My Thoughts

So many thoughts grumbling about in this cavity between my ears. So many I might presume a bit of schizophrenia if this cornucopia of thoughts were not all of one voice. It is a terrible affliction, this strange absorption of so many diverse and conflicting thoughts, with hardly a moments peace to catalog, digest, and order them into their proper shelves (they are a motley lot, so disorderly, much like herding cats). It is small wonder that I do not lose one or two in the process. The good news is I never find myself lacking something to write on about, though some may say, and they have on occasion said just so, that that is no good news at all.

Just read this to add to the ever increasing pile of quips and quotes: Speaking of the mobs tearing down statues of Christopher Columbus after the death of George Floyd, “This was presumably because they saw him as a killer of native peoples who introduced slavery and racism in America. Whatever the reason, however, it’s quite certain that … the mobs knew little or nothing about the person against whom they raged. And probably didn’t much care to, because it is now taken as self-evident that the whole history of Western exploration and expansion is nothing but a tale of exploitation, imperialism, and ‘white’ supremacy. Any attempt to sort out the good and bad present in the discovery of the Americas, as in all things human, amounts to making excuses for genocide and racism.”[1]

Not an hour before, I heard a professor from a well-known liberal arts college tell of her recent experience in attending a compulsory training session on racism. When asked to confess to her innate and undeniable racial bias (she is white), she refused to play along, refused on the grounds that it made her uncomfortable. The instructor proceeded to shame her in front of her colleagues using the gospel of White Fragility to prove her inherent racism was evidenced by her discomfort, her anger, fear and guilt, but most definitely by her silence, an obvious admission of her racist attitudes.

These thoughts teased me mercilessly, begging another, one I had in mind well over a year ago when I mentioned the dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, by the English writer George Orwell, first published in 1949 (I was a wee lad of two). Set in the year 1984, it described a world of perpetual war, government overreach, omnipresent government surveillance, totalitarianism, historical negationism, propaganda, and the repressive regimentation of all persons and behaviors within society.

There is an unsettled familiarity to Orwell’s imagined future, now thirty-six years past, vividly illustrated in this brief dialogue between Winston Smith and O’Brien who is trying to convince Winston that “whatever the Party holds to be truth, is truth.” O’Brien holds up four fingers but wants Winston to see five.

“You are a slow learner, Winston,” said O’Brien gently.

“How can I help it?” he blubbered. “How can I help but see what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.”

“Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.”

This brief bit of illogical linguistics then raised another thought, one which I met this past weekend.

2 = A number
1 = A number
2 = 1

There are other thoughts rattling round this lopsided globe that are alarming to say the least. The presumptive (heavy emphasis on the word) president-elect just today named oncologist Dr. Zeke Emanuel to head up his 13-member coronavirus task force. Now, just in case you have been asleep at the wheel for a dozen or more years, allow me to introduce this fine clone of Dr. Josef Mengele, otherwise known as the Angel of Death. Emanuel has such deadly aspirations, having argued in an essay Why I Hope to Die at 75 (Oct 2014) for The Atlantic, that society and families—and you—will be better off if nature takes its course swiftly and promptly. And here I quote:

But here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.

I take guidance from what Sir William Osler wrote in his classic turn-of-the-century medical textbook, The Principles and Practice of Medicine: “Pneumonia may well be called the friend of the aged. Taken off by it in an acute, short, not often painful illness, the old man escapes those ‘cold gradations of decay’ so distressing to himself and to his friends.”

This means colonoscopies and other cancer-screening tests are out—and before 75. If I were diagnosed with cancer now, at 57, I would probably be treated, unless the prognosis was very poor. But 65 will be my last colonoscopy. No screening for prostate cancer at any age. (When a urologist gave me a PSA test even after I said I wasn’t interested and called me with the results, I hung up before he could tell me. He ordered the test for himself, I told him, not for me.) After 75, if I develop cancer, I will refuse treatment. Similarly, no cardiac stress test. No pacemaker and certainly no implantable defibrillator. No heart-valve replacement or bypass surgery. If I develop emphysema or some similar disease that involves frequent exacerbations that would, normally, land me in the hospital, I will accept treatment to ameliorate the discomfort caused by the feeling of suffocation, but will refuse to be hauled off.

What about simple stuff? Flu shots are out. Certainly if there were to be a flu pandemic, a younger person who has yet to live a complete life ought to get the vaccine or any antiviral drugs. A big challenge is antibiotics for pneumonia or skin and urinary infections. Antibiotics are cheap and largely effective in curing infections. It is really hard for us to say no. Indeed, even people who are sure they don’t want life-extending treatments find it hard to refuse antibiotics. But, as Osler reminds us, unlike the decays associated with chronic conditions, death from these infections is quick and relatively painless. So, no to antibiotics.

Ok, ok, enough with this nonsense. One must, however, ask a simple question (especially of the good doctor, now six years away from his magic number and his presumptive boss, now two years beyond meaningful life), “Is this the best person to head up the task force on a virus whose target audience are those over 70 years of age? I’m just asking for a friend.

Wake up America!

Just my thoughts for a Tuesday, for what it is worth.

[1] Robert Royal, “Discovering Columbus,” Claremont Review of Books, Fall 2020; Robert Royal is president of the Faith & Reason Institute. This essay is adapted from the Introduction to his new book, Columbus and the Crisis of the West (Sophia Institute Press).

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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