Category Archives: The Writer

The writer is a Distinguished Life Fellow, American Psychiatric Association, Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill. He is the Founding Editor and Editor in chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012).

On the Mind…

Monday Musings for Monday December 9, 2019
Volume IX. 49/460

Freud_head_shotCGJung

Sigmund Freud                                    Carl Jung

 

Thinking About Thinking, Episteme, Chrestomathy,

Twenty First Century: The Age of Mind

By Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, ScD (Hon), DLFAPA*

In preparing for this essay, obviously I was drawn to psychoanalytic literature of the late 19th and early 20th century. But the further I dug, the more it became obvious that psychoanalysis did NOT start with Freud. Many of Freud’s teachers and predecessors had expounded on the theory of unconscious. Plato, Shake­speare, Kant, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche have all dealt with and expounded on the possibility of the unconscious, the soul and metaphysics. Yes, I was taken all the way back to Aristotle, a student and rival of Plato, whose writings are so very organized and detailed, making the reader feel like they are biting into stone. Aristotle had a lot to say about psyche (soul), God, ether and metaphysical phenomena. Psychoanalysis thrived in the first 60-70 years of the 20th century, but experts fear the threatened demise of the field. What is the answer? The answer lies with uniting psychoanalysis with biological sciences. Let me elaborate:

In a recent discussion with an academic colleague who was identifying the twentieth century’s greatest achievement as the discovery of the atomic bomb, I argued rather forcefully that the contribution of the twentieth century was advancement of Father Gregor Mendel’s genetics through the discovery and understanding of RNA and DNA by James Watson and Francis Crick in 1953. They were awarded Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology in 1962. We celebrated at the University of North Carolina and Research Triangle Park, in 2003, the 50th anniversary of the discovery by having Dr. James Watson amongst us. The understanding of DNA and subsequent expansion of the knowledge and advancement of human genome project which was completed in 2003 by Dr. Craig Venter, Director, The Institute for Genomic Research, in my opinion, was the greatest achievement of the 20th century.

Now, facing the 21st century, with wars going on every corner of the globe, humans killing humans for a few pieces of mud prized as land, the need for understanding human behavior makes psychoanalytic research more urgent. And I believe we have the opportunity to develop further understanding of ourselves, the new science, the science of mind, provides us with a powerful instrument for further development of the field. If the 20th century was known for the discovery of DNA, genomics and epigenetics, the 21st century will be known for the discovery and understanding of the science of mind. And the promise of establishing such a discipline rests with espousing psychoanalysis with biological sciences, neuroscience and neurobiology. Of course, the concept of scientific understanding of mind is not new. Sigmund Freud in “Beyond the Pleasure Principle” wrote an increase in plasma ACTH and glucocorticoid is a response to stress as adults. Thus, differences in an infant’s interactions with his/her mother–differences that fall in the range of naturally occurring individual differences in maternal care– are crucial risk factors for an individual’s future response to stress. In the same book he further elaborated, “The deficiencies in our description would probably vanish if we were already in a position to replace the psychological terms with physiological or chemical ones….we may expect [physiology-and-chemistry] to give the most surprising information and we cannot guess what answers it will return in a few dozen years of questions we have put to it. They may be of a kind that will blow away the whole of our artificial structure of hypothesis…” Further reference: in his classic paper “On Narcissism” he wrote, “We must recollect that all of our provisional ideas in psychology will presumably one day be based on an organic substructure.” On the cusp of 21st century, we really need a contemporary Freud to orchestrate the disparate parts of the symphony of life, psychoanalysis, biological sciences, genomics, neurosciences and neurobiology to produce the rich symphony of better understanding mind and ultimately life. Well, we do have a few contemporary Freuds, one is Eric R. Kandel whose most recent book, “The Science of the Mind”, we reviewed in this space. Dr. Kandel who is a Nobel Laureate psychiatrist and professor at Columbia University insists that to save psychoanalysis and pump vigorous life into this elegant field, we need to bring about fusion of the two disciplines of psychoanalysis and biology. Otherwise, there is a wide spread concern about viability of psychoanalysis as a scientific discipline. For example, Jonathan Lear. Others have argued that psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic literature from Freud to Hartmann to Erickson to Winnicott, will be read as a modern philosophical or poetic text alongside Plato, Aristotle, Shake­speare, Kant, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Proust (the literature I went through for preparation of this essay). On the other hand, if the field aspires, as I believe most psychoanalysts do aspire, to be an evolving, active contributor to an emerging science of the mind, then psychoanalysis will survive. There is no doubt that psychoanalysts could and did make many useful and original contributions to our understanding of the mind simply by listening to patients. We must at last acknowledge that at this point in the modern study of mind, clinical observation of individual patients, in a context like “the psychoanalytic situation that is so susceptible to observer bias is not a sufficient basis for a science of mind. Psychoanalysis research is depleted from opportunities to add more knowledge,” so say the late Kurt Robert Eissler (1908-1999) and Hartvig Dahl (1924-2007). Marshall Edelson in his book “Hypothesis and Evidence” offers a persuasive argument that the holy marriage between psychoanalysis and biology must take place: “we must bring psychoanalysis and biology together.”

Psychoanalysis is based on the concept that individuals are unaware of the many factors that cause their behaviors and emotions. These unconscious factors have the potential to produce unhappiness, which in turn is expressed through a score of distinguishable symptoms including disturbing personality traits, difficulty in relating to others, or disturbances in self-esteem or general disposition. As I have suggested earlier, most biologists believe that the mind will be to the twenty-first century what the gene was to the twentieth century. I have briefly discussed how the biological sciences in general and cognitive neuroscience in particular may contribute to a deeper understanding of a number of key issues in psychoanalysis.

As things stand now, psychoanalysis is falling behind biology. Psychoanalysis and biology must marry to reinvigorate the exploration of the mind. I should say at the outset that although we have the outlines of what could evolve into a meaningful biological foundation for psychoanalysis, we are very much at the beginning. We do not yet have an intellectually satisfactory biological understanding of any complex mental processes. In the next century, biology is likely to make deep contributions to the understanding of mental processes by delineating the biological basis for the various unconscious mental processes, for psychic determinism, for the role of unconscious mental processes in psychopathology, and for the therapeutic effect of psychoanalysis. Biology has the potential to enlighten these deep mysteries at their core.

We have seen that one point of convergence between biology and psychoanalysis is the relevance of procedural memory for early moral development, for aspects of transference, and for moments of meaning in psychoanalytic therapy. We have considered a second point of convergence in examining the relationship between the associative characteristic of classical conditioning and psychological determinacy. Here, I want to illustrate a third point of convergence: that between Pavlovian fear conditioning, a form of procedural memory mediated by the amygdala, signal anxiety, and post-traumatic stress syndrome. Psychoanalysis and cognitive neuroscience would accomplish two goals, one conceptual and the other experimental. We must recollect that all of our provisional ideas in psychology will presumably one day be based on an organic substructure.

The American psychologist best known for his maternal-separation and social isolation experiments on rhesus monkeys, Harry Harlow, demonstrated the importance of care-giving and companionship in social and cognitive development. He conducted most of his research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where where humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow worked for a time with him. As an aside, the etymology of the word companionship comes from Latin for bread—PAIN—nutrition. Another psychologist, Hans Selye, had pointed out as early as 1936 that humans and experimental animals respond to stressful experiences by activating their hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The end product of the HPA system is the release of glucocorticoid hormones by the adrenal gland.

The prefrontal cortex association has two major functions: it integrates sensory information, and it links it to planned movement. Because the prefrontal cortex mediates these two functions, it is thought to be one of the anatomical substrates of goal-directed action in long-term planning and judgment. Patients with damaged prefrontal association areas have difficulty in achieving realistic goals. As a result, they often achieve little in life, and their behavior suggests that their ability to plan and organize everyday activities is diminished.

What To Do? What is Next?

For one thing, we must transcend territorial imperative, and learn to speak each other’s language– neuroscientists the language of psychoanalysts, and psychoanalysts the language of neuroscience. For many years both the Association for Psychoanalytic Medicine at Columbia and the New York Psychoanalytic Institute, to use but two examples, have instituted neuropsychoanalytic centers that address interests common to psychoanalysis and neuroscience, including consciousness, unconscious processing, autobiographical memory, dreaming, affect, motivation, infantile mental development, psychopharmacology, and the etiology and treatment of mental illness. The prospectus of the New York Psychoanalytic Institute now reads as follows: “The explosion of new insights into numerous problems of vital interest to psychoanalysis needs to be integrated in meaningful ways with the older concepts and methods as do the burgeoning research technologies and pharmacological treatments. Similarly neuroscientists exploring the complex problems of human subjectivity for the first time have much to learn from a century of analytic inquiry make a significant fraction of psychoanalysts technically competent in cognitive neuroscience and eager to test their own ideas with new methods.” The challenge for psychoanalysts is to become active participants in the difficult joint attempt of biology and psychology, including psychoanalysis, to understand the mind. If this transformation in the intellectual climate of psychoanalysis is to occur, as I believe it must, the psychoanalytic institutes themselves must change from being vocational schools- guilds, as it were- to being centers of research and scholarship.

We have precedence, the Carnegie Foundation commissioned Abraham Flexner to study medical education in the United States. The Flexner Report, which was completed in 1910, emphasized that medicine is a science- based profession and requires a structure education in both basic science and its application to clinical medicine. To promote a quality education, the Flexner Report recommended limiting the medical schools in this country to those that were integral to a university. As a consequence of this report, many inadequate schools were closed, and credentialed standards for the training and practice of medicine were established. To return to its former vigor and contribute importantly to our future understanding of mind, psychoanalysis needs to examine and restructure the intellectual context in which its scholarly work is done and to develop a more critical way of training the psychoanalysts of the future. Thus, what psychoanalysis may need, if it is to survive as an intellectual force into the twenty- first century, is something akin to a Flexner Report for the psychoanalytic institutes.

dad_sig_pic

*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He is a dramaturge. Received Raleigh Medal of Art in 2001, inducted to Raleigh Hall of Fame 2013, elected Lifetime Trustee, North Carolina Symphony in 2015, and 2016 recipient of NC Award, Fine Arts.

Leave a comment

Filed under The Writer

On Anger…

Monday Musings for Monday December 2, 2019
Volume IX, No. 48/459

m_s_h volcano

Mount St. Helen

Preventing Anger From Erupting

By Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, ScD (Hon), DLFAPA*

(Editor’s note: This article ran in the op-ed page of the Sunday May 25, 1980 edition of the Fayetteville Observer, Fayetteville, NC. In my practice, I see ever increasing level of anger on domestic, national and international scenes prompting me a re-run of the essay)

The recent eruption of the Mount Saint Helen’s volcano reminded me of how some people deal with their anger. Anger exists. Everyone needs to recognize, understand, and channel this ever-present emotion so that it does not become destructive. The fellow, who went to the Texas clock tower and gunned down 42 people several years ago, is a good example of how a human volcano can erupt, and indeed cause more destruction than a true volcano.

It is a serious and damaging condition not to be able to express anger. We either allow it to fester so when it is expressed it becomes explosive; we turn it inward so it turned into depression, ulcers and heart attacks; or we take it out on other people who did not cause it; or we learn to resolve it which is obviously the most reasonable and healthful way to deal with anger.

I am outlining four basic steps in resolution of anger. They are:

The first step is to recognize the anger. People often speak of being disappointed, frustrated or let down, or hurt when they are actually repressing anger. Also the anger may be denied because we feel guilty about it, that it is not nice or we are afraid to express it.

The second step in the resolution of anger is to recognize the real source of your anger. This may require professional help.

After you recognize your anger and know where it is coming from; the third step is to try to understand the reason for your anger. Some people feel so guilty about their angry feelings that they try to over-compensate or deny them. An example is the saccharin sweet person who is not really sweet at all but a bitter individual, and, because we sense this, we find such people uncomfortable to be with.

The fourth step is to deal with the anger realistically. A confrontation with the person provoking the anger may be reasonable.

A word about confrontation: When you try confrontation you should say “I am angry at the way you’re treating me” rather than “you are no good, you are evil and I am angry at you” …by verbalizing how the behavior is affecting you, you are not “wiping out” the other person, but making them aware of your feelings and clearing the air so that the bad feelings do not fester and turn into depression and ulcers…

If confrontation is impractical or impossible, and you must put up with the situation, you should find other outlets for the energy. Some useful outlets are strenuous exercise, beating on a pillow, beating on a dummy or other inanimate objects, which does not affect damage. Whatever you do, don’t suppress your anger. It’ll turn into depression, ulcers, heart attacks, stroke, etc. Ninety-five percent of all hospital beds are occupied by folks who don’t have the simple skills of resolving their anger as outlined above.

dad_sig_pic

*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He received Raleigh Medal of Art in 2001, inducted to Raleigh Hall of Fame 2013, elected Lifetime Trustee, North Carolina Symphony in 2015, and 2016 recipient of NC Award, Fine Arts.

Leave a comment

Filed under The Writer

On Thanksgiving, and a Few Other Observations…

Monday Musings for Monday November 25, 2019
Volume IX. No 47/458

thanksgiving-day

 THANKSGIVING 2019

by Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, ScD (Hon), DLFAPA*

 

To My Dear Family, Friends, Colleagues and Readers:

Thanks for being

Thanks for becoming

Thanks for all the good inside of us, intellect, trillions of neuronic connections

Thanks for our ability to feel love, compassion, and presence of God in us

Thanks for the arts, the humanities, flowers, music, and trees

Thanks for poetry, dance, ballet, ballads and symphony and

Thanks for science and the universe

Thanks for Socrates’ elenchus

Thanks for Aristotle’s entelechy

Thanks for Zarathustra, Buddha, Moses, Abraham of Ur, Jesus of Nazareth, Rumi, Mohammad, Ferdowsi, Avicenna, Shakespeare, Goethe and Gandhi.

Thanks for Hanukah, Easter, Purim and BiShvat, Christmas and Nowruz

Thanks for my own mother, for Mother Teresa, Joan of Arc, Catherine of Siena, Virgin Mary, Sappho, Matilda Maud, Susan B. Anthony and Queen Melisandre of Jerusalem.

Thanks for the gift of time. Time for study, research, introspection, enjoyment, creating, thinking……the list is endless as witnessed by your diversity of intellectual pursuits.

Thanks for the billions of microbiomes that keep our brain and body functioning (we carry 2.5 pounds of useful bacteria in our bodies that are life giving and probiotic

Thanks for family and connectedness

Thanks for the World

Thanks for eternity

Thanks for transcendence

Thanks for America

Thanks for life, and oh, yes

Thanks for timely death

But although humanity has come a long way, we have ways to go as reflected below:

Slavery in America

News media report practice of slavery in India, Africa, Pakistan, and other parts of the world. I submit that we practice slavery in America. I am referring to student- athletes who can barely read and write. They work like slaves to generate a product with sales in the billions of dollars, yet they get punished for accepting any gift from fans. The unfairness is accentuated by the practice of awarding coaches with less than a mediocre record, with contract extension and whopping raises sending their annual compensation into millions.

This is a repetition of 17th and 18th century slavery, and the epitome of hypocrisy and unfairness. The entire system is unethical. It should be illegal and ought to be banned. One reasonable solution is to pay the student athlete a salary and pay teachers to tutor them and bring up their academic standing not with phony non existing classes, but with real teaching, while they play their sport. Also, cut the exorbitant salaries of the coaches and give it to our school teachers who barely make ends meet.

Enjoying Chaos

Hype, hyperbole, and hysteria surround the forthcoming 2020 Presidential campaign and election. While everybody is fretting, speculating, pontificating and castigating the candidates, I find myself calmly and thoroughly enjoying what is happening in America. Well, what I am enjoying is the miracle of the Republic our founding fathers have created and graciously given to us: a government with three equal forces, legislative, executive and judicial, and room for plenty of polemic discussions and debate. It is the system of US government that blesses America that I enjoy. No dictator by issuing fiat is going to tell what Congress may do, and no supreme court may give the other branches of government its marching orders. Three branches of government are not only equal in theory and parlance, but in actuality. I am thankful for America and our Republic.

Enjoying Chess

Hikaru Nakamura is the 2019 US Chess Champion. Magnus Carlson the 27 year old Norwegian chess player, a grand master at age 12, and the long-time champion Wiswanathan Anand who had reigned for seven years, are no longer in the picture. Watching these champions play chess is like taking a tour of the inside of the brain of Mozart while he was composing the Jupiter Symphony in C major. It puts you little closer to God. A brief note from 1972 championship from a previous “MM”;

“Bobby Fischer died at age 64, on January 18, 2008. I was privileged to be in Reykjavick, in 1972, and see him in action playing chess with his Russian opponent Boris Spassky about whom I have written in the past. What impressed me about the young man, besides his bad behavior and total paranoia and mistrust for everyone, was his total mastery of the game, and his brilliance. His kind of brilliance was unfortunately blinding and not illuminating. It was more damaging than benefiting. He is a good reminder of Richard Wagner (1813-1883), the most brilliant opera composer, writer and thinker of the 19th century. Wagner’s biological father was a Jew. Like Wagner, Fischer was also born to Jewish parents, yet like Wagner, in his life time, he piled an incredible amount of derogation and insult on Jews. Like Wagner, Fischer was an unrepentant and zealous anti-Semite.

There are plenty of reasons to bury the memories of Bobby Fischer and let him fade in dustbin of oblivion. But his brilliance in chess may be selectively used as a role model for teaching focus, determination and devotion to learning to our young people. He provides a good example of how to train the brains of our children and grandchildren. Let us celebrate him, and his contributions to the honored and honorable game of chess. Fortunately, the current crop of chess champions are wholesome young folks uninflected by any neurotic encumbrance and anti-Semitic fervor.

dad_sig_pic

*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He serves as a Visiting Scholar and lecturer on Medicine, the Arts and Humanities at his alma mater the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health. He Received Raleigh Medal of Art in 2001, inducted into Raleigh Hall of Fame 2013, elected Lifetime Trustee, North Carolina Symphony in 2015, and 2016 recipient of NC Award, Fine Arts.

Leave a comment

Filed under The Writer

On “Being” and “Doing”…

Monday Musings for Monday November 18, 2019
Volume IX. No. 46/457

st-augustine-of-hippo-icon-703moses_mamoidesIbn_Khaldun

St. Augustine of Hippo, Moses Maimonides, Ibn Khaldoun

Stuff of Life: Ontology (How to Be) vs Achievement (How to Do)

by Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, ScD (Hon), DLFAPA*

In the annals of Neolithic man, roughly ten thousand years, there are many brilliant intellectual stars forming the constellation of the milky way. But there are three who outshine all others.

The first is Saint Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 AD. He was a Manichean converted to Catholicism in his early 20s. Augustine was a scholar extraordinaire. Throughout his career he wrote over five million words. His book, “The City of God”, has been translated into some 200 languages. St. Augustine’s writings are fascinating in that he has focused on the phenomenology and epistemology of grace and salvation. Specifically, his writings and sermons focus on how to achieve the nirvana of living a life full of grace (not necessarily a graceful life). There are more than 75 published biographies of St Augustine, the latest of which published in 2005, is by James O’Donnell, Emeritus Provost, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, and my fellow Emeritus Trustee of the National Humanities Center, Research Triangle Park, NC. Saint Augustine of Hippo’s 13 volume “Confessions” is the definitive archetype of that literary genre emulated by many. Among them, for example, is Jean Jacques Rousseau, 1712-1778 AD, the French philosopher and opera critic. Rousseau’s “Les Confessions” is a courageous, if not polemic, account of his life and his intellectual and perceptual architecture of “Natural Philosophy.” Parenthetically, he was the prototype of an eighteen century beatnik! I do not claim to have read all of Augustine’s 5.3 million words, but I have read a good many of them

The second star in this brilliant constellation is Moses Maimonides of Cordoba, 1135-1204 AD, a Jewish colleague, who was an exceptional semiologist and clinical observer. He was an expert in diagnosing and treating infectious diseases, closely following the
teachings of Abu Ali Sina (Avicenna), 980-1037 AD, the Persian physician who lived in 978 AD. But Maimonides was more than a physician. He was a theologian, a philosopher, and an expert in Aristotelian rhetoric and forensics. He too wrote more than five million words in his life time. Maimonides, too, has a lot to say about salvation and living a life of grace.

The third equally brilliant star is Ibn Khaldoun of Tunisia (born in1335 and assassinated in Egypt in1406. Surprisingly, Khaldoun also wrote about 5.3 million words, among them the codifying of all the Islamic Laws and Fatwa. It is not surprising to see in his writings the emphasis on salvation and living a life of grace. Ibn Khaldoun was an economist, the father of “trickledown economics”, a policy the late President Reagan adapted in 1981. Incidentally, for music lovers and history buffs, allow me to share with you that Ibn Khaldoun brought music and painting back to the Islamic world. Specifically, in 1360, when he was 25 years old, he started a singing competition in all Islamic nations. It was and continues to be very much like the modern day Oscars and the Grammy Awards. Singers of all walks of life are auditioned and screened to enter Talavat (singing of Quran verses) in an annual competition held in various Islamic countries throughout the world. The spinoff is enormous prestige and national pride. Talavat has been continuously performed, without interruption, since 1360. Last year’s competition took place in Nigeria. The only other musical composition in the world with a record of continuous performance is Handel’s Messiah which has been played every year since 1742. Handel’s years were 1685 to l759. Bach’s years were 1685 to 1750.

The distillation of nearly 16 million words of these three very brilliant stars is this: the road to living a life of grace is to know and to be aware of what is good inside of us. These are God like attributes of love, compassion, integrity, intelligence, altruism, self
confidence, self- respect and spirituality, and to know what is good outside of us, and they are life itself, the miracle of family, connectedness, friends, nature, trees, flowers, knowledge, music, the arts, dance and poetry…and to be thankful for them, by giving
something back and making a difference in the lives of others. This is the beginning of altruism. These 16 million words teach us how to BE rather how to DO.

America is the most decent, altruistic and generous nation in the world. I celebrate America and am thankful for being an American.

dad_sig_pic

*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association; Life Member, American Medical Association; Life Member, Southern Medical Association; and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine(1995-2012). He is a Raleigh, North Carolina writer and dramaturge.

Leave a comment

Filed under The Writer

On St. Augustine…

Monday Musings for Monday November 11, 2019
Volume IX, No. 245/456

ahippo

INTELLECTUAL HISTORY

CRITIQUE, REVIEW AND COMMENTARIES ON JAMES O’DONNELL’S BIOGRPAHY OF SAINT AUGUSTINE, THE GREAT THEOLOGIAN OF THE 4TH AND 5THCENTURY

by Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, ScD (Hon), DLFAPA*

 

Augustine, A New Biography
By James J. O’Donnell
USA $26.95
336 pages of text
Four pages of explanation of abbreviations, 36 pages of notes and 20 pages of index
HapersCollins, Publishers Inc., NY

If there were a Mount Rushmore for scholars of Saint Augustine, the four heads would be the likeness of Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) Benedictine Monk, Guibert de Nogent (1115-1195) Thomas Merton (1915-1968) and James J. O’Donnell (1950-) the author of this deeply scholarly, yet delightful book.

But there is something different about O’Donnell. He is an Augustinian scholar with an attitude. His day job is the difficult and demanding post, Provost of Georgetown University in DC, dealing with faculty hiring, appointments, administration and all the things provosts of vast and complex universities do. Besides, he serves on many boards dealing with the classics and the humanities, among them the National Humanities Center Board where as a fellow Board member, I came to put a face on the vast body of his writings on various subjects, including Augustine, philology and classics. O’Donnell is a product of Jesuit education. He seems to be on a mega dose of intellectual steroids. I have attempted, yes, attempted, to read his extensive commentary about Augustine, in Latin, which he edited in three volumes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992) with only a moderate amount of success. The first volume of this monumental work contains the Latin text of the thirteen books that comprise Augustine’s Confessions. The second and third volumes are a systematic, line by line commentary, with particular emphasis on the relationship between Confessions and other works of Augustine. Some of the Augustinian scholars, including the very learned Maria Boulding, O. S. B., refer to O’Donnell’s three volume work as “magisterial writings.“ “Professor James J. O’Donnell’s three volumes…Will transform the task of translation for generations to come…” she said. I am still reading them, and will let you know when I finish. You are in for a treat when my review of those three volumes comes out.

The book starts with a prologue, followed by 12 chapters, and an epilogue. We are accustomed to think of Augustine’s Confessions as his autobiography with the first nine books as narratives and the last four books, meditative and reflective. The last four books discuss philosophical and theological issues of time and memory. They expose the reader to Augustine’s deeply moving and intellectually rich Biblical interpretations. In this book, O’Donnell brings the essence of Augustine’s Confessions on stage, just like the unfolding of a theatre masterpiece, with intact dialogue and superb scenery. It demonstrates Augustine’s painstaking attention and almost obsession with confession of sins, confession of faith and confession of praise. O’Donnell, a master rhetorician, himself, skillfully demonstrates his subject’s reverential devotion to the notion that it is the redemptive power of God which ultimately brings mankind grace and salvation.

During my student days at College Saint Louis, a French Jesuit school in Tehran, I bought a copy of Augustine’s Confessions not for scholarship and a burning desire to acquire wisdom, but for the purported sexual and salacious material. I was disappointed that I did not find any, and to this day I have not found any. I am happy to report that reading the Confessions invariably makes the reader a better and a wiser person!

Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis, born November 4, 354, in Tagaste, modern Souk Ahra, or Annaba, was an extremely intelligent young man, an “A” student through and through. His father, Patricius, not a Christian, was a minor landowner and middle class citizen. In Confessions, he is only a bit player, although often praised for providing money to buy his son a superior education. However, Augustine’s mother, Monnica, a Christian by birth and upbringing, was an influential woman in her son’s life.

Having been exposed to many religions including the mysticism of Sufi, Transcendence of Buddhist; persuasive, disciplined and focused approach of the Jesuits, consequential and pragmatic teachings of Moses and his followers, stoicism of monastic monks, in my mind, the road to matters Godly may be through mysticism, spiritual, intellectual, emotional, faith, and even physical fusion with God. What I have learned from Augustine and his writings is that it is possible to embrace all these modalities at once. Augustine teaches me, while thinking about the destination, how to enjoy the trip and the process of getting there. Augustine is a consummate planner, traveler and traveling companion. It is perfectly fine to get addicted to Augustine, as it is permissible to get addicted to opera, classical music, poetry and dance. The tapestry of erudition, eloquence and faith, woven by Augustine is all of that to me.

Augustine died in 430, after a most interesting and fruitful life. His influence, not only in the life of the church, but in literature, philosophy, linguistics and shaping of the intellectual lives of many generations after him, is remarkable. While enamored by the teachings of Mani, he explored the ancient Greek philosophers and Platonists to find wisdom and truth, the truth, the ultimate truth. He eventually found them in Christianity and was converted at the age of 31 in 386 A. D.

Many politicians and leaders who are war mongers, to justify their hostile policies and actions, often use the phrase “just war” which Augustine coined. He coined another phrase, “original sin,” the bread and butter of generations of theologians to this date, and possibly for eternity, and “concupiscence” tendency for humans to be attracted to evil. These commonly used concepts remain Augustine’s leitmotifs, just as Kleenex is to “tissue,” Freud to “psychoanalysis,” and Ford to “automobile.” Augustine’s name is also eponymous with grace and salvation. Regardless of what religion one practices, or in what part of the world one travels, when it comes to discussing grace and salvation, even in India and Southeast Asia, the name of Augustine surfaces automatically. One can not resist admiring Augustine’s courage to lay his life on line, air all his dirty laundry, and tell all, including fathering a “bastard son,” discussing his “sexual addiction,” having a hard time resisting temptation. The first nine books of Confessions are narrative and reportorial delving at length into his dalliance, and sexual misconduct. By telling his life story, he wanted to altruistically benefit his fourth century Christian flock, immediately, and future generations of believers subsequently, if not eternally. Stealing from his parents, having two mistresses and fathering a son out of wedlock, as will follow, occupy a great deal of space inConfessions.

Yet, O’Donnell brilliantly argues that Confessions is not about Augustine, his life, or his biography. It is about his god (interestingly, god with little ’g’, and not ‘God’.) The author claims that everything Augustine wrote, the corpus of his work exceeding 5.3 million words, compiled in more than 48 volumes of written work goes back to his god. O’Donnell calls it Augustine’s “obsession.” The author calls Augustine’s Confessions,written between 397 and 401, completed when he was 46 years old, “the first modern biography, and a classic of modern literature.” The way O’Donnell presents Augustine’s writings is very interesting in that ultimately Augustine makes “god the center stage character of the discourse…”

Confessions” does not start with some lofty mystical premise, pontificating, preaching, or sounding like a commencement address, given by some wise and renowned theologian. The entire 13 books is really a prayer that starts with the humble declarative sentence “inquietum est cor nostrum, donec requiescat in te,“ “our heart is restless, until it rests in you,” and 80,000 words or so later, it ends with “Amen.”

In the course of searching the ultimate truth and wisdom, Augustine struggled with Manicheans, Donotists, Pagans, Arians and studies of Caecilianism, pelagianism and Platonists. These studies and encounters led him on the path of maturing intellectually, quieting down his temper and impulsive nature, and ultimately to the satisfying experience of conversion. Augustine’s work in philosophical reflection of time, memory, and his book on “Trinity,” suggesting Father as memory; Son, as time; and Faith as the Holy Spirit and eternity (time frozen in the present) as well as his pamphlet ,“Teacher,” a dialogue with his son Adeodatus, are penetrating and stimulating reading. Dante used Augustine’s perception of time in “Inferno,” Circle VI, canto IX and X to describe the nature of purgatory and hell through Augustinian prism. As indicated above Dante would not be, if there were no Augustine. As a footnote, another great, Martin Luther who was trained as a lawyer but turned into a theologian and musicologist/composer, and a Augustinian Friar, heavily incorporated Augustine’s style and theology in his prolific output.

A Summary of the 13 Books of Confessions:

We must know that in 4th century Carthage was the center of the Roman Empire, which then spanned from the Irish Sea to the Persian Gulf. Hippo, modern Algiers, was very much a part of Pax Romana.

Book I of the Confessions deals with Augustine’s birth, infancy and childhood. There are many revealing stories in the pages of this book. Also, there are many stories that arouse the readers’ antennae that are skillfully unwritten. To do justice, the uninitiated should take a course on “how to Read Augustine’s Confessions!” The unwritten innuendoes are as important as the written stories.

As a child, Augustine went to a very good private school. He was an excellent student. He feared his teachers’ regular beatings. He recalls his first prayers as a child were to besiege god, “Don’t let the teacher hit me!” He later refers to his childhood prayers as “selfish and self-serving,” concluding that it may be that many of our prayers throughout life are in that childish, self-centered and self-serving mold. Similarly when in Book 4, he loses a very close friend to an untimely death, he becomes very sad and grief stricken. Later, he realizes that his sadness was his anger for losing a loved one who was “good to me.” He considered the whole process of grieving selfish and self-consuming. The grieving process was not to benefit the lost friend, but to meet his own narcissistic needs.

He reports stealing pears from a neighbor’s yard, not because he was hungry, not because he needed the pears, but because it was “fun” for him and his buddies to steal. He reports that he felt a sense of independence and freedom when he did what he wanted to do and he knew that he was not supposed to do. He stole from his parents because it was “cool” and he could brag to his friends about his misdeeds. Later on in Book VIII, after his conversion, he stated that he truly felt independent and free, what he longed for in childhood by stealing…. The notion of narcissism versus altruism, without using the words, dominates the theme of all 13 books. In Augustine’s words, he had to struggle between good and evil all of his life. He repeatedly talks about his prayers in his early youth as “god, what can you do for me?” This goes on until book IX in which the death of his mother, Monnica, occurs. He describes the scene with tenderness, shedding tears and experiencing a deep sense of loss. It was only then that he realized that he was grieving the loss of his mother unselfishly. This spiritual and personal growth continues through book XIII where his prayers change to “god, what can I do for you?” instead of his previous mode of “god, what can you do for me?” If spreading the fruits of a penetrating intellect, unwavering faith and influential writings are any measure of unselfish giving, Augustine has given much not only to God, but to hundreds, if not thousands, of generations of mankind. O’Donnell quotes Augustine, “I sinned in that I sought pleasure, exaltation, and truth not in god but in his creatures, and so I fell into pain,depression, and errors…”

Books II through V deal with Augustine’s adolescence and sexual awakening. He elaborates on his sexual addiction, taking two mistresses, and engaging in affairs with married women. He also speaks of his close friend Alypius’ addiction to violence frequenting gladiatorial games, and enjoying the sight of blood. He also refers to his mother Monica’s “wine swelling” habit, driving home the issue of addiction comparing it to links that formed a chain of evil suffocating him.

In Book III, Augustine goes to Cartage, a city of 400,000, much more sophisticated than Tagaste, population 44,000. Possibilities of sexual intrigue were such that Monica kept telling him not to have affairs, and to marry if he could not handle his sexual impulses. “To Carthage I came and there crackled around me all sides the sizzling frying pan of sinful loves. I was not in love, but I was in love with love…” He took a mistress, lived with her, had a son Adeoditus (God sent) and continued his studies in rhetoric, which is the art of persuasion, something akin to our law schools.

By the age of 28, Augustine had become a famous and able rhetorician. In Carthage, he had a job as a high paying teacher to the children of the rich. However, he was restlessly intrigued with philosophical issues, such as the nature of evil. In the Book of Genesis, at the end of the sixth day, God proclaimed that all which He created was “good”. This was puzzling to Augustine because he could not understand how evil can be good, simply because God created it. And all things created by God are supposed to be good.

This daunting puzzle made Augustine to intellectually fall in love with Manicheans, a branch of the ancient religion of Zoroastrianism, who espouse the dualistic theory of good and evil. At the age of 18, he also ran across a book, Hortensius, by Cicero, the famed orator and rhetorician (106-43 BC),which is a brief biography of Quintus Hortensius Hortalus (114-43 BC), and fell in love with Cicero’s writings. Augustine notes this event “a turning point of my life.” He had other encounters with significant persons including a highly thought of and famous Manichean Bishop, Faustus. He found him to be “empty.” He described Faustus as a “false prophet,” with impeccable style of delivery and command of language, but his sermons and speeches had “no content.”

His road to intellectual inquiry led him to read Platonist philosophy recently translated from Greek to Latin. Augustine was most impressed by the writings of the Platonists. He is credited for establishing the historical connection between Athens and Jerusalem. “I learned the truth of Christianity by reading pagan philosophers,” he professed. However, while very impressed by the writings of Platonist philosophers, thinking of Socrates and Plato as “saints” of their days, Augustine remained restless and dissatisfied. He had heard of a fellow rhetorician and colleague, Bishop Ambrose of Milan. He decided with his friends, Victorinus and Alypius, went from Rome to Milan. Augustine wanted to check out Bishop Ambrose (b. 337-340; d. 397) and see for himself if he is another phony Faustus, or is he really good as his reputation suggested. If this were the case, he then wanted to learn to improve his own style. He wanted to gain more skill in the art of persuasion. He attended several sermons delivered by Ambrose, and became fascinated not only by Ambrose’s eloquence and style, but also by the content of his speeches. This was the second most significant “turning point of my life,” he wrote (the first was reading Cicero’s Hortensius.)

Books VII and VIII are the culmination of Augustine’s finding Paul, a Fellow convert (From Saul to Paul). In a mysterious possibly hallucinatory moment, he hears the voice of a child or children in a garden telling him “pick it up and read!” And he did pick up the Bible. It so happened that he opened the Bible to Paul’s passage in Romans 13, the famous command against “debauchery and lewdness.” From this point the road for his conversion was wide open. He, his close friend, Alypius, once addicted to gladiatorial violence, and several other friends, in the presence of his mother Monica, converted to Christianity. Bishop Ambrose whom Augustine admired and saw as “the beacon of truth” officiated. After a period of semi-monastic life style reminiscent of his hero, Saint Anthony of Desert, on his way back to Tagaste, Augustine was stopped in the strange city of Hippo. It was a complete strange place to him. However, his fame had preceded him. The townspeople and the ailing Bishop Valerious asked him to stay in Hippo and succeed him as the next Bishop. Thus was the beginning of Augustine’s service as the Bishop of Hippo (395-96).

Finally, the four meditative and reflective books IX-XIII dealing with time, memory, and theological and biblical issues cap this most fascinating compendium. O’Donnell’s gift in taking a psychological scalpel and minutely dissecting the individual passages and lines written by Augustine takes the reader into the heart, brain and mind of the famous Bishop. Augustine often reminds one of another genius, intellectual par excellence, who, too, was a convert. Lorenzo Conegliano converted from Judaism to Catholicism at age 14. You might know him as Lorenzo Da Ponte, Mozart’s librettist for the three operas, Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Cosi Fan Tutti. Lorenzo, too, became a Catholic priest. He, too, was addicted to sex and had many wives; concubines, paramours and mistresses while a priest. His behaviour caused him to be excommunicated from the Church and defrocked from priesthood. However, the parallel stops at the conversion. De Ponte used his conversion narcissistically to advance himself. Whereas Augustine’s conversion was a cleansing ritual after which he became a Bishop and served his flock. Augustine chose celibacy and priesthood. He wrote clearly that an addict can not and may not go back to moderation, and saw priesthood and celibacy as antidotes to his sexual addiction. After his conversion, he lived a semi-monastic life for a few years, and then began writing 48 volumes, more than five million words, now translated into more than 200 languages, in addition to his daily demands of being a Bishop. There is no book, perhaps except the Bible, that has attracted more world wide attention than Augustine’s work, especially his Confessions and his other work of colossal proportion, over one thousand pages, “The City of God” which he completed in 426, four years before his death.

In my daily clinical practice, treating any form of addiction, alcoholism, drugs, sex and our modern obsessive compulsive disorder, I frequently use Augustine’s writings to illustrate ways of correcting an errant and defective will. After all, Augustine rid himself of his sexual addiction. He saw to it that his mother, Monica, give up her addiction to alcohol and his friend Alypius liberated himself from addiction to violence and gladiatorial fights.

The final colloquy which occurred before Monica’s death is a touching tribute to the uniting of the souls of Monica and her son Augustine:

”If the tumult of the flesh fell silent for someone,
and silent too were the phantasms of earth, sea and air,
Silent the heavens,
And the very soul silent to itself,
that it might pass beyond itself by not thinking of its own being…”

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

For further reading:

If you wish to read the original text of Confessions in Latin by Augustine himself, that would be the finest feat. There is another version by Paulinus of Milan, who was the original biographer of Augustine. It, too reads well. The volume, of course, is available only in Latin. In English: of all the translations I have seen (and there are literally hundreds of them) the one by Sister Maria Boulding (Vantage Book, 1997) has the highest fidelity to the original text. Maria’s is a translation and not interpretation. It is available in paper back. Another author, Gary Wills, a scholar, has written 13 books each commenting on the individual 13 books of the Confessions. Gary is erudite, wise and “cool!” I am sure you will enjoy visiting his volumes. The Confessions are immortal, just like the Iliad and the Odyssey (see the allusion to both in the ‘Sacred Space’ column in the October 2007 issue, of WCP) and Aeneid and Dido…Other sources which I recommend are Pierre-Marie Hombert’s Nouvelles researches de chronology Augustiennes, and Francois Dolbeau.

dad_sig_pic

*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County PhysicianMagazine (1995-2012). He is a dramaturge. Received Raleigh Medal of Art in 2001, inducted to Raleigh Hall of Fame 2013, elected Lifetime Trustee, North Carolina Symphony in 2015, and 2016 recipient of NC Award, Fine Arts.

Leave a comment

Filed under The Writer

On Verdi…

Monday Musings for Monday November 4, 2019
Volume IX. No. 44/455

Verdi-photo-Brogi

Giuseppe Verdi

The Prophet Who Brought Us the Opera

By Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, ScD (Hon) DLFAPA*

 

Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi was born on October 10, 1813, the same year as Richard Wagner. We dedicate today’s “Monday Musings” to Maestro Verdi and to the marvelous invention of a group of Italian literati/composer/musician/ scientist, the Florentine Camerata, that gave birth to the western opera. The group met weekly in sessions lasting as long as 16 hours, pouring over Greek operas, combining words (libretto) with emotional impact of music which they christened “the opera” (see below). Before examining the life of Verdi, let us focus on the importance of opera.

Why Opera?

There are four powerful instruments used for introspection and research on self. One can learn more about one’s self through psychoanalysis which is usually very expensive and time-consuming. The other tools are studying history, theater and poetry. The last but certainly not the least is understanding and studying opera. Opera, a combination of words and music offers us the most comprehensive and potent introspectoscope. Opera give the participant an opportunity to become aware of one’s unconscious in dynamic gradation. Do we, as viewers possess at least some of the evil and sexual identity confusion that eclipses Iago and Othello (in opera Otello)? Are we endowed with passion that made Don Jose kill Carmen? Are we capable of transcendence that come with the Zoroastrian parables in Wagner’s Ring Cycles? In order to get to know ourselves better, I believe opera should be an integral part of every citizen’s cultural and intellectual diet. It is much less expensive than psychoanalysis, and while being intellectually stimulating, it is more enjoyable and entertaining.

History of Opera:

Opera is an Italian word. It means work . In the late 16th Century, a group of Florentine scholars decided to get together every week and study the music and writings of the ancient Greek. They called themselves the Florentine Camerata. It was very much like our modern-day book clubs. Except that these people were very serious about their work. The culmination of these studies and discussions was Jacobo Peri’s composition of Orpheo which was performed at 8:00 PM, October 6, 1600, at Pitti Palace in Florence. Of course, in 1607, Claudio Monteverdi gave us his version of Orpheo. It marks the beginning of Opera. We have enjoyed 400 years of opera as result of the intense work of this group.

Types of Opera:

Italian opera dominated Europe throughout the 16th and early 17th centuries. Around 1670s, French opera with its founder and inventor, Jean Baptist Lully (1632-1687) emerged. Lully was an Italian orphan who immigrated to Paris at age 14. He rose to become the court composer for the Sun King, Louis 14th, who reigned for 73 years. Lully gave us the French Overture and its dotted rhythm brings on grandeur, pomposity and majesty meant for Louis 14th. Other French composers followed: Jean-Philip Rameau, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Christoph Willibald Von Gluck, Giacomo Myerbeer, Bizet etc. There are German, Russian, Chinese, and now many third world countries’ operas. Also, there are lyric opera, grand opera, opera buffa and opera seria, just to name a few.

Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi

Verdi was not a revolutionary composer as was Richard Wagner. Verdi was a hard-working, steady, predictable, unemotional master who perfected his craft gradually, steadily, and constantly. In 1842, with Nabucco, he began his climb to fame, and by the time he staged Aida in 1871, he had reached the height of fame and fortune. People adored him. They would line the streets and cheer him on whenever his carriage would pass. Shouts of Viva Verdi would break out at the slightest hint of his presence. People turned his name Verdi into a political code Viva Emanuel Re D’Italia (VERDI) for the return of the King Emanuel, the deposed King of Italy, to reunite the war-torn Italian peninsula.

Verdi was a sullen dark-complexioned, dour looking young man with a face marred by scars of acne or possibly small pox. His beginning was not illustrious. He failed the entrance examination to La Scala in Milan. His first two operas Oberto and Un Giomo Di Regno, were major failures. It was during his work on those two operas that he lost his wife and two children to infectious diseases. His relationship with the Italian press was ugly and confrontational. Yet, with persistence, determination and support of his father-in-law, he continued to work hard and ultimately become triumphant. Staging Nabucco in 1842 marked his first artistic, social and political triumph.

Verdi wrote 29 operas including Aida and Falstaff which was his last opera staged February 9, 1893. He then bought a large farm and spent the rest of his life as a very well to do farmer. He opted to live with an opera singer, and gave no heed to the critiques who chastised him for his immoral life style, He was above fray and told the press to mind their own business. An aside: the late Maestro Arturo Toscanini, played first chair cello in Aida, December 24, 1871, After the completion of the opera and the jubilant crowds on the street shouting Viva Verdi for literally hours, way past midnight, Toscanini went home screaming joyfully and calling his mother to get up, kneel and thank the Lord for Maestro Verdi and Aida

Verdi is the chosen child of God who was commissioned to bring to the inhabitants of this earth the beauty, the sanctity, and the remedial effectiveness of Opera. As a psychiatrist, I work to get people cured of addiction. But I don’t mind to encourage our readers to get addicted to the opera. Opera is a gift, and addiction to the Opera is a blessing. Verdi died on January 27, 1901.

dad_sig_pic

*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, Life Member, American Medical Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He received 2016 NC Award for Fine Arts

Leave a comment

Filed under The Writer

On Remaining True

“Monday Musings” for October 28, 2019
Volume !X, Number 43/454

Images from the November 2008 ASC Conference at the National Humanities Center

L-R Drs. Sacks, Meymandi, Harpham at NHC

 

When death comes calling, gratitude answers

BY OLIVER SACKS

New York Times News Service February 21, 2015

(Editor’s Note: Oliver Sacks, the renowned neurologist, Pulitzer Prize winner and best seller died on August 30, 2015. To observe the somber occasion, we are reprinting March 2, 2015 ‘Monday Musings’. Our condolences to the worlds of science, medicine and humanities. The semi-annual bo the National Humanities center was held last week, The keynote speaker was Eric Burns, younger brother of Ken Burns who is also a documentary filmmaker. He spoke about the life of Oliver Sachs)

(Editor’s Note: We are devoting today’s ‘MM’ to the celebrated life of prominent colleague, neurologist Olives Sacks, author of many NYT best seller books. Dr. Sacks was a Meymandi Fellow, National Humanities Center, RTP in 2008).

A month ago, I felt that I was in good health, even robust health. At 81, I still swim a mile a day. But my luck has run out – a few weeks ago I learned that I have multiple metastases in the liver. Nine years ago it was discovered that I had a rare tumor of the eye, an ocular melanoma. Although the radiation and lasering to remove the tumor ultimately left me blind in that eye, only in very rare cases do such tumors metastasize. I am among the unlucky 2 percent.

I feel grateful that I have been granted nine years of good health and productivity since the original diagnosis, but now I am face to face with dying. The cancer occupies a third of my liver, and though its advance may be slowed, this particular sort of cancer cannot be halted.

It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me. I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can. In this I am encouraged by the words of one of my favorite philosophers, David Hume, who, upon learning that he was mortally ill at age 65, wrote a short autobiography in a single day in April 1776. He titled it “My Own Life.”

“I now reckon upon a speedy dissolution,” he wrote. “I have suffered very little pain from my disorder; and what is more strange, have, notwithstanding the great decline of my person, never suffered a moment’s abatement of my spirits. I possess the same ardour as ever in study, and the same gaiety in company.”

I have been lucky enough to live past 80, and the 15 years allotted to me beyond Hume’s three score and five have been equally rich in work and love. In that time, I have published five books and completed an autobiography (rather longer than Hume’s few pages) to be published this spring; I have several other books nearly finished.

Hume continued, “I am … a man of mild dispositions, of command of temper, of an open, social, and cheerful humour, capable of attachment, but little susceptible of enmity, and of great moderation in all my passions.”

Here I depart from Hume. While I have enjoyed loving relationships and friendships and have no real enmities, I cannot say (nor would anyone who knows me say) that I am a man of mild dispositions. On the contrary, I am a man of vehement disposition, with violent enthusiasms, and extreme immoderation in all my passions.

And yet, one line from Hume’s essay strikes me as especially true: “It is difficult,” he wrote, “to be more detached from life than I am at present.” Over the last few days, I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts. This does not mean I am finished with life. On the contrary, I feel intensely alive, and I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight. I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming.

This is not indifference but detachment – I still care deeply about the Middle East, about global warming, about growing inequality, but these are no longer my business; they belong to the future. I rejoice when I meet gifted young people – even the one who biopsied and diagnosed my metastases. I feel the future is in good hands.

I have been increasingly conscious, for the last 10 years or so, of deaths among my contemporaries. My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate – the genetic and neural fate – of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.

I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.

The New York Times

Oliver Sacks, a professor of neurology at the New York University School of Medicine, is the author of many books, including “Awakenings.”

dad_sig_pic

*MM” is a weekly feature written by Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA, Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He serves as a Visiting Scholar and lecturer on Medicine, the Arts and Humanities at his alma mater the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health.

Leave a comment

Filed under The Writer

On Hamlet…

Monday Musings for Monday October 21,2019
Volume IX, No. 42/453

Laurenceolivierham_2890472b

Sir Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet

 

SHAKESPEARE’S HAMLET

by Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, ScD (Hon), DLFAPA*

We have had a very busy fall. In fewer than eight weeks we went through Constitution Day, Rosh Hashanah, Yum Kippur, Birth of Western Opera and Bizet’s Carmen. And now this week, we are featuring Shakespeare’s Hamlet. From time to time, our city Raleigh, North Carolina, goes through a seismic mania, but a pleasant sort of mania, in that the citizens hold a marathon of “Shakespeare Round The Clock” reading the bard in all hours of day and night. Yes, the citizens read Shakespeare day and night round the clock in various cultural venues of the city, such as the museums, theaters, concert halls, etc., all over the city. Raleigh is becoming a pulsating edifice of cultural and artistic riches.

Reading, re-reading, not only in English, but some half of dozen other languages; watching, and re-watching the bard’s plays, I must confess that one stands out. This one play of my choice is daunting and all consuming. It is Hamlet. Hamlet could be addicting. But it is not an unwelcome or a bad form of addiction. The arts in general, and the opera and classical music, in special, are good addictions to have. Addiction to opera is life giving, uplifting and almost transcendental. So let me say a few words about Hamlet as a play, and Hamlet as an opera.

Why Hamlet?

The play Hamlet is the Elizabethan intellectual maturity to the fullest. Cloaked in a tragedy, it unfurls the mystery of the universe. It speaks to today’s life as it did when it was first performed at the Globe Theatre in 1602, and perhaps before that as early as 1200, the Thomas Kyd’s (born 6 November 1558) production, The Spanish Tragedy of a Ghost.

The Tragicall Historie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke is a play by William Shakespeare. It is one of his best-known works, and also one of the most-quoted writings in the English language. Hamlet’s delicious language, poetry, rhythm, sequence, presentation has such power and intensity to absorb, to intimidate, to engage and ultimately to transform. The rhythm and construction give us the obliquity, the solidity and clarity which are the hallmark of Shakespeare’s genius. Reading Hamlet repeatedly is never boring. There is always the unknown, the unpredicted, and the unforeseen fresh events, and heretofore unknown facts that jump out of some dark corner, ambush and thrill us. Hamlet’s humanity reminds us of Pico della Mirandola’s Oration on the Dignity of Man, yet it depicts the tragedy of ambivalence, consuming revenge, and pre-occupation with death, killing and incest. The presentation of the ghost of King Hamlet in Elsinore is intriguing. It displays the struggle between the medieval concept of God in the Catholic Church and the renaissance/protestant concept of God, doing away with the intermediaries, the Popes, the Cardinals, the Bishops, and dealing directly with God. The play sets the scene for the teachings of the likes of Martin Luther, Professor of Theology at Wittenberg and emergence of northern German disciplined and dispassionate thinking of that region. Wittenberg University was established by the Elector of Saxony (Fredrick the Wise) in 1502. It developed a curriculum strong in matters related to renaissance and protestant theology.

And finally, We like, read, and watch Hamlet in live plays and movie productions, celebrating and showcasing the performances of theatre luminaries such as Sir Lawrence Olivier, Derek Jacobi, Kenneth Branagh, Christopher Plummer, Richard Chamberlain and the late Franco Zeffirelli, because the events speak to us directly. The exquisite language, syntax and elegance of stringing words together like a jeweler producing a masterpiece lift our heart, and satisfy our intellect.

The Psychoanalytic Implication of Hamlet

In the service of clarity, we must elaborate on Hamlet, the father, the King of Denmark who was killed by a usurping brother, Claudius. Then, there is Hamlet the son, an intellectual and lofty student at Wittenberg who is on his way back to Denmark, and Hamlet, Shakespeare’s play. Not enough can be said or written on the elegance of style and all-consuming literacy of the writings of the Bard. The first soliloquy of five lines in iambic pentameter appears with words, subjunctives and no verb. Hamlet’s subsequent speech, 30 lines long, in unparalleled eloquence and beauty, belittles the “low habit of Danish drinking.” and Denmark’s reputation for drunkenness. It is followed by another 14 lines of convoluted syntax in which Claudius’ drinking is blamed. The mere talismanic language, appealing rhythm, and unerring choice of words, pamper one’s intellect and deepen one’s emotional engagement.

While psychoanalysis deals with the unconscious, it equivocates with issues of ghosts, astrology and fate. However, Shakespeare, like some of the literary giants who preceded him, namely, Saint Augustine of Hippo and Saint Thomas Aquinas, refers repeatedly to the Aristotelian concept of “tragic flaw.” The theory suggests that one fault, like addiction to gambling or alcohol may ruin the otherwise pristine life of an individual. The question of evil, its genesis and why God allows for evil to exist, is another important matter. Hamlet, the Wittenberg student forges a document and uses his father’s stolen seal to give the document authenticity, which leads to the death of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, his childhood friends and schoolmates. The young Hamlet, a brilliant intellectual and student at Wittenberg University, is troubled by “doubt, ambiguity and evil.” He often contemplates how “A dram of evil destroys all…” Hamlet and his close friend, Horatio, are studying philosophy, but it does not help him resolve his indecision and lust for revenge, which eventually leads to his killing of Polonius.

Psychoanalytic theory, invoking the Oedipal triangle, presumes that young Hamlet’s thirst for revenge is his ever escalating anger and jealousy of Claudius. Claudius married Hamlet’s mother and did not give Hamlet a chance to marry his mother (just like Oedipus Rex.) Hamlet, encouraged by the teachings he is receiving at Wittenberg, is intrigued by introspection. “To thy own self be true” is his motto. He wants to know himself better. In the process of his intense self-examination, he becomes extremely depressed, even suicidal. He asks/informs his friend Horatio, “I have lost my wit. I see man, noble in reason, infinite in faculties, expressive and admirable in action…yet useless and melancholic…”

At the end of the play, Hamlet kills Claudius with a poisoned foil and makes him drink poisoned wine. Hamlet himself dies of injuries. When Hamlet dies, Horatio says, “Flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”

Psychoanalytic theory is one of many ways of looking at Hamlet’s actions. Freud and other theorists were able to take the play and analyze it scene by scene, giving a more in-depth meaning to the actions of the characters. In a sense, Shakespeare wrote two plays in one; one play dealing with a tragedy, leaving the stage with many corpses; the other standing the test of time, in a captivating exploration into an unconscious world of the unknown.

dad_sig_pic

*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, Life Member, American Medical Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He received 2016 NC Award for Fine Arts.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under The Writer

On the Birth of Opera

Monday Musings for Monday October 14, 2019
Volume IX. No. 41/452
palais-garnier-paris-opera-house_1
Palais Garnier, Paris

A Few Words About the Opera

and How it Relates to Buddhism and Sufism

By Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, ScD (Hon), DLFAPA*

 

Happy 419th Birthday to Western Opera.

In the past few weeks we have had too many topics including Dix Park, Psychoanalysis and Neuroscience, Rash Hashanah and Yom Kippur crowding the calendar. This week we will be celebrating the 419th birthday of the Western Opera.

History of Western Opera

Opera is an Italian word. It means work. In the late 16th Century, a group of Florentine scholars decided to get together every week and study the music and writings of the ancient Greek. They called themselves the Florentine Camarata. It was very much like our modern day book clubs, except that these people were very serious about their work. The culmination of these studies and discussions was Jacobo Peri’s composition of Orpheo which was performed at 8:00 PM, October 6, 1600, at Pitti Palace in Florence. Of course, in 1607, Claudio Monteverdi gave us his version of Orpheo. It marks the beginning of Opera. We have enjoyed 419 years of opera as result of the intense work of this group.

There are five powerful instruments used for introspection and research on self. One can learn more about one’s self through psychoanalysis, which is usually very expensive and time consuming. The other tools are studying history, theater and poetry. The last but certainly not the least is through understanding and studying opera. Opera, a combination of words and music, offers us the most comprehensive and potent introspectoscope. Opera gives the participant an opportunity to become aware of one’s unconscious in dynamic gradation. Do we, as viewers, possess at least some of the evil and sexual identity confusion that eclipses Iago and Othello (in opera Otello)? Are we endowed with passion that made Don Jose kill Carmen? Are we capable of transcendence that come with the Zoroastrian parables in Wagner’s Ring Cycle? In order to get to know ourselves better, I believe opera should be an integral part every citizen’s cultural and intellectual diet. It is much less expensive that psychoanalysis, and while being intellectually stimulating, it is more enjoyable and entertaining.

Types of Opera

Italian opera dominated Europe throughout the 16th and early 17th centuries. Around 1670s, French opera with its founder and inventor, Jean Baptist Lully (1632-1687) emerged. Lully was an Italian orphan who immigrated to Paris at age 14. He rose to become the court composer for the Sun King, Louis 14th, who reigned for 73 years. Lully gave us the French Overture, and its dotted rhythm brings on grandeur, pomposity and majesty meant for Louis 14th. Other French composers followed: Jean-Philip Rameau, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Christoph Willibald Von Gluck, Giacomo Myerbeer, Bizet etc. There are German, Russian, Chinese, and now many third world countries operas. Also, there are lyric opera, grand opera, opera buffa and opera seria, just to name a few.

Carmen

Carmen is an opera comic in four acts. It was written by Georges Bizet. He was a genius. He died penniless at age 38, exactly three months after Carmen was first staged. Had he lived three more years, he would have reaped immense wealth because of Carmen’s success all over Europe. Perhaps Bizet and Van Gogh were soul brothers. They lived in poverty, yet after death, their work’s value increased immensely. Bizet knew music and composition. His musical compositions at age 17 easily compare to the music of Mendelssohn and Mozart. His one act opera in 1857, Le Docteur Miracle, shows his mastery of operatic idiom at an early age. In Act II of Carmen, the accelerating gypsy dance is an orchestral tour de force in which dissonance and sliding harmonies paint the scene of Lilla Pastia’s underworld tavern. Bizet knew human nature. He was as keen as Shakespeare when it came to assessing human nature. The famed German philosopher, Fredrick Nietzsche in an essay on Carmen wrote that he saw the opera 21 times. “Every time I see Carmen, I sit still for five hours, I become more patient which is the first step of true holiness…”

Carmen is a story about love, not of higher order, but as futility, cynical, cruel and at best deadly hatred of two sexes. Love translated in the horror proclaimed in Don Jose’s last cry “yes, I have killed her…I have killed my adored…” Carmen, the epitome of carnal desire, temptation and primal raw sexuality, is the eve and the serpent rolled in one. In act III she sees her mortality in the cards that she and her gypsy friends were reading. She gave into her fate and led a reckless life. Don Jose, a decent and simple soldier when he first met Carmen, turns into a love crazed killer. He is Adam. He is Kane. He would not have been transformed into a killer if the violence and killing were not in him to start. There is a bit of Adam, though deeply hidden, in all of us. Don Jose is Adam. Jose’s unrestrained male sexuality and machismo ultimately caused his destruction.

Perhaps, unlike Nietzsche who claimed to become a better philosopher every time he sat through a performance of Carmen, we can see this very deeply moving and instructive work as a beginning.

Opera, Sufism and Buddhism

To read the 19th century German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), whose writings are very much imbued in Sufism and Buddhism: “To be, one must first not be…” might help us to understand Richard Wagner (1813-1883), the genius anti-Semitic German musician, composer of opera (he hated the word opera because it is an Italian word and he hated Italians!, and called his work “Music Drama”), who was a disciple of Schopenhauer. His operas, especially Tristan and Isolde, and Der Ring des Nibelungen, or Ring Cycle, consisting of four operas, 18 hours, are full of Zoroastrian parables and Buddhist reference to “nothingness” before becoming “something.” This ruthless, racist and megalomaniacal genius not only composed his own operas, but wrote the libretto and conducted the work. His compositions are not just opera but an all-encompassing Gesamtkunstwerk, like a Super Bowl halftime show!

The writings of Rumi, Shams Tabrizi and Baba Taher Oryan, all Persian Sufi Poets, assert the Buddhist notion of the issue of “being”, the western concept of which is called ontology. Western opera takes us beyond “doing” and introduces us to “being”, a singularly Buddhist and Sufi concept.

In my mind, opera continues to be the most complete art form. It has the greatest capacity for communication and impact per second of any other art form including my most favorite art form, classical music. What I wonder is when, and where, in NC we will see some modern operas, the list of which is approaching 90. I have noticed and admired the Met’ s willingness to add some of the modern operas such as Cyrano de Bergerac with Placido Domingo as Cyrano, Sondra Radvanovsky (Roxanne), and librettist Henry Cain, this season. I yet to see any opera by Michael Tippett, Hans Verner Henze and Olivier Messiaen (I saw his Saint Francois D’Assie in Paris several months ago), and other composers. Perhaps NC Opera will meet the challenge. A post script: We are mourning the retirement of Maestro Placido Domingo from the the word opera stage and wish him and his family well.

dad_sig_pic

 

*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He is a dramaturge. Received Raleigh Medal of Art in 2001, inducted to Raleigh Hall of Fame 2013, elected Lifetime Trustee, North Carolina Symphony in 2015, and 2016 recipient of NC Award, Fine Arts.

Leave a comment

Filed under The Writer

On the Gift of Spirit…

Monday Musings for Monday October 7, 2019
Volume IX. No. 40/451

220px-Mary_Douglas_(1921–2007)

YOM KIPPUR, LEVITICUS, AND MOSES MAIMONIDES OF CORDOBA

By Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA, ScD (Hon)*

Syzygy of events, while joyful, brings conflict. In two short weeks we have had Rosh Hashanah to which September 23 “MM” was devoted. The birth of western opera on Thursday October 6 (featured for next week), and Yom Kippur which will begin at sundown on October 8, 2019. Today, we celebrate and commemorate Yom Kippur (Yom means day and Kippur means great–the great day) which is focused on prayer, fasting, atonement and redemption, we reprint the work of the late Dame Mary Douglas, the famed British anthropologist and Rosner’s biography of Moses Maimonides of Cordoba.

Celebrating Yom Kippur by reviewing the books by the late Mary Douglas and Rosner/Kottec:

Leviticus as Literature
By Mary Douglas
Oxford Press
251 pages; 29 pages of reference and index, total 280 pages

I have always had a weakness for older women. First it was my mother with all the Oedipus schmedipus. Then, it was Mother Simon, a French nun, at College Saint Louis the French Jesuit School in Tehran where I attended. Mother Simon was a toughie. She would assign you to memorize 400 lines of a French epic poet like Victor Hugo, in two days. On reciting, the slightest flaw would bring the ruler out of her long sleeve. She was to teach us Les Literatures Francaise de dix-huitieme siecle (18th century French literature) but she began the year with Francois Rabelais (1494-1553), then crisscrossing all époques and periods, to teach Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592), Charles de Montesquieu (1689-1755), Voltaire (1694-1778), Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1754), Alphonse Chateaubriand (1877-1951), Alfonse de La Martin (1884-1947), right up to Marcel Proust (1871-1922), Emil Zola (1840-1904), Albert Camus (1913-1960) and Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980). Note that some of those writers were still alive in the 1940’s when I was going to that school, but just the same, they all came in purview of Mother Simon’s course of 18th century literature!

I have already alluded to my blatant love affair with Antonia Fraser in my review of her book, The Warrior Queen, Wake County Physician magazine, several years ago. There have been many other secret loves and dalliances, but I don’t want to turn this into a confessional.

My current hot love affair is with the late Mary Douglas, the brilliant octogenarian (born on March 25, 1921, died May 16, 2007) who is ruling my life and making me read her day and night at the expense of other neglected authors whose books are piled high on my desk. Now that she has passed, I continue my love for, and admiration of, her brilliance and incredible contribution to the body of the English literature.

Mary’s Book, Leviticus as Literature is seductive. It teases the recesses of the reader’s brain by dangling huge servings of delicious Aramaic sayings, etymologies and words that I have not seen since I was a boy. She knows how to seduce. She knows how to make sense out of a miserable and dry piece of writing that synagogues hate to teach, because children quit going to Sunday school during the teaching of Leviticus. She takes the gory subject of animal sacrifice, entrails, intestines, body parts, smearing of blood on the altar, etc., and like a diva ballerina, pirouettes the subject into a brilliant scholarly discourse. She explains that Hebrew and Aramaic words for parts of the anatomy often have diverse meanings. The word for head can mean summit of a mountain, leader, chief, as well as head of a body. Similarly, feet, (regel), is a common biblical euphemism for human sexual organs. She explains that in Jacob’s blessing on Judah’s progeny, “the scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor shall the ruler’s staff from between his feet….” Or her take on the famous passage in Leviticus that requires a person should love his neighbour as himself (Lev 19: 18, 34). We know it to be the cornerstone of Christian faith. She quotes another Aramaic scholar, Abraham Malamat, suggesting that in this commandment, love means to be charitable and helpful to neighbours, to take care of them, to develop a particular warm feeling for them. Thus “Love the stranger” means more like “Cherish the stranger.”

Mary Douglas’ sheer intellectual force has turned reading Leviticus, the driest of biblical books, into a page turner mystery novel. The reader wonders, at every turn, what a word means, and what and how it was used to convey what kind of message. Leviticus is a book that taken at face value gives elaborate instructions for the sacrificial cult. However, Douglas takes these boring and inconsequential rules and proposes the exciting view that these cultic procedures reflect a sophisticated system of thought. She proposes that the writers of Leviticus, through these elaborate commandments, are really explaining the structure of the cosmos as they understood it, a place where vertical division of Mount Sinai is mirrored horizontally in the sanctuary (the inner court of Levi). Reading the very complicated, obscure and sometimes repulsive book that deals with blood, sacrifice and body parts has been made delightful by the genius and insight of Mary Douglas. Leviticus as Literature expands one’s vision of self, the cosmos and the universe. Mary Douglas’s intellect is a gift to mankind, and her book is a gift to the literary world.

maimonides

BOOK Review

by Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, ScD (Hon), DLFAPA

Moses Maimonides
Edited by Fred Rosner, MD and Samuel S. Kottek, MD
229 pages of text, 41 pages of reference notes and 10 pages of index
Jason Aronson, INC., Publisher

There is a sweet anecdote at the beginning of Sherwin Nuland’s biography of Moses Maimonides which has to do with Jewish mothers insisting their sons to become doctors, the “My Son, the Doctor” paradigm.

It goes something like this: “Imprisoned in a tower in Madrid, disabled by syphilis and further weakened by abscess in his scalp, The French King Francis asked of his captor, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, to send the finest Jewish physician to attempt a cure.” Frances discovered that the doctor sent to him was not Jewish but a baptized Christian. Irate, Francis dismissed the doctor and insisted to be treated by a genuine Jew. That physician may have been Moses Maimonides, brought all the way from Cordoba.

Not only was Moses Maimonides of Cordoba a good Jewish doctor, he was a rabbi, a philosopher and prolific writer. During his life time he wrote 5.3 million words, most of which have been preserved. He wrote on all aspects of medicine, infectious disease, nutrition, spirituality and internal medicine. But he also made inroad into the world of psychiatry.

You would think that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), an effective method of treating a wide range of psychiatric problems, including obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety disorder, depression, borderline personality disorder and many other neuroses, including phobia and panic disorder, is thought to be one of the contributions of the twentieth century medicine, until you read about the life and work of the polymath, “super-genius” physician, theologian, philosopher and astronomer, Rabbi Moses Maimonides of Cordoba (MM of C) .

The Rabbi, a major author of Helakhic authorities, the collective corpus of Jewish religious, rabbinical, and later, Talmudic laws wrote about CBT way back in 1170. Fred Rosner, a respected hematologist and medical ethicist, a professor of medicine at Mount Saini School of Medicine in NY, and his colleague Samuel Kotteck, professor of the history of medicine at the Hebrew University-Haddasah Medical School, Jerusalem, have collected papers and articles by no fewer than 20 scholars offering this remarkable edited volume. It is a slender and compact 229 pages chock full of historical jewels. In essence it is a a biography of Dr. Maimonides, along with a description of his writings and work.

Fred Rosner’s erudite discussion in this well researched and meticulously referenced book shows the reader that Moses Maimonides, in his famous trilogy The Commentary on Mishnah (means ‘repetition’), is the major source of rabbinic Judaism, the Mishneh Torah, and the Guide for the Perplexed traces much of what we know today about effective nutrition, methods of practicing CBT and biofeedback, guided imagery and self-awareness, a discipline he learned from the work of the Persian physician, Abu Ali Sina, Ibn Sina or Avicenna (980-1130) and Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430).

In a chapter that asymptotically approaches brilliance and virtuosity, Gad Fruendenthal explains how Maimonides, a citizen of the medieval age of superstition and primitive thinking, opposed astrology, radically. He was quick to give credit for his enlightened thinking to Omar Khayyam, the Persian poet and astronomer, born 1085, died 1123, only eight years before the birth of Maimonides. So for all practical purposes, Avicenna, Khayyam and Maimonides were contemporaries. Although Omar Khayyam is known for his poetry and The Rubayats (Quatrains), he was a scientist and an avid astronomer to whose work Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) has made numerous references. Like Aristotle, Maimonides insisted on scientific objective and not speculative findings. In his book, the Guide , a collection of his personal letters referring to practice of medicine, he wrote: “Medicine is not knitting and weaving and the labour of the hands, but it must be inspired with soul and be filled with understanding…”

Reading Moses Maimonides of Cordoba make us fall in love with our holy profession all over again, and take refuge from the oppression and intrusions of the government and bureaucrats.

dad_sig_pic

*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, Life Member, American Medical Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He received 2016 NC Award for Fine Arts.

Leave a comment

Filed under The Writer