A blog about (not) blogging, and other experiences that take my breath away

I posted the following to presbymergent‘s website and it should, pending review, show up sometime over the course of the next week.  I spent a little time working on it, so I didn’t quite have the time to write something for here this week, so I thought I would post it here as well.  Enjoy!

 

For all of my twittering, facebooking, g-mailing, blogging and blackberrying, and so forth, the truth is that I most often find myself in sacred space, in the presence of God Himself, when I dare to put that all away, step away from my techno-centered routines, and simply be.  At the risk of sounding like a Luddite, I most often see God when I stop texting and start looking around at the world God made with the eyes God blessed me with, tasting the air on my tongue and taking in the world around me rather than confining my experience of the world to that which appears on a small, digital screen.

           

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Most recently, it has been the reality of the summer—a warm breeze picking through the branches and leaves of the live oaks, the whirring of bugs and beetles high above me, the taste of honeysuckle and thyme in the air—that has brought me back to myself.  There isn’t much cell phone service worth using on the streets near my parent’s northern California home, so I have been forced to set down my phone and amuse myself with my surroundings instead, packing away the email, facebook, or catch-up calls that are so often a feature of my more urban hiking adventures in Philadelphia.  As I walk down the dusty trail that lines highway 130, my ears prick to the gentle rustle of oleander and wild turkey, and I find myself reeling with the recognition that I am a part of something bigger than myself, that the signs of life around me are small reminders of something deeper and grander than anything I could imagine, something that could so easily go unnoticed and then suddenly bowl me over in a instant of blazing clarity. 

            When John Calvin wrote of the glory of and specialness of creation, I heard what he was saying.  And I recognized myself in his remark that we too often fail to see the beauty that is before us.  Every once in a while, however, a thin space, as the Celts called it, opens before our eyes, and the truth of the world and God’s presence in it is clear to us.  As Calvin would put it, we find that in God we are given spectacles to see the sacred quality of all things, which hide in plain sight before me.

            So what are the things that stun me back to the recognition of the Sacred?  There is no pattern that I can discern, no perfect formula for figuring it out.  While I am often bowled over by that which is natural, I also find that God can strip me of my ignorance of the sacred around me in the most mundane or even complicated of circumstances.  I see it in the pattern of a quilt made by my own hands and a well-written poem, or even in the midst of the fray as much as the beauty of a mountain range.  And I could argue that it takes practice to see the sacred with more clarity, and yet even that isn’t always the case.  I have learned that the world will surprise my fuzzy eyes into focus as shockingly when I am looking for the sacred as it will when I am doing everything but.

            Ultimately, these moments of recognition are both a mystery and a gift, for like God they are beyond my ability to grasp them, and filled with grace and wisdom.  They surpass knowledge and understanding and are filled with Truth.  They bring me closer to God, to myself, and to my fellow inhabitants on this great, sacred sphere that we call home.  For that, I am thankful.

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Ethical Health Care?

This afternoon I came across Peter Singer’s NYT Magazine article on rationing and health care.  Now, as a philosophy major in undergrad, I was required to read Singer’s book entitled “One World” for Dallas Willard’s class on the history of Ethics.  If you haven’t read him, I recommend it, because he certainly pushes the boundaries of what many would consider comfortable in the realm of ethics.  As I understand him, he considers and explores the realm of corporate or universal ethical challenges.  In One World, he explored the costs associated with dealing with world poverty and, if my memory serves me, concluded that those of us in the developed world have the capability to solve the problem if only we are willing to part with a small fraction of the comfortable lifestyle we are accustomed to.  He also was made infamous by his arguments on abortion, euthanasia and infanticide, in which his ethical positions centered around the question of whether it is in fact wrong to take the life of those who are old, insane, or unborn. 

He’s basically an ethicist with a whole lot of balls and a thick skin, because most of his thinking has been, shall we say, difficult to swallow for many people.

But I have to admit, I like him.  The old Princeton prof is one smart guy, and while his arguments are challenging to me on certain personal levels, I have to admit that much of what he has to say is compelling, and certainly has the power to refocus conversation around significant issues like poverty, life, and death.

Back to the article.  So I stumbled across Singer’s piece on health care reform, and I must recommend it as worth reading.  In the article, he deals with the problematic ethical concern of valuing life and rationing health care, both of which are visible concerns in the current health care reform debate.  Singer argues that, while most people decry the attempt to put a value on a human life, it is still the case that it happens.  He cites various instances in which human life has long had a price tag roughly equivalent to $5 million dollars, and that despite our uncomfortableness with the concept, it is one that drives insurance concerns. 

What is interesting about his article for me, however, is how he uses this information to argue that we need to ration health care.  Most people don’t like the concept of rationing, and Singer certainly acknowledges that when folks are deathly sick, they resent the notion that their insurance might not cover expensive live-extending treatments.  That said, these treatments often do not save lives, but merely draw them out, often at the cost of failing to save the lives of the non-insured, which he illustrates with a provocative study of health care received by insured and non-insured auto-collision victims. 

Ultimately, Singer argues for a rationing sytem for health care that operates along the lines of live-years saved and QALY, or quality-adjusted life years.  These measures of value are both interesting and worth consideration, and I certainly found his article worth a good ponder.

There are some questions that I came away with, as I read this article.  First of all, I was surprised to discover that I agreed strongly with Singer’s evaluation of prohibitively expensive life-extending drug treatments.  Basically, he noted that when insurance covers treatments that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year while extending lives by small increments, they aren’t worth it because they drive up costs for everyone else.  I have to say that I agreed with him.  Perhaps I don’t find death as frightening as I should, but I tend to believe that if your body is shutting down and you are going to die for certain, it is most important to spend your remaining time coming to terms with that and loving those moments you have left rather than frantically scrambling for a few more months.  But that’s just me.

Another issue of Singer’s that always seems to get him in trouble is his logically sound argument that saving a teenager’s life is worth more than an 85-year old because you are saving more life-years.  I have a hard time with this concept, but at the same time I have a difficult time disputing his claims. 

Ultimately, all my rambling amounts to the suggestion that you go and read him yourself.  I don’t expect everybody to agree with what I say, or even see the same things I do, but I do think that it is a valuable exercise to participate in the conversation, and I appreciate Singer’s bravery in entering the dialogue.