I’m sorry I’ve been MIA. I have chosen an interesting week in which to take a Spiritual, Silent Retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani just outside of Bardstown, KY. Interesting, because Chapters 1 and 2 resonates with my purpose for the retreat. It is difficult to hone in on the material from Swinton’s book; however, I’ll try and narrow my thoughts around two areas, one from each chapter.
Chapter one leads me to reflect on my being a body that carries a spirit. We recognize that we are flesh animated by Spirit. As the text points out “Spirit” in Hebrew is ruach and in Greek is pneuma. It does point out that a translation is “wind,” but the Greek/Hebrew goes further. Each word can also be translated as “spirit” and “breath.” Thus, this body that carries the spirit carries that which moves us, that which sustains us, and that which gives us a meaningful life. Thus, as Swinton says, “Sprituality is the outward expression of the inner workings of the human spirit.” When you “see me,” you may notice that I’m average height, my dark hair has lost it’s color, I am frightfully thin due to a recent ongoing medical condition, and that I have a deep Southern accent; however, when you move beyond the outward physical Lee Whitlock and become my friend, you may see me in terms of my philosophical, political, and spiritual Lee Whitlock. I thought of the lyrics of “Some Enchanted Evening” from “South Pacific”:
<div style=”text-align: center;”>Some enchanted evening you may see a stranger
You may see a stranger across a crowded room
And somehow you know, you know even then
That somewhere you’ll see her again and again</div>
<div>My romantic side says that you might see me and want to know me. On the other hand, when you move up close and through my outward shell, you may “see me” and find I’m too liberal, my theology is too humanistic, and find that my spirituality is a bit odd for your tastes. You may find the outward me attractive but the inward me unattractive. You could also see any of a couple of other of the combinations of the two.</div>
<div>One other point from Chapter 1, I found it interesting that Swinton also delved briefly into the ideas that are central to all humans: Where have I come from, and where am I going. I’m currently reading Dan Brown’s current (repeat) novel, Origin. In it, Langdon, his protagonist from his previous novels is in pursuit of some research that was developed by a former student of his. The research, according to his murdered student, promises to answer these two fundamental questions. The older I get, especially as I see my on mortality slipping away has me focusing more on the second question rather than the first.</div>
<div>Chapter 2 carries the ideas from chapter 1 in the same direction, but on a physical basis. I have a plethora of doctors at the present time: GP, Oncologist, Endocrinologist, Urologist, Psychologist, and O<span class=”st”>rthopedist. Six years ago, I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a form of cancer. Currently and thankfully, it is taking a great deal of tax dollars (Medicare), insurance dollars, and personal funds to keep me alive. Most of my doctors see me from a statistical basis. I find it interesting that of the five listed, I see four of them only after a nurse has come in and taken my “vitals”. Before entering the room, the doctors look at the physical data and make decisions about how to treat me. Two of the four, I feel, take time to listen to Me (i.e. spiritual) and adjust their diagnosis based on what I say. In particular, MM keeps me in a certain level of pain. Rather than just throw pain medicine at me, they engage me in conversations about sleep, mood, psychology (How are you handling the pain?), and one of the two, my GP, asks about my spiritual condition. We talk about my use of “meditation” rather than “medication”.
<div>As Swinton points out, most medical professionals see religion, the spiritual, as a further neurosis that may need to be medicated. He speaks of nurses, but he might as well have been speaking of most medical professionals: “Nurses are frequently unaware of their own spirituality and spiritual needs. Consequently, they are often unprepared to recognize and care for the spiritual needs of others. It is very difficult to give what one does not have oneself.” It seems that technology has replaced theology. I visited with a psychiatrist for a couple of sessions since she had been recommended as someone who specialized in how various medications interacted with others. Since I had doctors in at least five different areas, I was being medicated by five different medical/physical directions. Each doctor only had a passing knowledge of the other medications I was taking. I also went to Dr. Davis because she had studied under Dr. Wayne Oates when she was in the Medical School at the University of Louisville. Later, she took an internship at Harvard, and Dr. Davis told me, “I was surprised that none of the other doctors had been trained in the spiritual aspects of medicine!”</div>
<div>It has taken me longer than I expected to address my two major points, and I could continue on. I suspect, however, you are ready for me to relinquish the floor, so I yield the floor. If you’ve made it this far, thank you for your time.</div>