Saturday, July 26, 2008

An Open Letter to Senator McCain

While John McCain certainly has a more humane approach to unborn children than Obama, his support for embryonic stem cell research shows a different disturbing flaw: McCain is comfortable doing something he knows is wrong if the benefits appear great enough. This may provide a key to his support for torturing prisoners or killing foreign civilians in times of great need.

Dear Senator McCain,

I have been deeply impressed by your honorable character and consistent opposition to abortion. However, as your fellow pro-lifer and a physician I must respectfully but strongly express concern about your support for embryonic stem cell research. The idea that terminating any other human being for any potential benefit to ourselves is a direct contradiction to the Pro-Life stance you claim to hold. How do you ask a woman not to kill her 7 week-old fetus which may be greatly convenient to her to do, if you are killing 7 day-olds for the potential benefits they could give to her if she develops an illness like Parkinson's or Diabetes?

The argument that age, size, or mental-functioning below a certain level open up humans to destruction if their termination is expedient is the very argument used to support killing babies near birth, the sick, the mentally-challenged, or the elderly. You enter serious moral peril by classifying any human individual as a “thing” rather than a “person.” I am certain you are a very intelligent man, but I don't believe you have the right or ability to draw a line excluding any human (even an embryo) from basic human protection. It is this same logic that allowed my ancestors to commit crimes against Blacks, Native Americans, and others they deemed “inferior” in order to make things better for themselves. History has judged them harshly, and I fear it may judge us the same.

As a physician I care deeply about my ill patients, but killing in order to help them is something I cannot do. I urge you not to kill another human in my name or the name of my patients.

Thank you,
Jonathan Davis MD

With both major parties giving consistent-life voters poor choices, The Gridbook Blog will be endorsing a 3rd Party Candidate. Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Ortona Italy

One year ago today my wife and I were walking the streets of Ortona Italy, the town on the other side of the world where my grandfather Eduardo Pantaloni grew up. Then we hadn't even yet conceived of the little boy (Eduardo's great-grandson) who I hold in my lap as I write now.

I think of Eduardo (who changed his name to Edward when he immigrated) growing up in Ortona and my little son growing here in my lap. Eduardo died on Christmas day when I was only a little boy. One of my strongest memories is of him telling me about the beautiful farms in the seaside village were he grew up, only a few days before he died.

He has been dead for decades now, and no one in his home town remembers his name. He is even a distant memory to me. It makes me realize that even though I am 30 now I will also someday be gone and forgotten even in the places that were once my home.

This makes me glad that I am a father. My son may not know it now but his great-grandparents who will only exist in his mind as black and white photos have left themselves in my wife and me, and thus their lives project into his own. Similarly I will leave myself in him.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Is Transcendence Bunk?

I am realizing that the importance I place on transcendence is not something many others share. This leads me to wonder if my perspective is hopelessly skewed?

Transcendence has been a unifying theme of things that have mattered in my life. Transcendence: breaking beyond mundane existence and experiencing that which is deepest, most beautiful, divine—even if only for a moment. My most worthwhile experiences (friendship, adventure, love, music, sex, art, literature, sacrifice, learning, suffering, worship, creating) I appreciated partially because of the transcendence I experienced in them. I was not discontented with normal life, instead I saw normal life as a necessary staging ground from which to break through to what is beyond it. I was not searching for some mystery or magic, but I lived daily life more ecstatically. Nor did I think all transcendent experience was inherently good. Transcendence could mislead as well as enlighten, but these moments seemed to me our best evidence that we are not mere animals or mechanisms —that we are fallen children of God.

The problem of my life now is that I feel myself becoming more of a mechanism each day. The responsibilities of being a doctor, home owner, husband, debtor, father have bound me to the daily grind of being a producer and consumer. Although responsibilities provide stability there is little or no transcendence to be found in them. Some days my spirit feels like an ox yolked to a heavy plow.

Ten years ago I was not a consumer but an ecstatic and idealistic mind. All of my friends were similar and we all lived on a diet of dreams. I assumed that the feelings of transcendence we basked in were universal to all of mankind. We scorned those who didn't "suck the marrow out of life." Now all of my old friends have become hopelessly practical people, and don't seem to miss the transcendence in which they once lived. I talk of seeking transcendence and hear it dismissed as the stuff of childhood—something you grow out of. If no longer transcending life is a natural feature of being an adult, why am I the only one uncomfortable with the maturation?

The other day my wife said, “You don't need too much time on your hands. Instead of centering yourself when you rest, you get your head in the clouds. You end up very dissatisfied.” Am I dissatisfied? I had never thought of myself as a discontented person before, but I saw she was right. The thing I strive for is becoming increasingly hard to reach.

Is transcendence bunk or is it the very stuff life is made of? If transcendence truly is life then I am slowly dying of starvation of the soul, but if it is just a childish emotion then I am worrying myself over nothing and should embrace my maturity. As much as transcendence is a sensation of deep meaning, I cannot say if I really understand anything better than others who have had no such experience or put no stock in such things. The feelings of understanding and meaning are almost too deep for words, but if I can't express what I gain from transcendence have I really gained anything at all? Am I enhanced as a person by transcendent experience or is it only a "mental high" full of sound and fury but signifying nothing?

I am in a bit of a quandary. As I grow older the powerful experiences that were once the natural state of my mind become increasingly rare. Should I chase after transcendence or let it go? Am I a pitiful addict trying to reproduce a high that I can never achieve again, or am I doggedly seeking truth, beauty, and meaning in a cynical world that squashes all that is really worthwhile?

I really don't know at this point. I am perplexed. Perhaps those with more wisdom can help me find the answer. Any advice?