Dec 18

The Birds and the D’s

 If ignorance were bliss, my fellow humans, we’d be permanent residents of Nirvana.

Because we will always be ignorant.

The Age of Enlightenment upended that dreary calculus, seemingly, by highlighting mankind’s powers of reason, transforming the intellectual and philosophical landscape of 18th century Europe and ushering in unprecedented discovery and inquiry.  “Sapere aude!” proclaimed Immanuel Kant, summing up the exuberance of that era: “Dare to be wise!”  Or, more loosely, "Dare to think for yourself!"

And on that foundation of reason we’ve built a towering edifice of science and knowledge - towering, that is, compared with what was known before.  As I’ve written elsewhere, every era finds us basking in an age of unprecedented enlightenment – until the rear-view mirror of history exposes it as an age of slightly less ignorance.  We scale mountains of knowledge and swim oceans of discovery - only to find mountains more magnificent to tackle and oceans more vast to explore.

As a good friend likes to remind me, “the truth is.”.  But getting to that truth is maddeningly elusive.  The Apostle Paul observed long ago that we “see through a glass darkly”:  pure comprehension of truth remains perpetually out of reach.  It’s best that we proceed humbly, holding the lamp of our current understanding as high as we can. Read the rest of this entry »

Dec 18

The Birds and the Bees

Imagine, for a white-knuckled moment: you are hunkered down on a battlefield, commanding officer to a platoon of shell-shocked soldiers.  Ahead of you lies an open stretch of scrubby terrain peppered with concealed land mines, beyond that the safety of a sheltering bunker; behind you, hard on your heels, a swarm of enemy soldiers.  You have no choice but to go forward, to lead your squadron across that booby-trapped pasture, desperately hoping that your troops aren’t exploded to splatters and tatters of blood and gore.

But at the last second, as you are about to order that gut-wrenching dash for refuge, you find in your rucksack a detailed map of those landmines.  Drenched with sweaty relief, you and your platoon pick your way quickly and safely across to that bunker.

That’s a rough analogy for the transgender battle ongoing in our culture, a toxic stew of vitriol, condemnation, misunderstandings, and outright nonsense.  It’s a treacherous debate, and easy to put a foot wrong and get blasted to bits.

But we have no choice but to join the debate if we care one whit about where this is headed.  The casualties are mounting, and, as Albert Einstein said, to remain silent is to be guilty of complicity.

Read the rest of this entry »

Nov 18

A Crisis of Identity

One hundred and three.  The number leapt out at me from the little slip of paper.  An incandescent flash of sudden comprehension flooded my brain.

It was fourteen years ago, and I was standing beside the trauma bay bed, holding one of Jack’s tiny clenched fists in my hand as I gazed worriedly at his contorted face, his tongue thrusting rhythmically, eyes rolled insistently upward.

His spasming little body was practically submerged in a beehive of activity, medical personnel busily supplying critically needed oxygen, readying resuscitation equipment, and delivering intravenous medications and fluids.

Paramedics had crashed through the doors with Jack ten minutes earlier, wheeling him on a stretcher.  It had been a sleepy Monday morning in the department to that point, the mundane chit-chat of nursing staff disturbed only by the raspy breathing and occasional seal-bark cough of a young boy with croup.  After dosing the young lad with dexamethasone and settling a misty mask of epinephrine over his face to ease his breathing, I sat in the doctors’ cubicle with my resident, killing time by quizzing her on the case we had just seen. Read the rest of this entry »