Tag Archives: love

On the Culture of Ignorance

“Monday Musings” for Monday March 9, 2015

Volume V, No. 10/218

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IGNORENCE: WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT?

THE KIND OF A PERSON I WANT FOR MY PRESIDENT

By: Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*

We are 20 months away from the BIG election when the 45th US President will be chosen. Already the marketers of the business of politics are busy showcasing their wares. Last week at the meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference (C-PAC), we were given a glimpse of the 11 Republican contenders. They were Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio; colleagues, Drs. Ben Carson and Rand Paul; former Governors Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, and Jeb Bush; and current Governors Scott Walker, Chris Christie, and Bobby Jindal; along with former Senator/Ambassador Rick Santorum.

Our observation of the politician is often entertaining and fun. It is not a sin to be ignorant. Indeed most of us are ignorant about many things. What is sinful is to be told that one is wrong and the person refuses to right the wrong and learn from the experience. As of late, I have grown impatient with so many of our politicians and so called leaders whose knowledge of history is as short as the telomere at the end of their chromosomes. Yet, when they are corrected they refuse to acknowledge their error and continue defending their ignorance. Take the case of a nationally prominent politician, awhile back, in an interview with a TV reporter, she botched up Paul Revere history by saying “Paul Revere did warn the British” and bragged “I know my American history.” And in an earlier interview this politician had opined “Paul Revere who warned, uh, the British that they weren’t gonna be takin’ away our arms, uh, by ringing those bells, and um, makin’ sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be sure and we were going to be free, and we were going to be armed.”

Another politician, a candidate for US Presidency, makes errors mixing up content, context, places, and people. In an interview, this candidate stated that “the Founding Fathers worked tirelessly to end slavery.” We know that this is not true. Historians, without exception, write that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, among others, owned slaves. But this candidate defended it, saying that one of the Founding Fathers, John Quincy Adams, worked throughout his life to end the evil practice. We know that John Quincy Adams was not a member of the Founding Fathers and he really did not work that hard to end slavery. And very high ranking office holder who glibly stated “using television, FDR did wonders communicating with people in his fireside chats.” There was no television in FDR days!

I am no fan of John Wayne or Elvis Presley. But I am a fan of historical accuracy. One presidential candidate said that the iconic movie star John Wayne is from Waterloo, Iowa (he is in fact from Winterset, Iowa), and wished the King, Elvis Presley “a Happy Birthday” in the middle of August. The fact is that Elvis was born on January 8 and died on August 16. It was not Elvis’ birthday.  When corrected she said “Let’s wish the King a happy birthday anyhow..” No apologies were offered.

These parapraxes, or slips of the tongue, though minor and of little apparent consequence, reveal deeper psychological conflict and characterological flaws. The attitude of “not knowing” and “not wanting to learn and correct one’s lack of knowledge” is very disturbing. It reveals a character that is flawed and a personality that is inflexible, arrogant, and unappreciative of the truth. It strongly suggests that the person has very little desire to grow.

What is Growth?

There are literally billions of words, millions of treatises, books, essays and elaborate explanation and disputation about the topic of psychological growth. Here is a summary of a workable definition: A growing person should or shall 1) To know more today than we did yesterday. That is intellectual and cognitive knowledge. Something we did not know yesterday but learned today. It is not experience we are considering. It is raw knowledge. Knowledge of words, languages, music, humanities, basic sciences etc.  When one goes to bed at night, one must take an inventory of one’s raw knowledge, and what one has learned that day. And if one does not come with a specific answer, one should get up and hit the encyclopedia and learn something new before he goes back to sleep  2) To be more loving and accepting of others today than yesterday.   3) To do fewer bad things today than one did yesterday. We all do bad things every day. A growing person is aware of all the bad things one does and tries not to repeat them, or do fewer of them. This is the powerful Pauline theology of hope, grace, faith, and redemption. To do fewer bad things every day…

What is  Love?

We spoke that a growing person ought to be more loving today than yesterday. Let us define love. By love it is not meant the erotic or filial love. The object of the discussion is Agape type of love. Agape type of love has three components, like a tripod:  1)  Not to be abusive to ones’ self, such as indulgence, gluttony, getting fat, risking cardiovascular disease, diabetes and back problems, use of tobacco, excessive alcohol and use and abuse of drugs, prescription or street drugs.  2) Not to be abusive to one’s fellow humans, such as family members, colleagues, patients and others. I have a hard time accepting the behavior of some of my colleagues who are not punctual and who make patients wait in their reception room and. 3) The third part of love is, not allow others to abuse you. “No” is an effective word to gently but firmly refuse the abuse aimed at you.

I want to have a President who is growing and loving. I do not want a President who is arrogant, narcissistic, and self-serving. I can find abundant tolerance for ignorance, but I cannot tolerate denying one’s ignorance.

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*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 Graduations

Monday Musings for Monday May 13, 2013

Volume III, No.18/121

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(Editor’s Note:  Richard Wagner was promised for today.  But I was asked by President Norval Kneten to give the commencement address to the 111th graduating class of Barton College, Wilson, NC on May 12, 2013.  It is dedicated to all college graduates across the globe. Richard Wagner will appear next Monday, May 20, 2013.)

Commencement Address

By Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*

Mr. Chairman, members of the Board of trustees, Mr. President, honored guests, fellow students, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Happy Mother’s Day! Today should be proclaimed a holy day…

So, you graduated from college. Congratulations! You have been through a lot of graduations. You graduated from pre-kindergarten. You graduated from kindergarten, then from elementary school, middle school, high school, and now from college. But I submit that you have graduated more times than you know. You and I were born as helpless babies who could not survive without the nurturing, care and love of our parents, especially our mothers. When a newborn is hungry (for the science majors, that is driven by low blood sugar, below 70 mg percent) the baby screams. “Mama is coming,” and she brings the bottle or the breast. This goes on day and night until something miraculous–and I choose the word miraculous advisedly—it miraculously happens around age week to week and week and half.  Let me explain this miracle: when the baby gets hungry and screams and while mother is saying “Mama is coming,” the baby equates the voice of the mother to anticipated gratification and stops screaming momentarily. But if Mama falls asleep, of course the baby resumes screaming. At the ripe old age of 10 days, the anloge or the infrastructure of ego functions are laid.  Yes, we all graduated from this stage of extreme narcissism and self- centeredness at the age of 10 days. It is a miracle.

Then, you graduated from infancy, learning to sit, to stand, to crawl, to walk, to run, and to separate and individuate, running away from mama only to return and hide behind her skirt. Games like peak-a-boo reinforce this phase. Then you graduated from childhood. You later graduated from latency phase of growth and development, age seven to twelve, and entered adolescence. You went through adolescence and negotiated the vicissitudes of teen years and graduated into adulthood. And now with the support and continuous love and sacrifice of your parents you are graduating from college as well- balanced, educated, mature person.

The purpose of life is to turn that narcissistic bundle, the newborn baby, into the altruistic and loving adults you all are.  Let’s briefly examine the attributes of an altruistic and loving adult. This person for the most part of waking hour is aware that he or she is a child of God. Not the child of a mayor, the child of a governor, the child of a king, the child of a President, a Shah, an Emperor, or an Ayatollah, we are children of God.  Do you know of a loftier position in all creation?  Being aware of this gift given to us at birth is the essence of Pauline theology of Grace and Christian love.

This person for the most part of waking hours has good feelings, happy feelings, and as result has good thoughts and does good things. Doing good things is vastly different from being a do-gooder. Doing a good deed is altruistic. Being a do-gooder may be narcissistic and self- serving.

This person is a joyful person. The etymology of the word joy is the Sanskrit word (and Farsi) JOOYE, meaning a running brook. Let me explain: a camel driver crossing the desert in 100 degrees in the shade for several days reaches an oasis with trees, grass and a running brook of clear cold water. He waters his camels, then takes a fistful of this cold and refreshing water and drinks it and splashes some on his face. The feelings at that moment generated by JOOYE, the running brook, is where JOY comes from.  Joy, like a running brook, is constant. It is refreshing. It is life giving…  this person is not just happy, but JOYFUL. Happiness is temporary, evanescent, and artificial, while joy is constant, refreshing and life giving… be joyful.

This person makes a pledge, a resolve to be a growing person. What is growth? To me, growth consists of three parts: to know more today than I did yesterday, to do fewer bad things today than I did yesterday, and to love more today than I did yesterday. Knowing more every day is a demanding and disciplined task. At my age, just had my birthday yesterday, well north of 70, every night I go to bed, I take an inventory of what I know. I mean sheer knowledge. If I have NOT learned more today than I did yesterday, I get out of the bed and go read my medical, science and humanities journals. You and I must be aware of the responsibility of enriching our cognitive reservoir. Yes, we must know more today than we did yesterday. The sheer act of learning and internalizing knowledge is pure joy. We all do bad things. Good people do bad things.  We must take an inventory that we did fewer bad things today than yesterday. This is what Saint Paul theology calls power of redemption. And to be a growing person, we must be more loving today than we were yesterday.

Now, what is love? We love our Aunt Molly, Cousin Bert; we love apple pie and the beach, and BBQ. Love is one of the most confusing words in English lexicon. English language, young, accessible and dynamic as it is, is very short on affective words, feeling words, words that describe feelings. There are 400 Arabic words whose equivalent in English is one word “love”.  It is frustrating to use the same four letter word for the rich reservoir of feelings we experience in our lives. So let me resort to the Greek.

There are three words for love: Eros, the love involving sex, reproduction and carnal fusing, Philia, the love we have for our relatives, brothers, cousins, and extended family. But the love I want to focus upon is the third Greek word, Agape, which is the love God has for all of us, and we must learn to have it for all humanity. Let’s focus on Agape, the kind of love that God has for us. It has three parts: a loving person is not abusive to one’s self, a loving person does not use and abuse alcohol, does not smoke, does not use drugs, and does not get fat. The epidemic of obesity in America causes diabetes, cardiovascular disease, back pain, bringing a health care bill approaching 20% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Obesity is a very serious form of self- abuse which is not loving. Obesity is a moral issue. Second leg of agape is not to be abusive to one’s fellow man, regardless of what you do for a living. As a physician, don’t abuse your patients by making them wait for you. For garbage collectors, don’t strew the stuff all over the street, be neat, do not abuse others- including the US government by cheating on taxes. And lastly, the third leg, do not let anyone else abuse you. Learn to say “NO” and mean it. Do not let friends talk you into doing abusive things. Love, like a tripod, has to have all three legs to stand up.

Now, I want to introduce you to three role models who have shown us how to be loving and lovable. These three brilliant stars of the intellectual constellation are Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430). Saint Augustine was a pagan. He was a brilliant student throughout his entire life, but as he grew up he did a lot of bad things, like stealing from his parents to buy toys and literally purchase acceptance and friendship of his peers, that is to say, to be popular. He used to steal apples from his neighbor’s yard, not because he was hungry, but because it was fun to do. He lied to his mother repeatedly. As he grew up, he sired an illegitimate son by a concubine. He converted into Christianity at age 31 and after a couple of years became a Bishop of the city of Hippo. All this is recorded in his 13 book “Confessions. The first nine books are autobiographical and the last four exegetical, an analysis of the book of Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament. Augustine wrote more than five million words.

The second role model is the Jewish physician, Rabbi, philosopher and theologian, Moses Maimonides of Cordoba, Rambam, (1135-1204).  He, too, wrote more than five million words. And the third person is the Arab economist, theologian and music advocate, Ibn Khaldoun (1332-1406). Surprisingly, he, too, wrote more than five million words. Islam prohibited music and the arts for fear of inviting and spreading lust into society.  Ibn Khaldoun was very much interested in bringing music back to Islam. He knew as an exception singing the passages of the Holy Quran (Bible of the Muslims) called Talavat is acceptable. So he petitioned the ruling Caliph to start a competition singing the text of Quran, just like our Oscars. The competition began in 1352 when he was 20 and continues to this day. All Muslim nations send delegations of singers to these annual competitions. This has played in war, in peace, in famine and in plenty, since 1352. As an aside, another piece of music that has continuously played since its opening night, Christmas Eve 1741, is Handel’s Messiah. On the opening night King George II was in the audience. When the chorale sang the Alleluia Chorus, the king was so moved that he stood up giving an ovation. This is why to this day we, too, stand up when Alleluia Chorus is sung. Like Talavat, Messiah has played continuously in war and peace, in famine and plenty since its debut in 1741. So, let’s see what these gifted people, the residents of the Pantheon of superior intellect, spirituality and faith tell us. These three people wrote more than 16 million words in their life time. I do not pretend that I have read every word of what they have written, but I have read a good bit of their writings. To give you a summary in the form of a gift that I hope you take home with you, repeat it in your mind, and if you would, like a favorite song, hum it until it becomes a part of you.

Here is what they said.  Here is what these three most accomplished and brilliant children of God said: the pathway to salvation and grace is “to know what is good inside of you, namely brain, this wondrous two and half pounds mass of billions of neurons, that is nerve cells, and trillions of synapses where these neurons chemically inter-connect,  love, compassion, loyalty, faith, intellect and self-awareness; and what is good outside of you, namely friends, connectedness, family, flowers, dance, poetry, music and beauty of nature, and to be thankful for them ‘by giving something back.’  This is the beginning of altruism, philanthropy LOVE OF MANKIND, and joy.  Remember, it all started when you were only 10 days old…

Let me repeat and pass onto you the gift these three people have given to us so that their gift may become an integral part of our mentation, cognition, perception and lives: To know what is good inside of you, namely brain and intellect, love, compassion, loyalty, faith, intellect and self-awareness; and what is good outside of you, namely friends, connectedness, family, flowers, dance, poetry, music and beauty of nature, and be thankful for them by giving something back…”

Yes, you and I are privileged to be children of not a mayor, not a king, not a governor, not a President, not a Shah or Ayatollah…You and I are children of God- all seven billion of us occupy that lofty status.

Yes, we have many good things inside of us, many good things outside of us. And we will be constantly aware of them and be thankful for them by giving something back…

And now I close by recalling a passage from one of the most beloved poets of the 20th century, Khaleel Gibran: “Empty and dark shall I raise my lantern, and the Guardian of the night shall fill it with oil, and He shall light it also…”  May your lanterns be always full, and may they be lighted also.

God Bless America.

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 *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 the Church and Same Sex Union

Monday Musings for Monday March 25, 2013

Volume III, No. 12/116

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A  Few Thoughts about the Church and Same Sex Union

By: Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*

 

 (Editor’s Note:  Our inbox is full of requests for a ‘Musings’ about same sex marriage.  Here are a few thoughts.)

The history of growth of religious and secular institutions consistently shows that inclusion and assimilation of “converts” is the key to progress. Saint Augustine of Hippo, the brilliant scholar (354-430 AD) was a Manichean (a sect of Zoroastrianism). He was converted to Christianity at age 31. Earlier in the history of Christian Church, Saint Paul was a convert. It is agreed that without Paul there would be no Christian Church. On the secular side, without Jean Baptiste Lully (1632-1687), an Italian boy who immigrated to France at the age of 14, working his way up to become the court composer to the “Sun King”, Louis XIV, there would be no French opera, no majestic French overture, no dotted rhythm, and no marshal and magisterial musical form, no ballet, and no Palais Garnier, which are uniquely Lully’s. Without Lorenzo Da Ponte (1749-1838), the accomplished linguist and librettist, we would not have many of the most beloved Mozart operas. Da Ponte was an Italian Jewish boy converted into Catholicism. He became an ordained priest, later immigrated to America to become the first chair, Department of Arts and Languages at Columbia College (now Columbia University) in 1820. The intellectual and artistic contributions of the uninitiated infuse us with curiosity and restlessness. Therefore, we should welcome those who do not think like us, or challenge our smugness and comfort.

Dissention and disagreement are not strangers to the Christian church. The split of apostolic succession in 1352, followed by the migration of the papacy to Avignon, southern France, is a good example. During that period there were many who claimed to be the Pope. In Avignon, the leadership of the church, while partying and having a good time, paid little attention to the people suffering from bubonic plague. It wiped out nearly eighty percent of Europe’s population. The people were wondering where were their religious leaders to save them from the plague.

Then there were the epoch making 1519 questions of Martin Luther, posted on the church door, ushering the reformation and the birth of Protestantism. And later there was the emergence of the counter-reformation which in essence gave birth to the baroque period. It gave us the stunning beauty, symmetry and sublime complexity of baroque music, art, and architecture. The beautiful music of Bach, Vivaldi, Telemann and others is the fruit of the baroque era. So, schism, dissent and revolution within the church, while unpleasant, have always been fruitful and consequential.

The epistemology, phenomenology and theology of Christian teachings offer profound and unique aspects. The teachings are flexible; they invite and nurture seekers and doubters. I believe as one who has been exposed to many religious teachings, the uniqueness of Christianity is the theology of possibility, and, of course, loveagape–, toleration (not tolerance)acceptanceinclusion and accommodation. I do not think that Christ as a person would exclude anyone from his house or his table, because of gender orientation or preference.

As a psychiatrist, I was involved in the panel sponsored by the American Psychiatric Association in 1972 that studied and de-classified homosexuality as a mental illness. Forty one years later through the powerful instruments of genomics and proteomics, we are learning that homosexuality carries a heavy load of genetic predisposition. In some instances, we even know the address and even the zip code of the strand of atavistic genes or polygenes that skulk the physiological architecture of humans. Therefore, the more one knows, the more tolerant and understanding one becomes. Unfortunately in the last 40 years, social science has not kept up with brain science in that regard.

I believe leaders of all religious institutions and Christian denominations ought to collect knowledge, information and intellectual input, and through the prism of history, transform them into wisdom. Wisdom takes patience, deliberation and deference. I am reminded of Fredrick Nietzsche (1844-1900), the German philosopher, who saw the opera Carmen by Georges Bizet (1838-1875), 21 times.  He said “every time I see Carmen I become more patient, wiser and a better philosopher.” We need to generate wisdom. Impulsive actions, impatience, arrogance, expedient political moves to gain gratification of narcissistic needs and power are not needed. All religious teachings behoove us to avoid those pitfalls. I also believe that the future of the institution of faith is in the children and the programs that nurture and produce a strong community. Any erosion or diminution of programs that ultimately injures and compromises that commitment is sinful. This is how I define sin.

It is appropriate to respectfully and faithfully observe the holy days before us, namely Passover which begins at sundown today; Good Friday, coming on March 29, and Easter on Sunday March 31.  All three occasions exemplify the gift of hope, love, possibility, redemption and grace.

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*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 at his alma mater the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health.

 

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On Money, Ills and Love

Monday Musings for Jan 14, 2013
Volume III. No. 106

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Printing Money, Homelessness, Mental Illness and Love
by Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*

Stories about fake bills being printed and circulated appear in the newspapers frequently. Such was the story in N&O, January 5, 2013. One wonders if printing money is fraudulent, bearing grave consequences of long prison term, why nobody arrests the US administration, US Congress, Federal Reserve, US Treasury Department, and for that matter the World Monetary Fund. They print money in the trillions with no accountability or responsibility. Why do they not get arrested and prosecuted?

Homelessness

Thomasi McDonald’s piece in January 11, N&O, carved out and dissected the psychobiography of a group of citizens, the homeless, our fellow humans, with a sharp and precise psychological scalpel. The piece is worthy of a Pulitzer. As a psychiatrist, the hours I spend with clinic patients afflicted with addiction and mental illness, I see so many who would swap their freedom for prison’s board and room. We know that 90% of prison and jail population are afflicted with mental illness. It is a shame that in our society the best place to get any help for the mentally ill is the prison. We do need to repair our broken down system of mental health care. And finally:

Love according to Mowlana Jalal-Din Mohammad Balkhi Rumi

Translated by learned colleague Majid Naiini

From love, bitter becomes sweet,
From love, thorns become flowers,
From love, vinegar becomes wine,
From love, fire becomes light,
From love, devil becomes angel,
From love, sorrow becomes joy,
From love, sickness becomes health,
From love, fury becomes mercy,
From love, dead becomes alive,

I sincerely wish that we all follow Rumi’s grand teachings and for 2013,

Set a fire in your heart from love,
Burn all ill thoughts & statements.
God of love stayed and everything else left,
Be happy, oh fierce love, the burner of all our ills.

*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill. He is Emeritus, Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012)

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