On Books About Washington

Monday Musings for Monday December 4, 2017V
Volume VII, No. 49/361


painting by Gilbert Stuart

Books About George Washington, The Father of Our Country

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

“The character of a man is determined by the kind of people he associates with and the kind of books he reads”

Ancient Persian saying

In spite of the rivers of ink spilled on and about America’s founding fathers, the pantheon of these towering and majestic intellects remains relatively untouched. For example, few know George Washington’s reading list. Few know the favorite books that Thomas Jefferson found page turner and to which he referred repeatedly. Few know the pocket edition of which author was the constant companion of Benjamin Franklin, the scientist, the politician, the diplomat, the bon vivant and the ladies man of Paris. Few know where Patrick Henry learned his gift of oratory and rhetoric of which Thomas Jefferson was jealous. I am proposing some young entrepreneur PhD candidate in English literature to collect the names of all America’s Founding Fathers, research their preference in reading, theater, literature, the arts, music, composers, theology, and science, and give us a 24 volume each 1000 pages collection to satisfy the PhD dissertation. After all, Eusebius of Pamphili, Josephus, accomplish this exact feat, writing 24 volumes biography of Moses and Jesus in Aramaic..

In this space, for the past eight years, we have made periodic and sporadic efforts to answer some of these issues for the curious. The fairly recent article on “Thomas Jefferson, the Fiddler” brought us enormous volume of mail. The response to the articles on what GW liked in plays and books, reflected enormous interest in the topic and almost overpowered our inbox capacity. This article is a focus on who and what biographers and historians have written about the Founding Father and CEO of the American enterprise, the Captain of America’s soul, and the righteous George Washington.

The latest biography of George Washington is by Ronald Chernow, the American biographer who is the author of Alexander Hamilton, The House of Morgan, and Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., among other works. Author Ron Chernow, born in 1949, is a Yale and Oxford educated lad. He studied English literature. He is now a free lance author. Washington: A Life, the Penguin Press, 904 pages, $40.00, is remarkable in that it examines best Washington’s personality and instincts. In my opinion, this is the best book ever written about Washington in one volume. The purpose of this essay is not to review Chernow’s book, but to offer our readers a fairly complete compendium of books written about GW from 1800 until now. The efforts of Douglas Southall Freeman and James Thomas Flexner (yes, he was related to Abraham Flexner of 1910 who revamped American Medicine-see the October issue, WCP–) have offered a multivolume work on GW which brought the Pulitzer Prize to both authors. Flexner has a one-volume Washington: The Indispensable Man which is a must read if one wishes to know how GW’s mind worked.

We all know the Washington myth of cutting the cherry tree perpetrated by Parson Weem’s 1800 tale. Douglas Southall Freeman’s biography of GW is the closest work to a psychobiographical account of GW factually reporting on GW’s hot tempered youth, his narcissistic and self adulating tendencies, gradually being replaced with concerns for his country. Flexner tried to outdo Freeman in his four volume work written 1965 to 1972. However, Freeman’s seven volume (1948-1957) collected work remains unsurpassed. Both authors completely debunk all myths about GW, and offer the reader a naked and brilliant account of a vulnerable human being. Reading these volumes gives one the feeling that GW was not only a General, a leader, a father figure, but he also had a theological sense of himself. He demonstrated how the powers of introspection and self-examination bring about abundant possibilities, hope, and redemption to our lives. This is very much consonant with Pauline theology in the New Testament. GW lived a life that clearly represents transformation of a self serving narcissist to a public serving altruist. After all, is this not the primary purpose of all world religions?
There are other GW’s biographers: Joseph Ellis’s “His Excellency“, a rather comparatively short biography, 320 pages (reviewed for our readers in 2004), and Richard Brookhiser’s elegiac and elegant “Founding Father” in 1996. The author called it a “moral biography” in the tradition of what some reviewers such as Carl Rollyson call “a biography in the tradition of Plutarch”. Mr. Rollyson opines that “Washington dominated the national scene far longer than Abraham Lincoln and FDR, and scholars have been loath to take on the whole man within the covers of a single volume…” Mr. Chernow ought to be congratulated to have triumphantly accomplished the feast in one 960 page volume. We have other books about GW: the admirable, if truncated, 2005 book by Edward Lingel’s “General George Washington” and 2006 Peter R. Henrique’s thematic “Realistic Visionary“. Having critically read and studied all these books about the Father of our country, In my view the Freeman and Flexner volumes are the most comprehensive and intellectually stimulating of all.

Finally, for students of George Washington, and for that matter, for every person who proclaims to be an American, from school children to the Justices of the US Supreme Court, it is not only desirable but necessary to know and if not memorize George Washington’s’ Farewell address, along with the other three essential components of what is known as America’s political literature. They are the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the 85 articles comprising the Federalist Papers.


*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.



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On the Fun World of Onomastics and Etymology

“Monday Musings” for Monday November 27, 2017
Volume VII. No. 48/360


Abraham’s Wife, Katurah

The Fun World of Onomastics and Etymology

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

The English language is unique. Because it is such a young language. The roots and genesis of every spoken and written English word is accessible to a linguist. Every English word is fully exposed to a student of languages. The ancestry of English words is an open book and available to us. Studying the roots and origin of words or etymology is a fun hobby. So is onomastics, the study of the origin of proper names. Allow me to offer an example of onomastics:

I have a friend. Her name is Catteri. I asked her if she knew what her name meant. She did not. I promised to tell her, and here we go. It is a fun story loaded with history and linguistic evolution. The etymology (genealogy of the word) Caterri is the Sanskrit word “Katira” which comes from a tree with the property of binding or adhering or gluing things together. In ancient days, it was also used to clean hair, like shampoo. In the Bible, there is a modified form of the word “Katurah”, the wife of Abraham. The Old testament tells us that Katurah brought people together and was a good companion for Abraham. By the way, as an aside, when Abraham was married to Katurah he was still Abram and not Abraham (Genesis 16-17). In Paleo-Hebrew the meaning of the word changed over roughly 500 years (from the time the Sanskrit word was coined to the time of Abraham) to mean “incense”. As one can see the word continued having to do with the pleasant function of cleansing and perfumery. In more modern Hebrew it is used for adhering, sticking, and ligating (surgeons ligate wounds, and religion bring people together) as well as incense. Other Western names such as Katherine and Catherine have the same Sanskrit roots.

I am using a couple of articles published one by the eminent Professor of psycholinguistics, Quentin Atkinson of University of Auckland, in Science Journal, and one by Dr. Michael Dunn, another distinguished Max Planck Institute for psycholinguistics, the Netherlands, in Nature (Science and Nature are prestigious magazines where usually the Nobel Prize papers are published). Both Atkinson and Dunn trace the origin of the roughly 7000 languages currently spoken in the world to African origin. Both researchers propose that the 7000 languages are a part of four original “mothers”, Indo-European, Bantu, Austroasian (from South-East Asia and the Pacific) and Uto-Aztecan (the native vernaculars of the Americas) suggesting that learning languages, any language is possible, easy and fun. Based on Noam Chomsky, Professor of psycholinguistics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), homo sapiens brain comes equipped with a hard-wired circuit for universal grammar and language instinct. Here is a brief summary of the two papers: Atkinson posits “…all languages are traced to Africa. One of the lines of evidence which shows humanity’s African origins is that the farther you get from that continent, the less diverse, genetically speaking, people are. Being descendant form small groups of relatively recent migrants, they are more inbred than African forebears.” Atkinson took 504 languages and using the number of phonemes, and with mathematical analysis proved that languages do indeed have a common root. Dr. Dunn’s paper examines the leading hypothesis about the nature of the language.

These people, Atkinson, Noam Chomsky, Michael Dunn and Steven Pinker whose book “How the mind works?” was reviewed in this space, are at it. They are fighting and arguing and the result is delicious. I will bring you more as the intellectual pugilistic rounds progress. Meantime, to All those with names Catteri, Katrina, Katira, katurah, Catherine and Katherine, just have fun with such an old and distinguished etymology, one who cleanses and spreads perfumery. A word/name once given to Abraham’s wife…


*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.


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O Thanksgiving…and a Few Other Observations

“Monday Musings” for Monday November 20, 2017
Volume VII. No 47/359



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, Rumi, Mohammad, Ferdowsi, Avicenna, Goethe,

Jesus, Gandhi, Mozart, Moses and Abraham. Thanks for Hanukah, Easter, Purim and BiShvat

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 2016 Presidential campaign. 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

The Chess World Cup 2017 was a 128-player single-elimination chess tournament held in Baku, Azerbaijan, from September 10 to October 5, 2017. Sergey Karjakin won the competition on tie-breaks after a four-game final against Peter Svidler. Both finalists qualified for the 2018 Candidates Tournament. Magnus Carlson the 25 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 grand children. 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 unafflicted by any neurotic encumbrance and anti-Semitic fervor.



*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.

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On a Contemporary Martin Luther

Monday Musings” for Monday November 13, 2017
Volume VII, No. 45/358


Paul Tillich, A Contemporary Martin Luther

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

Our inbox runeth over. Incoming mail about Martin Luther’s birthday brought us unprecedented response requesting more on Luther. In compliance, we will schedule another “MM” on the occasion of Luther’s mortal anniversary, the week of February 18. Today I thought we ought to recognize some contemporary “Martin Luthers”, my favorite among them is Paul Tillich. But let me share a sample of the incoming mail: A distinguished colleague and faithful reader of this space writes: “Concerning grace–suspicious New Yorker, at breakfast in Southern Pines, pointing to white stuff on plate: what’s that! I didn’t order it & I won’t pay for it!Waitress: them’s grits–you don’t order ’em, you don’t pay for them. They’s like grace: they just comes.” I don’t believe Saint Paul or the formidable scholar of grace, Saint Augustine of Hippo, can parallel this…. Now to Paul Tillich.

Paul Tillich (1886-1965) was Harvard Professor of Systematic Theology. It must be noted that there are hundreds of professors at Harvard, but only five Harvard Professors. These coveted positions have been maintained throughout Harvard’s nearly 400 years of existence. Paul Tillich had the rank of Harvard Professor of Systematic Theology in Harvard Divinity School. His tenure as one of the five began in 1955. Tillich came to US at the invitation of Reinhold Niebuhr in 1947. He had to learn English. Not only did he learn the language–he wrote nearly a million words in English. His many highly acclaimed books, many of them bestsellers in the world of academia, are published in English. He taught in New York Theological Seminary and Columbia University before joining Harvard.

A personal note: I came to US as a student in 1955. In my early days of college pre-med, while learning English, I was exposed to some of the Tillich’s writings. I especially enjoyed reading his book, History of Culture and Religion. It was an intoxicating work, emphasizing the universality of “personhood.” Three years later, after entering the George Washington University School of Medicine, I learned that Prof Tillich was to conduct a Saturday seminar on Systematic Theology. I wrote to him and to the Harvard University administration to get permission to audit the course. The privilege was granted. I further obtained permission to tape the lectures. The tape recorder in those days was the size of a suitcase. Bulky and unyielding, I lugged it to the Logan Airport in Boston every Saturday for 19 weeks. I attentively listened and taped the lectures. The Professor had a thick German accent, often unintelligible. But his thinking was clear and unencumbered. Even though he wrote many books including his three volume Systematic Theology in English, I still believe he really never learned to think, speak and/or dream in English. I believe his English writings were translated German which attest to a brilliance and disciplined mind.

Paul’s career at Harvard ended in 1962 when he moved to the University of Chicago. His last volumes were written in Chicago. He died in 1965. The outstanding feature of his teachings and writings may be summarized as his attempt to correlate/connect and integrate. He called his theology “Method of Correlation”, espousing theology with existentialism, psychology psychological analysis sand biology. Tillich was a huge advocate of ontology and the state of being. He “connected” and “correlated” the philosophical positions of the four work horses of existentialism, Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), John Paul Sarte (1889-1976) , and Albert Camu (1913-1960); the art of the impressionist painters such as Monet, Manet and Pissarro; theologians of the Reformation era, such as Martin Luther (1483-1550) and his contemporary Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) known as the father of Christian Humanism (not to be mistaken with secular humanism); as well as pre-Christian philosophers and lovers of wisdom such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. He correlated and connected all these exciting elements to achieve his ultimate goal of illuminating the landscape of theology. Paul Tillich was a great observer, connector and co-relater of human and Godly phenomena.

Finally, Tillich’s lifelong pursuit of philosophy and theology reveals that the central question of every philosophical inquiry always comes back to the question of being, ontology, or what it means to be, to exist, and to be a finite human. Here is a statement in his introduction to systematic theology:

“Theology formulated the questions and implied in human existence and formulate the answers implied in divine self manifesting ideas with the guidance in human existence. This is the circle which drives man to a point where questions and answers are not separated. The Christian message provides the answers to the questions implied in human existence. These answers are contained in the revelatory events on which Christianity is based and are taken by systematic theology from the sources, through the medium, under the norm. Their content cannot be derived from questions that would come from an analysis of human existence. They are ‘spoken’ to human existence from beyond it, in a sense. Otherwise, they would not be answers, for the question is human existence itself.”

Studying Paul Tillich leaves us with more questions than answers, a state that sharpens curiosity and encourages one to be a more eager seeker. I believe Paul Tillich would have made a superb candidate for Meymandi Fellowship at the National Humanities Center.


*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.


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On Martin Luther…and Music

“Monday Musings” November 6, 2017
Volume VII, No. 45/357


Martin Luther, A Formidable Child of God Worth Emulating

Quinta-centennial Anniversary of Posting Theses

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

This coming Friday November 10, welcomes the natal anniversary of one of the most formidable children of God, Martin Luther of Eisleben, Germany. He was born 524 years ago, nine years before Christopher Columbus discovered America, and 21 years after the birth of Gutenberg, inventor of the printing press. Martin Luther was not a rip-roaring revolutionary. He did not set out to usher Protestantism in Europe and challenge the well-established Catholic Church and the papacy. He was a scholar, a rather reclusive and obscure Augustinian monk and a university professor. His formal training was in law before he tackled theology at the University of Erfurt. In 1517, he posted 95 questions on the door of the church, a common practice when disputation (discussion, exegesis, and examination) was routinely used to clarify a philosophical or theological issue. He innocently posed 95 questions of the established church. The questions caught on fire and from that humble beginning, by 1521 he was catapulted to such prominence that even most peasants would recognize his name. Indeed, he was feared by the Pope and the Catholic establishment. He was openly defying the papacy and the Emperor. 1521 was the year Protestantism and the Lutheran Church were established. Martin Luther’s argument was simply the issues of corruption in the Catholic Church– selling grace, selling salvation, and implementing other slanderous devices to raise money to build Saint Peter’s Basilica. Being an Augustinian monk and well-grounded in Augustinian theology of grace, Martin Luther insisted that grace is given freely– It is not sold…Martin Luther maintained his steadfast Augustinian stand “sola fide, sola scriptura” which means by faith and scripture alone (not by purchase of redemption and grace) one may find the pathway to salvation. He wrote about a quarter million words about faith. He concluded that faith must be “living”, expressed in concrete actions of altruism and love for one’s fellow humans. To exercise faith requires discipline, vigilance and sacrifice.

History of Protestantism

  1. Before Martin Luther, many “protestors” had questioned the practice of selling grace by the Catholic Church. Among these protestors was John Huss (1369-1415), the Czech theologian, and founder the Hussite Church. Papal Inquisition which was a common practice of the 15th and 16th century condemned Huss as a heretic. He was burned at the stake. He is recorded in history books as the first martyr of the Hussite Church. Meantime, the air of dissatisfaction and malaise generated by the Catholic Church was prevalent among European peasants which constituted the vast majority of the European population. There was no middle class. The societal structure consisted of a few super rich land owners, those who worked in the government, and those secure in the hierarchy of the church and priesthood. The remaining 95% of the population were poor farmers and peasants. Historical demography suggests these people suffered illiteracy and servitude with no hope for advancement or opportunity to break loose from the shackles of slavery.
  2. Another factor which complicated matters was the general public had not recovered from the devastation of bubonic plague, 1347-1350. The plague wiped out three forth of Europe’s population, while the papacy to protect itself against the plague moved from Rome to Avignon, southern France, a safer territory. The public felt abandoned and neglected by the church, breeding much anger. The European public continued to carry for some 70 years its pent up hostility against the Catholic Church. All these factors helped ignite and sustain the fire of protestant reform. From 1240 on, there were many voices raised in protest of the church practices but often, if not always, silenced by the force of organized papal inquisitions with the ultimate punishment of death by hanging or burning at the stake. But in 1521 the reform succeeded.

The influence of non-theological forces

  1. In addition to the lingering effect of Black death seventy years earlier, other social injustices generated immense pent up anger in the vast majority of peasants. The unequal distribution of wealth, where 93% of wealth was controlled by less than 10% of the people, helped the maturation of the notion of Protestantism. Other factors included high infant mortality which in Central Europe was between 15 to 35%, with another 10 to 20 percent of children dying before age 10 years, helped inflame the public dissatisfaction and anger. Other forces were exposure to famine, epidemic diseases and the ravages of wars. These factors collectively made people lose faith in the authority of the government, the church and priests. The people were numbed by societal injustice. And finally by the time Martin Luther started publishing his theses, thanks to Guttenberg, the magical printing press became available enabling Martin Luther to disseminate his work widely through throughout northern Europe. All these forces pushed our birthday hero to pursue answers to his original 95 questions, setting the world on fire of protestation.

Martin Luther, a musician and polymath

  1. Besides his theological and philosophical contributions and writings (his collected work exceeds five million words), Martin Luther was a hymnologist and an accomplished musician. The number of hymns the authorship of which is contributed to Martin Luther is in the hundreds. He encouraged return of music to church services. Martin Luther was a polymath. He was trained in law (he did not finish law school as his father wanted him because he found studying law to be boring!), theology, philosophy, epistemology, rhetoric, linguistics, political organization and music. He was the formidable author of more than five millions words, among them some 3000 letters he wrote to friends, colleagues, students, fellow Augustinian monks, and fellow parishioners. I view Martin Luther as a representation of God and a role model in achieving one’s maximum potential. Happy Birthday Brother Luther! And Happy quincentennial anniversary of Martin Luther’s intellectual inquiries, his 99 theses, giving birth to Reformation

Benjamin Beilman, A Young Yasha Heifetz

These days under the leadership of Sandi MacDonald, President and CEO, and Grant Llewellyn, Music Director, NC Symphony is producing magic. This past weekend, the audience was privileged to watch the brilliant and incomparable very young American violinist, Benjamin Bielman, playing the technically demanding Felix Mendelssohn violin concerto in E Minor, Opus 64. The performance was brilliant. Young Ben took me on a 43 minute journey in the ether of tomorrow. Every note of the complex composition was articulated superbly pushing the listener higher and higher into the stratosphere of transcendence. The height of enjoyment was unforgettable and celestial. At age 85, NCS has matured to a degree to make traveling to NY Philharmonic, Paris Palais Garnier and Vienna unnecessary. Bravo! The North Carolina Symphony deserves our support.


*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.

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On a Few Things

“Monday Musings” for Monday October 30, 2017
Volume VII, No. 44/356


Magic, Memory, Wrong Diagnosis, Origin of Inoculation, and What to do for Depression

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

Luther and Erasmus

Recently, we observed the 90th birthday of a good friend at a luncheon. The toast was the story of Luther (Nov 10, 1481-Feb 18, 1546) and Erasmus (Oct 27, 1466 to July 12, 1536), two fierce competitors (but good friends). Erasmus who was quite a few years older than Luther was debating the existence of ‘Miracle” and “Magic” with Luther. After many exchanges of letters, with a sense of exhaustion, Erasmus tersely wrote to Luther, ”Boy, Of course there is magic and miracle. You get magic and miracle when you combine intellect and industry ” Yes, “smarts” and “hard work” produce magic and miracle…. I think Erasmus was thinking of our honoree. Happy birthday!

Digital Learning

Promulgation and promotion of digital learning, and creation DigiLearn as reported in news media including New York Times and the Wall Street journal are all meritorious. But idealizing DigiLearn as a powerful instrument that nurtures imagination as opposed to memorization that discourages imagination is a disservice. This view is scientifically flawed and untenable. In neuroscience and neurobiology, we know that those areas of the brain, including the limbic system, association cortex and nucleus coeruleus that are responsible for memory and storing of information are strengthened by memorizing facts. The same centers are also responsible for strengthening the power of imagination, creativity and innovation. These centers work together to enhance both memory and imagination. Memorization complements and enhances imagination. Please do not malign memorization and do not deprive our children from receiving the gift of knowledge through activating the memory centers of their brain. All the computers and artificial intelligence floating around will never replace memorizing epic poems of Homer, Dante, Faust and Milton.

Krauthammer’s Wrong Diagnosis

I usually agree with the opinions of my respected colleague turned journalist, Dr. Charles Krauthammer. His style shaped by his training as a physician, to cut through symptoms and look for the correct diagnosis(es) and cause(s) of America’s ills, is most gratifying. But his recent syndicated column in Washington Post and other papers “An Action Plan to Stop Putin”, while making recommendations to cure our current ills do not go deeply enough to make the correct diagnosis before offering suggestions and remedies.

The basic problem with America’s repeated failures in foreign affairs is that our European and Middle Eastern allies no longer respect the office of American Presidency or the current person who occupies the post. I hear derogation, mockery and condescension from ordinary citizens of foreign nations about US presidency. We should address that basic malady before offering remedies.

The Origins of Inoculation and Vaccination

For the readers who are contemplating to travel to Turkey, here is a historical aside: It is about Turkish women of many centuries ago. It explains the character and intellectual capacity, with Baconian and Lockian power of inductive reasoning and empirical observation of Turkish women of the middle ages. These women were most likely illiterate. The story has to do with inoculation against smallpox. These women observed that they can sell their daughters into slavery for a higher price if they were unmarked by the scars of smallpox. They noted that mild cases of smallpox provided lifelong immunity to the disease and limited the scarring. So they exposed their young daughters to benign cases of smallpox. This practice was carried out hundreds of years before Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) and Robert Koch (1843-1910) introduced inoculation and vaccination to modern medicine. Voltaire while exiled to England in Les Lettres philosophiques has written extensively about powers of observation, inductive reasoning and empirical knowledge.

Treating Depression with Good Thoughts

Worth reading. I will be writing about how empirical data are showing that good thoughts, good words and good deeds Zarathustra’s Motto) not only elevate mood and restore dopamine levels of the brain, but actually changes the morphology of the brain. This is the essence of Eshgh, the Sufi love. Thinking good thoughts suffuses brain with good hormones like dopamine and indoleamine…Exciting stuff to think about and write about….

POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY http://www.ppc.sas.upenn.edu/


*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.

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On the Union of Science and Religion

“Monday Musings” for Monday October 23, 2017
Volume VII, No. 43/355


Sir John Templeton, Dr.Charles Townes (L. to R)

Thinking Things Through: Union of Science and Religion

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

The relationship between religion, spirituality, healing, medicine, the arts, music and love is most intriguing. While polemicists pontificate, philosophers argue, clergy and Mullahs parse, and poets and artists beneficently float us in the cosmic rays of their warmth, scientists have doggedly pursued the subject producing data driven papers to lead us on the road to certainty and knowledge. One of my favourite poets, Irish William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), measures human achievement by these simple lines. “In life, we should have high laughter, elevated love and magisterial conversation.”

Scientists are beginning to discover that transcendence brings about all of that and more…It brings on healing, reduction of pain and suffering, increase concentration levels of brain endorphines and dopamines. It facilitates up-regulation of a cascade of positive and life giving psychoendocrinological events in the bowls of our brain that bring good feelings and joy.

As early as 1950’s, scientists ran an experiment at Columbia University Eye Center. Patients with retinal detachment post-operatively were divided in two groups. One group received religious and spiritual help and the control group did not. The rate of healing and hospital discharge in the first group was statistically higher than the control group. Over the last 50 years, many studies sponsored by the National Institute of Health have gradually produced evidence that transcendence, spiritual assistance and free access to clergy, rabbi and Imams should be a part of the medical black bag.

In recent years we have seen more and more scientists who are interested in the arts, humanities and religion. These scientists follow trail blazers such as Aristotle (384- 322 BC), the Greek supreme rhetorician/philosopher/biologist/taxonomist all wrapped in the cloak of theology; the Persian physician and scientist Abu Ali Sina or Avicenna (908- 1037), the renowned Jewish physician theologian and humanist, Moses Maimonides of Cordoba (1135-1204). Stories about Moses Maimonides are abound that he seldom saw a patient without having a prayer in heart and a verse of Thalmud on his lips. More needs to be done to bridge the gap between basic sciences an the arts and humanities. NC boasts the presence of the National Humanities Center in RTP. The Center attracts learned men from all walks of life in humanities, and offers them the opportunity to come in residence for one year and pursue their literary ambition at the Center. In pursuit of the goal of building bridges and uniting the arts, humanities and the basic sciences, NHC established a special Fellowship. It brings eminent scholars and basic research scientist of Nobel Prize caliber who are interested in humanities and religion to the Center. Dr. Edward O. Wilson, Harvard Professor of Entomology (the antsman), father of sociobiology and author of over 20 books, most on New York Times best seller list was the first NHC Assad Meymandi Fellow. The public had the privilege of attending Dr. Wilson’s lecture, an unforgettable experience for the citizens of Research Triangle Park (RTP).

Several years ago, Sir John Templeton established an annual prize awarded to the one scientist who is most involved and interested in making progress toward research or discoveries about spiritual realities. An example is the 2005 Templeton Prize winner is Charles Townes, co-inventor of the laser and a Nobel Prize-winner in physics. His writings about relating science and religion take up where Aristotle and Avecinna left off. They are truly the blueprint of an exciting future in scientific discovery and application of an integrated approach to the use of religion in science.

The John Templeton prize is the richest in the world. The 2005 prize was worth 795,000 British pounds or 1.75 million dollars. Dr. Townes who has already won the Nobel Prize for the discovery of laser (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) and maser (microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) in 1964 teaches Sunday School at NY City’s Riverside Church. When at MIT, his fellow students made fun of him because of his religious beliefs. In his acceptance speech he said that his doctoral adviser at California Institute of Technology “jumped on me for being religiously oriented.”

Dr. Townes was born and raised in Greenville, SC. He graduated from Furman University before earning graduate degrees at Duke University and Caltech. He has compared his flash 1951 discovery of maser principles while sitting on a park bench in Washington with the revelations depicted in the Bible. He contends that it “seems extremely unlikely that the existence of life and humanity are just accidental.” Dr. Townes has an exciting mind. He has written extensively on optical searches for intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.

He received the prize in a private ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London. He donated a major part of the money to Furman University, the Pacific School of Religion, the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, the Berkley Ecumenical Chaplaincy to the Homeless and Berkley’s First Congregational Church.

The late Sir John M. Templeton of West Conshohocken, Pa was born on November 29, 1912 and died on July 8, 2008. He established the foundation named for him. It encourages research in relations between religion and science. Write to, or e-mail, me if interested in more information.


*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.

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On Opera

“Monday Musings” for Monday October 2, 2017
Volume VII, No. 40/351


Palais Garnier, Paris

Happy 417th Birthday to Western Opera.

A Few Words About the Opera

and How it Relates to Buddhism and Sufism

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

 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 417th  birthday of the Western Opera on Friday October 6.

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 416 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 Cycles? 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 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.


*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.

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“Monday Musings” for Monday September 25, 2017
Volume VII. No. 39/351


Moses Maimonides


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

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, 5778, began on Sundown Wednesday  September 20, leading to Yom Kippur which begins at Sundown September 29, 20117. These ten days of reflection, introspection and atonement are the holiest days of the Jewish calendar. Yom Kippur (Yom means day and Kippur means great–the great day) which is focused solely on prayer, fasting and redemption bears much mystery,.

One of my favorite Jewish Theologians, Martin Buber, whose thinking and writings were influenced by Sigmund Freud and Fredrick Nietzsche describes these ten Holy Days as a drama that unfolds. Rabbi (Lord) Jonathan Sacks, the former Chief Rabbi of UK and Commonwealth, in a recent essay wrote “These days constitute a courtroom drama like no other.  The judge is God himself, and we are on trial for our lives.  The drama begins with Rosh Hashanah with the sounding of the shofar, the ram’s horn, accounting that the court is in session.  The book of life is written on Rosh Hashanah; and on Yom Kippur, when the atmosphere reaches a peak of intensity atonement and prayer, the book is sealed…”  In Christianity there is Lent and in Islam there’s Ramadan and Eid-e-Fetr which parallel the intensity and concentration of prayer and the  fascinating drama of the personal relationship between God and humans.

As promised in the last week’s “MM” to honor the Holy Day of Yom Kippur, we present a review of colleagues Fred Rosner and Samuel Kottek biography of Moses Maimonides of Cordoba.

Moses Maimonides of  Cordoba

by Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, 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 was 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 methods of treating w aide 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-Hadassah 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  (345-420)  (see page 7).

In a chapter that asymptotically approaches brilliance and virtuosity, Gad Fruenden that 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, 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 collection of his personal letters referring to practice of medicine he wrote: “Medicine is not knitting and weaving and the labor 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.

*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.

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On Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Tishrei and Music

Monday Musings” for Monday September 18, 2017
Volume VI. No. 40/300


Rosh Hashanah, Jewish Year 5778

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


This is a very busy week for calendars of faiths.  Besides Rosh Hashanah,  the beginning of Jewish New Year, Yom Kippur, the most solemn Holy Day which this year takes place on September 29; Tishrei and Sukkot the most joyous day in the Jewish calendar are all crowded in the span of 10 days. Also, there is the Constitution Day on September 17 which most purists, like my household, consider and celebrate as a Holy day in itself. In addition, our beloved North Carolina Symphony starts its 82nd season this week,. Here ae some reflection on each occasion.

Constitution Day

The US Constitution is 230 years old.  We wish it a Happy birthday, its 230th.  On September 17, 1787, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention met for the last time to sign the document they had created. We encourage all Americans to observe this important day in our nation’s history by attending local events in your area. Celebrate Constitution Day through activities, learning, parades and demonstrations of our Love for the United State of America and the Blessings of Freedom Our Founding Fathers secured for us. If you forgot to celebrate the Constitution Day yesterday, it is not too late.  You and your family can do it today,

Rosh Hashanah, Jewish year 5778

Sundown, day after tomorrow, September 20, 2017 will mark the beginning of Rosh Hashanah. The etymology of the word Rosh Hashanah is RAAS (HEAD OR BEGINNING) AL (OF) SENNEH (YEAR or DATE), THUS ROSH HASHANAH, the beginning of calendar.  The Jewish year is 5778 (1st of Tishrei, a joyous occasion for all Jews). Some reflections:

Moses was born 1590 BC, and reportedly lived 120 years until 1470 BC. Scholarship about the birth of Moses, 3607 years ago and Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish calendar 5778 years ago is very interesting. The relationship between the two dates has gone through many twists and turns. The struggles very much remind me of the struggle of C-major and C-minor in Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, battling back and forth for attention and primacy. The final note is the celebratory C-major coming through triumphantly. The currently perceived resolution of these two competing dates is simply that it was approximately 6,000 years ago when the world’s oldest religions simultaneously began to emerge. Abram of Ur renamed Abraham by the Lord (Genesis 17) had much to do with this remarkable emergence. We could say that this year marks 5778th year of the dawning of the human awareness of God…and the dawn of monotheism. It sends a chill down one’s spine to get in touch with human connectedness and human history. It is regrettable to neglect the fact that all of us Jews, Christians and Moslems are children of Abraham and as such should love one another like brothers and sisters.

Occasions like Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Islam’s Eid-Al Fetr, celebrating completion of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, worship, and purgation of the soul (was observed on June 25, 2017), Easter Sunday and Purim, the Jewish Holiday that marks liberation of the Jews by Cyrus the Great (Book of Esther), collectively elevate our awareness that we are children of God and regardless of labels that separate us, we are inextricably inter-connected.  We wish everyone not only a joyful 5778 but a fruitful and consequential life. The other holy occasion is Yom Kippur which will begin at sundown onSeptember 29, 2017.

Next week’s “MM” will be devoted to Yom Kippur and a book review on Moses Maimonides of Cordoba, the Rabbi, the formidable physician/clinician, the awe-inspiring medical researcher and discoverer, the superb medical ethicist, and the remarkable writer. Shana tova.

 Music: Mankind’s Savior

Seeing Mozart’s masterpiece, Idomeneo, in any venue, any city, and at anytime is a good reminder that Mozart was an ordinary man with all the flaws and scars of alcoholism, syphilis (from Pamena of Magic Flute), kidney failure and periodic bankruptcy, with an extraordinary and truly God-like mind to produce and write music of such complexity, architectural soundness of structure, yet immense sublimity and transcendence, that is beyond any mortal’s comprehension. The gift of Mozart is available to all lovers of music.  The memorable production ofIdomeneo by the Metropolitan Opera is super special.  The unusual assembly of the international cast involved countries of Australia, England, Canada, South Africa, India, New Zeeland, and France. Our own Maestro James Levine, veteran Met Opera Music Director, and now conductor of the Boston Symphony, born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio,  who conducted the feast, was America’s contribution. The virtuous performance of the star-studded cast and Levine’s skillful directing once again proved that music is the universal language of peace, understanding and love bringing the mess.age.


*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.

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