ego that I can stay a little like Bugs Bunny, continue to say, "What's up Doc?" and not be a Shadow of my Former Self, but keep the old season and the old time going on a little longer.
I speak of insurance. I saw patients for insurance companies for ten years so I know of what I speak. When you are sold a policy you are assured of the nurturing you will receive when your need arises.What they don't tell you is they always begin with "No". It is as wide as the word and specific to insurance of every ilk. My father years ago bought an accident life insurance policy through Eaton's department store for a monthly payment of 7 0r 8 dollars. He was 60 at the time and assiduously paid his premium for 20 odd years. He fell rushing to the toilet in his apartment to pee and broke his hip acetabulum and my mother and her friend in the middle of the night carried him back to bed. He was admitted to hospital and died the following day. About a month later my mother said to me, " Dad had an accident policy he had been paying for, for years." Mum, I said, " Dad was an old man and had bad emphysema and periodic gastrointestinal bleeding."
"Nevertheless," she said. "He still had an accident and broke his hip bone. He paid his payments for years and it was for one hundred thousand dollars." I told her I would write to the insurance company and explore making a claim. I did so and after a time I received a letter with official denial of the claim. They began with "No". Despite my lousy attitude I phoned my lawyer and he said I would need a deposit of 6 thousand to sue them and so mother and I were on tap. To make a long story short, two years later we collected 95 thousand dollars for her after a blizzard of confrontations. It is true he was an old man with medical conditions but the Coronor's report said , "death secondary to accident." The Oxygen man's note for the day of the accident said, " Mr. Warren doing well and washing dishes." And my mother confirmed those observations at the Examination for Discovery . They started at fifty thousand and we started after the delay, loss of interest,
family despair, at one hundred and eighteen. We ended up at 95. My advice is always listen to your mother and stick to your guns once you have knowledge on your side and realize they always begin with "No"!
Tonight Emma and I went to a celebration with a small gathering of people reading poems by Mary Oliver. It was said to be a piece to honor her recent death at the age of 82. It was serendipitous for us because I was under the misapprehension that we were, as a gathering, to read from our own poetical renderings so it was both a surprise and an opportunity. Neither Emma nor I had read or heard the voice of Mary Oliver before that evening.
The beautiful verdant layer on the stone we share in space with one another, rolling and hurtling around the sun, with a seething fiery centre, universally present in its core, is described in its entirety by the poet. The long view of the stone by the astronaut and the deep view by the vulcanologist is acknowledged by her, but she celebrates in spades the verdant layer in all its elements with continuing gratitude. Her work seems replete with idiomatic expressions that celebrate life in the layers. Mary Oliver is upbeat. It is the package we have been blessed with and a layer we need to care for!
It's hard to figure how a fellow about 30 had a bit more than 2 years of teaching and healing living in a rustic out of the way land with a few acolytes and yet was the origin of one of the world's greatest and most populous movements. Ultimately fostering deep and abiding personal commitments, great music and art and literature, the perpetuation of civilization though dark ages lasting more than a millennia. No one writing knew him other than by rumours and those Synoptics who reported the rumours displayed some confusion as did the acolytes. Others who deeply testified reported Royalty. Now in our current age we have new wind in various churches where "death is no longer swallowed up in victory." Gone is atonement, salvation and grace. The new cosmology crosschecks whatever of these rumours we have harboured from the millennia and still some of us aren't knocked down. Gee, explain why this basis of civilization in spades, lasted till the Enlightenment. Explain to me why in some churches we are left with eating thin gruel. Explain to me why we have a segment who have nothing left to worship. Explain why this fellow is seen as a very good teacher and a country healer of sorts in the new way of thinking and that's about all. With the New Cosmology, mystery crosschecks Mystery and thin gruel is all some have left!
Over the past dozen years I have written four books, three of which I have self-published and the last I have distributed to my family, but ,what I have come to realize recently, as I am in my eighty fifth year ,the books were always for me. The format was always short stories, poems and essays about my life, always happy and mostly true. As I read them now, over and over, again and again, it is a constant reminder of what I have been given in life and for which i am grateful. And moreover at 85 one needs to be reminded because everything seems to be newly discovered all over again. I have to admit I may becoming a simpleton since I find the writing thrilling. On the other hand I may be more a narcissistic than a simpleton which seems to be an equally abysmal choice. Though on the other hand maybe at one's 85th year I can handle either one with aplomb. What is that catchy little song from the olden days, "Don't worry, be happy."? I can handle that. So should most of us. Loving yourself isn't all that bad. As I wrote in a lecture on writing to a group, "Where you treasure and protect your voice there will always be an authenticity to it that speaks of you whatever you write. When you lay your voice on the page, and your verities emerge, you have already told your tale."
In 1953, my first year of medical school and the first day of classes we all waited with bated breath for information. The class I refer to was biochemistry and the old Scottish professor looked us over and smiled as we waited expectantly for some sort of introduction. He said, " In the matter of biochemistry you should know that the total value of chemicals of which you are composed today is 97 cents. After the five years of medical school when you are ready to leave and go into the practice of medicine you will likely still be worth 97 cents. However, what you can do and hopefully will do is priceless. This makes it worthwhile that you all pay attention now and later." Osler said 'If you listen carefully to the patient they will tell you the diagnosis.'" There is no investment I can think of that is equivalent to the increase of 97 cents to priceless.
When Jon Meachum wrote The Soul of America, The battle for our better angels, he has defined the struggle and the need we all have to overcome the forces that destroy. I was taken in by the quotation alleged to the second president of the United States, John Quincy Adams who said that he went into politics so his son could do math, and his son, could write poetry. Something like that I had written in respect to pre-med when we all took sciences because it was possible to get better marks to get into Medicine than in the arts courses, but despite the usefulness of the practice of Medicine and Politics, our hope for sons and daughters was that they would leap to an art that would magnify the Soul , like poetry.
For Jim's past posts, check out his old blog here: