Says Who??

Verstehen, through shared perspectives

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25.  And hearing, the Master was glad, and gave thanks and came down from the hilltop…when the crowd pressed him with its woes….[the Messiah] smiled upon the multitude and said pleasantly unto them,


-Richard Bach, in Illusions, The Adventures of A Reluctant Messiah.


How does one begin to talk about our nation’s social, economic and political problems?  What are the words that have not already been said; where are the moral imperatives that have not been rendered impotent; the facts that have not become “alt-“ and the news that has not become mere opinion?  Who, and what, can be trusted and believed?

Overcome with sensory overload, one feels sorely inadequate to the task of sorting out fact from fiction, truth from propaganda.  As time goes by and the “evidence” piles up, pro and con, on so many vital issues;  as the threats and disasters mount,  like Bach’s Reluctant Messiah, we soon long to say, “I Quit!”

Granted, Bach’s Illusions was more about our own illusion that we can and should save everyone, than it is about our present situation that seems to lack “Messiahs.”  Our advocacy, our pleas for justice, our outcry against downright sinful oppression has, in fact, become a battle to save ourselves—or to find someone who will do that for us.  Sadly, the very people we look to for salvation from our medical, economic, and social woes—to say nothing of the potential nuclear holocaust threat, the daily terrorist threats from home and abroad (I include cyber threats), and our planet’s efforts to pay us back for all the harm we have done to it—are all too often the very people whose only goal in life seems to be to wipe us from the face of said planet while causing the worst kinds of misery imaginable. How do we find the stamina to keep working for change?

During my lifetime, I have been an advocate for many social issues.  I have also worked in the service sector, seeking to do my best to make life better for my family, for my community.  One day while I was working as the nurse in the county jail, a couple of prisoners said to me, “You believe that you are helping us by working here, and by treating us like real people.  But in fact, you are motivated by the need to feel good about yourself; you need to help people worse off than you, so you can feel good.”

I thought about that for quite a while, finally deciding that yes, it did make me feel good to be of service to others.  But what was the alternative?   Would I feel better watching them starve, or be beaten, or fail to escape whatever ill came their way?  Of course not.  I finally figured out (with the help of Gospel readings, a PhD in Sociology and a Master’s in Theology, and continuing to actively live my philosophy of doing what good I could do, where I could do it) that being happy about helping others is a necessary by-product of community building.  And community building is all about making sure that the community is protected from greed, murder, neglect, shaming, and other crimes against the human family.  Because I am part of the community, I do also benefit from whatever service or good I am able to provide.

Having followed this moral imperative, however, I presently find myself threatened by the magnitude of crimes against humanity that demand my righteous anger; that call for me to add my voice to those whose anger is also shouting out against an unfeeling and unheeding leadership.  But now we are a sharply divided nation, with no inhibitions against verbally abusing people who disagree with us.  While this perfectly suits the darker intentions of our leadership, it fractures families, communities, and organizations.  Which also suits said leadership.  Perhaps, in fact, I should not refer to “leadership” because that is certainly not what is occurring in our government—far from it.  Use of the term is simply habit, and one we should not use until we have corrected our past errors and placed men and women of good character, intelligence, integrity and moral excellence in places we could then refer to as “leadership.”

I hate living in a society where the death and destruction of entire ethnic and socio-economic groups can be celebrated by the rich and powerful, and ignored by too many others—some of whom have just said “I Quit” for all the wrong reasons.  In Richard Bach’s book, the “Messiah” quit because he was trying to save the world and he was tired.  Also, we learn, because that is not the way to build community and it feeds our own brains with all the wrong information about who we are.  For too many people today, their “I Quit” is the result of feeling overwhelmed, or from a sense of helplessness against the sheer magnitude of the problems, or even from the acquired nihilism brought on by the culture of fear generated by all the propaganda.

But “I Quit” can’t be the answer today.  Not for me, and not for anyone who once had a dream about participating in creating a wonderful future for our nation’s children and grandchildren.  Today, all I could do was write this blog.  Perhaps no one will read it, and if they do perhaps they will disregard it.  That isn’t the point.  The point is that I have not given up, and I won’t quit.  Not as long as there is at least one thing I can do to make even the least important situation a better one, in some small way.

It does make me happy to do that.  And with any luck, it may also make someone else’s day a better one.  And best of all, with enough people happily doing what they can do, we may see a ripple effect of concern and support for one another that is strong enough to defeat those who prefer destruction over construction; death over life (for others), and ivory tower solitude over community.

I know it is possible.  In the face of lack of funding and support in so many disasters of our immediate past I have seen countless men and women whose first thought was for the victims.  They headed into disaster areas with disregard for their own safety, the cost of being there, and the magnitude of the disaster.  They just did what they could do, then and there, because it was the right thing to do.  They are heroes, and nation builders.  They didn’t quit.

Dedicated with love, to the heroes who care, and who don’t quit.

hands, heart


I AM NOT A ROBOT (not a Luddite, either)

robot pt

Last summer my beloved Mercury Milan decided to give me mechanical problems, for the first time in the five years I had owned it. It simply refused to start occasionally, without any causality that my mechanic or I could discover. After several nerve-wracking months of this (along with the inevitable and infuriating responses from mechanics: “It starts just fine for me”), I was ready to drive it into the Ohio River. It probably would not have started so I could get it there, though.

I finally convinced a mechanic at the dealership to put the car on the computer for diagnosis. As both a former nurse and present patient, I liked that word diagnosis, and had no qualms about using it for the vehicle I had anthropomorphized by naming it Mahitabel, projecting both positive and negative emotions and reactions on its “behavior,” and more recently developing a love/hate relationship with it. The diagnosis, according to the computer, was that on several occasions in the past few months someone had tried to start my car with a key that did not belong to the car. Therefore, it did not start.

It took about ten more minutes of questioning by the mechanic, who proposed the possibility that someone was trying to steal my car, and answers by me insisting that this made no sense at all, before he looked carefully at my car key. It was bent, and one tiny place may have been chipped. He made me a new key and my buddy Mahitabel and I have traveled together predictably and smoothly ever since.

My point? The computer (a machine) understood more about my car (a machine) than both the mechanic and the owner. Yet both the mechanic and the owner had to engage in some research and analysis on the human level before the “diagnosis” could be corrected and treatment applied. The computer supplied data based on its programmed knowledge of the vehicle; the humans provided the ability to utilize both inductive and deductive reasoning, applied to real-life, present-world situations, to ascertain the actual problem.

This brings me at last to the reason I am writing this post. Two years ago, I posted “The Healers,” in which I compared the observations and insights of an African traditional healer with the best of today’s physicians, noting that in each case the healer was most effective when working as a caring and observant human healer to a human patient. I concluded that computers could not take the place of any physician true to his or her calling .

Two years later, I have more reason than ever to challenge the efficacy of computers in the exam room of a physician’s office. In fact, I would go so far as to say that along with insurance company rules and overreaching legislation intended to make physicians toe the (sometimes contradictory) lines drawn by groups of people who lack the training and calling of the physician, the present demands of computer program doctoring have the capability of being the last straw that finally destroys medicine as we know it.

As the title to this article insists, I am not a Luddite. I love technology, especially when it works. I love the capabilities of the internet, and the ability to keep up with friends and relatives both far and near. I enjoy being able to get online on a busy day and save myself hours of shopping, and have the desired object delivered to my door within 24 hours. I love needing an answer quickly, and finding it; needing an outline of resources for research, and locating them with ease. But it is also these answers and resources that become the problem. I have to exercise my ability to discern the junk from the credible; the scams from the honest reports, because all that this wonderful piece of machinery can provide me with is the data that has been entered, just like my experience with the computer at the car dealership. It can’t make human judgements for me. Without my education and my experience, the overwhelming amount of unquestioned data could get me into a lot of trouble.

Therefore, I am concerned about the time my physicians must spend entering data about me into a limited machine. I am a sociologist, after all, and acutely aware of the reality that whenever humans are the subject of analysis, results are immediately complicated by a lack of predictability, and of psychological understanding; accuracy is also complicated by the uniqueness of every human being and his or her response to a given situation, whether physical or otherwise. And no situation for any patient is completely within the realm of any one discipline. We are affected by more than our pain—we are emotionally affected by its consequences, or by outside considerations that have nothing to do with the pain, but that affect our lives. We are affected intellectually by our understanding of the meaning of the pain, and what it may mean for ourselves and those closest to us; this translates again into emotional effects, which may or may not complicate the situation of the pain and therefore any understanding of the real diagnosis and best treatment.

That only considers the tip of the iceberg. It is dehumanizing to both doctor and patient to reduce medical practice to the inadequate data that can be acquired from, or placed into, a machine. It is dehumanizing to try to explain one’s most frightening and intimate problems to someone who may never look you in the eye, or ask a question not required by the computer program. Especially when that computer operator is frustrated because he or she is not familiar with the program, or because it is not working properly. How do you know if the diagnosis or treatment is going to be safe and effective under these circumstances?

Worse, how do you trust that the information entered into that computer is correct? I can’t tell you how often I have read reports of my office visits only to wonder whose record has been confused with mine. I have read “patient states” something I not only did not state, but that wasn’t true. I have read reports of findings of physical examinations that never took place….and also failed to accurately reflect my physical condition at the time. Yet in years past—even after computers were commonplace—when doctors simply dictated their reports of office visits the results were informative, correct, and usable. I know, because for years I used to type up those dictated reports, and saw letters of thanks from recipients like other physicians, insurance companies, and physical therapists who were able to understand and make use of them.  I even learned a lot of medicine from their logical presentation of cause, effect and treatment.

Even more important, however, is the effect of human touch: The caring hand on a shoulder while explaining a difficult prognosis; the gentle holding of the hand of a terrified patient. The healing effects of caring human touch cannot be measured, and certainly cannot be replaced by a machine of any kind.

I do not propose to take computers away from medical practice, but only that the computers not take the physician away from medical practice. We were intelligent enough to invent computers, and I would hope that we would be intelligent enough to discern the times when their data gathering and sorting capability can be used to best advantage, while the very human, intuitive and caring abilities of our physicians remain in the human realm where they are most effective. Perhaps then physician suicides might drop from more than 400 each year, and more brilliant young people might consider the medical field desirable.

 We need human physicians, because we are not robots.

robot doc

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1587_landing_of_the_pilgrims_at_plymouth_-_color_versionThe mythology got mixed up with theology and became canonized byScene_at_the_Signing_of_the_Constitution_of_the_United_States our founding fathers somewhere between the 16th and 18th centuries. That didn’t make it Biblical, or even an unsacred truth, but somehow because of the nature of our patriotism and need to believe that those who “started” us were wonderful, upstanding people who got it all right, there are people today who still believe the lie. Mostly they are wealthy people. The same ones who believe that the beatitude “Blessed are the poor” ends right there. Look it up—there’s more. Because the “more” is also somewhat opaque for our understanding, I will leave that to those trained in exegesis. However, there is little doubt as to the nature of scriptural direction about wealth—in particular, excessive wealth.

For example, in the New Testament we read about the Rich Fool, who refused to help the beggar at his feet but instead tore down his barns to build bigger barns so that he could hoard more wealth. Wealth was not just money, then or now. It included material possessions like land, cattle, crops, and even family. His reward for such activity was to burn in Hell, pleading for a drop of water from the hands of the beggar he never helped, who was in heaven. (He was denied, by the way.) Sure, this is a just a parable; it is a story with a moral point– “Moral” being the key word.

Another story, this one repeated by eye witnesses, is about the rich young ruler who came to Jesus, claiming to have kept all the religious laws from his youth. He inquired “What must I do to be saved?” and Jesus replied “Give all that you have to the poor, and follow me.” The young man could have lived in America today, because he turned away sadly and left the followers of Jesus.

Maybe that is why scripture also tells us that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Old and New Testaments alike repeatedly tell us to take care of the poor, the widows, and the orphans, the sick and disabled. The commands are unequivocal: Don’t hoard wealth. Don’t succumb to greed.   Take care of those who are in need. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. What’s more, most religions have similar values and ethical concerns about matters of wealth, poverty, and human relationships.

For example, in many cultures one who would be holy must give up all material things as well as family and other relationships, wandering alone and without visible support in order to meet the requirements of holiness. In the Christian traditions, the closer one is to God, the more likely it is that one would join a holy order and renounce wealth and personal possessions. We have a long history of people defined as saints because they dedicated their lives to caring for others, rather than for themselves. Nowhere in anything I have ever read or experienced has anyone achieved sainthood by loving and caring only for themselves.

st francis

 So how did the Puritans—and our founding fathers—get it so wrong? What made them believe that being rich and powerful was a sign that they were truly better than others? Well first of all, they came from a country steeped in the mystique of the aristocracy. Even though they came here to found a new nation that would denounce the way of life they left behind (yes, our forefathers were rebels and immigrants!) there were some ideas deeply rooted in their zeitgeist, to which they still clung.

Reinforcing the belief that wealth and power signified a better race of human beings was the Calvinistic belief in predestination. Actually, the concept of predestination was not the problem. The problem entered AFTER these people were taught to believe that there was a heaven and a hell, and that God knew and had always known who was destined for each place–and the outcome could not be changed. The problem came to life because these folks needed to believe that they were among the chosen. After all that they had sacrificed, and all the difficulties they encountered in the new world, they needed to believe that there would be some post-death reward to make it worthwhile.

So, the Puritans were smart and lived well. They worked hard, saved for the future, and circulated their money in the community.   They prospered accordingly (see Max Weber’s Puritan Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism for a classic sociological analysis of this phenomenon). And when they prospered they chose to believe, lacking evidence to the contrary, that they were among the Chosen. They prospered, therefore they believed that they were special, and that God was showing them that they were predestined for eternal life in His heaven.

This need to connect prosperity with God’s blessing returns again and again in our history. A few years ago the “prosperity gospel” gained in popularity with the promise that God would prosper those who followed Him according to the tenets of that particular line of interpretation. Followers of this belief system may still exist, but they are much quieter now. Louder are the voices of those who were disappointed by the lack of evidence that the purpose of Christian living is to gain wealth.

I believe that right now we are experiencing a far more malignant resurgence of the myth that the wealthy are superior beings, blessed by God (in those cases where they claim a belief in any God but money). Their belief not only justifies to them the dehumanization of the vast majority of the world who are not wealthy, but also the hoarding of wealth. Many of the latter—exemplified by the pre-Christmas Scrooge of Dickens fame—care for nothing more than wealth and power. scroogeLike Scrooge, they are quite literally insane with this addiction, justified by an ancient myth that has been repeatedly denounced by philosophers, poets, theologians and followers of holy writ from every religion. In their insanity, these believe they are doing the “right thing” to destroy all that has been good about our nation.

As it happens, I have met very few people of wealth and power who also were people of integrity. Some who began public service with honorable intentions to change the system from the inside soon succumbed to the seductive nature of wealth and power. But not all of them. There are a few truly fine people who hold positions of power, and who manage despite everything to remember the nature of wholesomeness, trust, and accountability.

Accountability is vitally important. I must be accountable to others if I am to be an ethical person. Moreover, alone I cannot effect  positive societal change. I can speak out, and I can join others who recognize our need to be free of the idea that our nation should be returned to a time when people believed that a few wealthy persons were of a superior race. But, unlike those of the present, the Puritans of our past usually knew that if you would prosper, you had to build up the people around you as well. The necessary recirculation of wealth and resources made communities stronger. They were accountable. There was no such lie as “trickle-down” economics.

The past is done. Today the idea of strength in numbers can still be applied: Together, we can reclaim the excellence in education, health, and industry that once made us strong. It is a new day, a new time, and the ways and means of doing this have changed. But the values that built our nation have not. Those values are timeless.people-holding-hands-th

How many times are we going to have to renounce the mythology that the rich are superior beings, blessed by God and destined for a heaven populated only by their “own kind?” Probably again, and again, and in ever more determined and righteous ways. Of course, those who actually believe that ethical rules or the holy writings of many religions are just nonsense will laugh at all this, and return to the pleasures that help to salve the perceived injury they suffer from constantly being challenged by the resilient presence of those they would choose to ignore, to dehumanize and disenfranchise. But we who do not buy into any belief in “superiority” simply by virtue of wealth are not going away. The scriptures attest to that, as well.   And we are many.


People are hungry for God.

People are hungry for love. Are you aware of that?

Do you know that? Do you see that?

Do you have eyes to see?

Quite often we look but we don’t see.

We are all passing through this world.

We need to open our eyes and see.


Mother Teresa



It was a fine summer day in the Magic Forest, where a Wise Old Owl, perched on the limb of one of the lovely old oak trees, kept turning his head (as owls are wont to do) to peer wide-eyed at the impressive sight behind him. Just that morning, he had come upon a huge stone wall through the middle of the forest, and no matter how high he flew, he could not get over it to the other side. Nor could he discover an end to the wall, in either direction. It was now well into the morning aowlnd the owl, being a nocturnal creature, was ready to call it a night and go to sleep. Unfortunately, he could not rest. The puzzle of this huge wall was in itself distracting enough – but what was on the other side?

Even though he had turned his back to the wall, he was unable to resist turning his head to look at it, time and time again. After a while, he began to discern what appeared to be a door, or a closed gate in the wall. The more he focused on the potential opening, the more clearly it began to take shape. Finally, it seemed as though a huge wooden door, shaped and hinged much like the door of a medieval European castle, was now as solidly embedded in the wall as the wall itself was an unchanging and solid part of the landscape. The magical nature of this phenomenon did not bother the Wise Old Owl, because he was perfectly aware that he lived in a magical forest, where strange things sometimes happened.doorway of truth

But the occurrence of strange things in magical forests is usually a sign that something of importance is coming into being. Being wise, the owl knew this to be a fact. So, giving up the idea of sleep altogether, he flew to the door in the wall to investigate. The first thing he determined was that it was very real and very solid, as he was quite elderly and in his sleepy state he misjudged his flight pattern and bumped into it. Rubbing his sore beak with the edge of a wing, he cautiously approached the wall on foot. He tried the latch, (did I mention that he was a very tall owl?) to see if he could open the door. He could not. Next, there appeared a keyhole just below the latch, and in his wisdom, the owl understood that the door was locked. Lacking the key, he would not be able to open it.

Just as he was gathering himself to fly back to his perch in the oak tree, the wall delivered a final manifestation – a sign shimmered into place above the door. Peering through the morning sunshine, the owl sounded out the letters:


The Wise Old Owl grew very excited. Because of his wisdom, he had always sought Truth. And now here it was, just on the other side of this locked door in an impenetrable wall. Surely, as old and as wise as he was, he could review all of his knowledge and past experience and discover how to open the door to Truth. So he set his mind to it.

Meanwhile, crashing his way through the Magic Forest, there came a very large, very noisy and very ponderous elephant. Upon seeing the wall, exactly where it had never been before, (and he remembered this, because he was an elephant and as everyone knows an elephant never forgets) he became enraged, lowered his head, and charged the wall….. And charged the wall again, and again, until he knocked himself silly and had to sit down.elephant

Determining that the elephant was now quiet and still enough to hear him, the Wise Old Owl asked the Large, Strong Elephant if he could see the door. Once the stars from banging his head against the wall cleared, sure enough, the elephant could clearly see both the door, and the sign above it: TRUTH. He gingerly stretched out his sore trunk, and tried the latch.

“It’s locked” the Owl told him. “Any lock can be forced open” the elephant grumpily responded, still convinced that his wealth of size and power was the answer to everything.

“Listen to me! I not only have the experience of this particular wall and door, but I have reviewed all of the learning and experience since the beginning of time in the Magic Forest,” trilled the Owl. “If you will hear what I know, perhaps we can open the door.”

“Nonsense,” replied the Elephant. “Only my strength and persistence will open the door.”

Several days later, after multiple periods of alternating rest, arguing, and failed attempts to open the door of Truth, the Owl and the Elephant were joined by another wanderer in the Magic Forest. The Burdened Donkey, a descendant of the very colt that carried Jesus the Messiah into Jerusalem on that famous Passover week, had found her way through the forest to the Door in the Wall. Her entire life had been one of compassion and advocacy for the burdens of others; as well it should be for one of her noble ancestry. She cared nothing for power or size, though in all honesty she thought a little wealth would have been nice, in order to have something to share with those who had nothing at all.     donkey

The Burdened Donkey readily became part of the group, despite stating quite firmly that the others were wasting their time. She insisted that if they gathered more seekers to the wall, whoever – or whatever — controlled the Magic Forest would have to hear their combined voices seeking Truth, and unlock the door.

Weeks later, our trio of Truth Seekers were each even more determined than ever that he or she alone had the right answer to opening the Door. But they were still on the wrong side of the Gateway to Truth when a beautiful, radiant human-like creature seemed to just suddenly appear in their midst. OK, sorry – that phrase was a little too Biblical for a fairy tale. The Dreamer/Adventurer appeared like a mirage taking shape before their eyes (Better?). This rare being was androgynous, (a blend of male/female, not either-or) but only when appearing in its magical, ephemeral state. It will be correct to refer to the being as s/he.

enlifghtened being

S/he was actually more able to see and understand the Wall and the Gateway to Truth better than the other three combined. Being a dreamer, s/he could imagine possible solutions from ideas that the others had overlooked, because even though they had a lot of combined knowledge and experience, they lacked the gift of imagination. Because they therefore lacked the gift of dreaming, they also lacked the magnificent will to risk adventure. So the Dreamer might have added surprising and wonderful routes to the search for Truth, but the four Seekers nevertheless each continued to argue that their own talent was the sole means of opening the Gate, and to individually try old and new ways to unlock the door.

Almost another year passed, and one late night our quartet of seekers was once again outside the door of Truth. As usual, the Owl was perched on his oak tree limb, his back to the Door. The Elephant stood in front of the owl and to his right, where there happened to be more room to accommodate his huge size. To the owl’s left, and facing the Elephant, was the Burdened Donkey. Weary from her many tasks and the futility of debate; she reclined on a mat of fallen leaves. The Dreamer/Adventurer was directly facing the Owl, but far enough back not to invade the sight line between the Donkey and the Elephant. The dreamer, therefore, was the only one who consistently looked forward, to the Gateway of Truth. This pattern had become the default physical setup for their frequent, but fruitless, debates.

By now, each member of the group was unshakably entrenched in their own belief about the correct route to a solution, and the debates were bitter and filled with accusations that cast aspersions on ancestry, intellect and integrity. In other words, the debates had become ugly, and personal.

An aside: Rumor has it that this is when and where major basic political views were founded and named: The Traditionalist (the owl, wise but always looking back), the Donkey (the liberal, burdened with concern for the poor and oppressed), and the Elephant (with wealth, power and size, who was channeling Puritan predestinarianism in his belief that these things indicated that he alone was a Chosen One). The Dreamer/Adventurer, though strong in the days of our Founders, would have no counterpart within the bounds of this rumor, representing a view that is no longer taken seriously by our rational world. But I believe the rumor to be completely unfounded and without merit. After all, even in a fairy tale there is no discernible connection between the Gateway to Truth and political activity.

To bring our fairy tale to its conclusion…as our quartet was fiercely and loudly debating the reasons for their failure to solve the problem of the locked door of Truth, they were joined by an excited colony of bats, all clamoring about the Gateway to Truth. The bats had somehow heard of the Gateway phenomenon, but being blind, were not even aware that they were just outside that much-to-be-desired place. By using their sonar, however, they sensed the presence of our Seekers and inquired of them if they knew how to find the Gateway.


Rendered both cynical and uncaring of others by their prolonged debate, the four Seekers each offhandedly responded to the bats:

“Of course. As always, it is directly behind me,” said the Owl.

“Can’t you see it?” the Donkey responded crossly, then…”Oh, sorry. I am so sorry for your disability. Please, can you locate it if I describe where it is? It is directly to my left.”

To which the Elephant trumpeted a huge blast of disgust, remarking “Even my strength has not opened that door! How do you think that a colony of tiny, blind bats is going to achieve this? But never mind. Be my guest! Go ahead and try. The door is to my right.”

The Dreamer, withdrawn and wan after suffering prolonged ridicule and rejection, was only barely aware of the presence of the bats. As usual, s/he was staring dreamily at the gate, imagining all the wondrous truth that lay just beyond. S/he finally murmured: “You are all wrong. The door is in front of ME.”

As each member of the group spoke his, her or its truth, a solid gold nugget appeared in the hand (trunk, wing or hoof) of the speaker. By the time the Dreamer said the final word, all four were staring dumbfounded into their respective appendages. Then, as one entity, they all ran toward the gate, golden shapes held before them. One by one, each tried to open the gate with their piece of gold, turning it first this way and then that. They tried inserting the gold pieces in a different order, then with yet other permutations of that order. Alas, the gold pieces did not unlock the door of Truth.

Dropping In a sorry heap of adrenaline withdrawal, the group had finally returned to their original places. The bats, having been quiet as they tried to interpret the chaos of sound and activity, now tried to question the Seekers. “What happened? What did you do? Did the Door open?”

As a final gesture of complete submission to their failure, the Seekers turned the pieces of gold over to the bats. “Here,” they told them. “Follow our directions to the Door, which has a key hole but no key. Take these pieces of gold, since they appeared when we told you where the door was, but they do not seem to be of any use.”

“But you each told us something different,” challenged the bats. “How do we know which one of you was telling the truth, or if any truth is in you at all? How do we know where the door really is located?”

The Seekers looked around, and recognized that they had fallen into their accustomed formation. So they told the bats that they would repeat their directions, and the bats should use their own bat sonar to identify where each speaker was located. They could then use at least three points to triangulate the location of the door from the positions of the speakers, combined with their spoken directions. “We have all told you the truth,” they chorused.

And of course, the bats did just that and of course, it worked. They were now hanging on the wall, as well as on and around the door. They located the latch and the keyhole. But also “of course,” they could not open the door, either. But they kept touching the pieces of gold, and then reaching into the keyhole, feeling around and chattering to one another in bat-speak. The air became tense with anticipation, for it was well known that the blind bats understood the magic of the forest better than any other beings. Unlike other beings, they felt things about the environment, and heard more. Suddenly, the bats came together in an outbreak of cooperation and began to reposition the pieces of gold. The Magic Forest once again intervened and did its thing, and the pieces of gold became welded together in the shape of a key. The key opened the Gateway of Truth, and they all (including the original Seekers) went through the Door to the land of Truth and lived happily ever after.

golden key




The definition of enabler is one that enables another to achieve an end. This takes on a negative connotation when the “one” enables another to persist in self-destructive behavior (such as substance abuse) by providing excuses or by helping that individual avoid the consequences of such behavior. Usually we think of parents, spouses, children and close friends as potential enablers of people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs.

Keep in mind, first of all, that alcohol and drug addictions are proven diseases of the brain. In the addict’s brain, a malfunctioning and distorted reward center makes ever-increasing demands on the person in the form of cravings that can override his or her ability to adhere to values of right vs. wrong.

In the advanced stages, the addicted person will lie, steal, manipulate loved ones and strangers, even kill or destroy the lives of others, in order to satisfy the unbearable craving for the object of the addiction or “agent.” At this stage the addictive agent only provides momentary relief from the awful craving. If addicts are able to hold a job, the job becomes meaningless except to the extent that it provides means to gain more of the craved agent. They are incapable of considering long-term consequences, because the immediate craving is too overwhelming. The brain – even the soul – of the addicted person becomes unable to empathize with even their closest loved ones, much less the rest of humanity.

Now that we recognize that drug and alcohol addictions are diseases, we also understand that it takes more than detoxification to restore the patient to a productive life. Long-term solutions, such as well-run 12-step programs and/or residential recovery programs, help tremendously to restore or establish a patient’s ability to make good choices for healthy living. These programs may also provide a long overdue refocusing of the destructive enabling and/or stigmatizing behaviors of families (and society) toward those who are addicted.

This got me thinking…

A chemical substance is not the only “agent” leading to addiction. The reward center of our brains may also malfunction to cause psychological addictions.
Let’s take a look at some behavioral symptoms of addiction:
(a) keeping a job only so long as it provides the means to obtain the craved addictive pleasure;
(b) lies;
(c) stealing;
(d) manipulation;
(e) destruction of other’s lives;
(f) lack of empathy;
(g) inability to consider long-term consequences –
– all in service to the craving for more of the addictive agent. That agent could be money, material possessions, power, popularity…..

Which got me thinking even more…

One group that comes to my mind are politicians – not all, of course. But think about it… Are some politicians addicted to the political scene? This could explain much of the otherwise inexplicable behavior of our “do-nothing” Congress of the past few years.

And what does that make of “We, the people?”
It makes us enablers.

You may say “No way! I don’t even vote, I hate our system so much.”
Sorry… still an enabler.

Allowing “political addicts” to continue to make our laws is the equivalent of letting inmates rule the asylum. It points out the inescapable truth to me that if I do not accept responsibility for who I elect to office or who I return to office (by act or omission), I must then accept some responsibility for their actions (e.g., sending a son to bleed his life into the sand of a Middle East desert; allowing a grandmother to die in agony because a law will not allow her the only medication that will relieve her pain).

One alternative to doing the patriotic, time-consuming, tedious work of researching each and every person for whom we cast a vote is to turn our country over to a benevolent dictator who will take care of us so that we won’t have to take care of ourselves. Even if such an enlightened person exists, is that really what we want?

Not me.

Therefore, I pledge to give up the lazy, irresponsible enabling of addicted politicians. I pledge to vote, and to vote responsibly. I pledge to be a patriot, not an enabler.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead