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On Mozart

“Monday Musings” for December 6, 2015

Volume V. No. 50/258


Mortal Anniversary of Mozart: The Mystery of Mozart’s Genius

By: Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*


Saturday marked the mortal anniversary of Johann Chrysostom Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, one of the most enigmatic individuals of the 18th century. He was born on January 27, 1756. Before his death on December 5, 1791, he was in poor health. Throughout his short life, he had smallpox, tonsillitis, bronchitis, pneumonia, typhoid fever, rheumatism, gum disease, and possible cirrhosis of the liver and hepatitis all caused by excessive use of alcohol and possible sexual indiscretions. Toward the end of his life, he had poor hygiene, most likely because of poverty, and had to move a smaller apartment with limited accommodations and facilities.

Mozart was enigmatic because of ineptness, inelegant personal conduct, and his lack of social grace. Yet in his operas, he demonstrates deep understanding of human nature. He takes us through a most complex circuitous labyrinth of psychological wonders that is humanly impossible. As I listen to his operas over and over again, I keep asking myself how did he know so much? For example, his opera King of Crete, Idomeneo, set in 1200 BC, is an incredible psychological study of human possibilities, frailties, feelings and complex psychodynamics of behavior. Medical literature do refer to Mozart’s scatologia/lalia and coprophilia as symptoms of Tourette Syndrome, a neurologic disorder the victims of which experience uncontrollable urge to make foul noises and use curse words. Modern medicine has pinpointed the biochemical etiology of the disease, namely excess dopamine concentration in the basal ganglia of the brain. This condition is neuroendocrinologically the opposite of Parkinson’s disease where there is a paucity of Dopamine in the basal ganglia.

Dispensing with superlatives and avoiding the use of adjectival palates of hero-worshiping, nonetheless, an observer is made to confess that Mozart was undoubtedly a genius. Shakespeare, Goethe, Ferdowsi, Avicenna, Ibn Rushd (Averroes), there are only a handful of them…Classical music, especially Mozart’s music, like classical books, such as Virgil’s Aeneid, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Plato’s Republic, Dante’s Oeuvre, have a theme, are written in noble language and are lasting across generations. All of Mozart’s 626 pieces are abundantly endowed with these basic qualities. They have a theme, they are written in noble and elegant musical notes and are transgenerational.

In his short life of 35 years, Mozart composed a known body of work, 626 pieces, of lasting elegance and complex musical intricacies, some of which are miraculous. Let’s take the summer 1788. How could anyone compose symphonies and operas in a hot summer, combating illness and mourning the death of his mother, in six short weeks, composing four master pieces of unequal elegance and sublimity? And, yet in the depth of despair and depression, he composed the glorious Jupiter Symphony in C Major K 551. It is beyond mortals. It took more than six weeks to sit down eight hours a day to just copy the music of the fabulous compositions in that hot summer of 1778 when Mozart’s was mourning the death of his mother, and processing his father’s lament and accusation that Mozart killed his mother, because of his ill behavior and leaving the nest. Reading Maynard Solomon’s biography of Mozart with focus on summer of 1778 leads one to believe in Mozart as a miracle…

There are literally billions of words written about Mozart, his life and music. In addition to Solomon’s book, I have found another respected musicologist and dramaturge, Joseph T. Kerman, Emeritus Professor of Music at the University of California, Berkeley, whose credible analysis of Mozart’s music is most enlightening. Kerman, too, has much to say about Mozart’s summer of 1788 and his final composition, Mozart’s Requiem K 626.

Readers of this space recall an essay on special children of God, we listed Mozart as follows: “Not four score and seven years before Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, but about ten thousand years ago, the age of Neolithic man, God set out to send man on the road to perfection. He sent the ancient Persian prophet, Zaratustra (Zoroaster), as early as 500 BC, to bring us the concept of good and evil which in modern day philosophy is known as epistemological dualism. The Sumerians brought us literacy and language.

The Egyptians taught us social order and government; the Persians, participatory democracy; the Greeks, city-state and citizen representation; the Babylonians gave us devotion and discipline; and Jesus came bringing us civility, hope andlove.1215 years later, the Anglo-Saxons brought us the Magna Carta. And in 1756 we were given Mozart through whom music flowed like water running through the fountains of Tivoli.”

Yes, in my view, Mozart, a flawed human was basically a divine prophet. With unparalleled beauty and sublimity, he was ordained to fulfill what Bach started with Clavier Book I and Book II. We also recall in the essay in this space on Thomas Jefferson and his fondness for music, how he arranged to meet Mozart. Jefferson had planned to ask Mozart to compose a piece in memory of Jefferson’s late beloved wife, Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson, very much like Bach’s commissioned pieces by the Goldberg familyThe Goldberg Variations. However, Jefferson was turned off by Mozart because of his “ineptness and lack of grace… The gentleman is socially uncouth and frivolous…” Jefferson said. Yet, Jefferson loved Mozart’s “heavenly music” and travelled long distances to listen to professional performances of Mozart’s music.

Yes, Mozart belongs to the circle of Gods in the distant cosmos of tomorrows…We are thankful for having Mozart, and today, with acute awareness of the gift of Mozart, we mourn his death, but enjoy celebrating his music.


*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).

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On Pope Francis

“Monday Musings” for Monday July 6, 2015

Volume V. No. 27/235


Pope Francis’ Encyclical on Climate Change: An Analysis

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


In his most recent encyclical, Pope Francis is urging the world to act on climate change. A few reflections:

I have been reading Papal encyclical since I was a small boy. I used to get such a big thrill to get my copy of Pope Pius XII Encyclicals and his Urbi et Orbi on Christmas and Easter. Going to a French Jesuit school in Tehran accentuated my love for the Papal pronouncements, even though I must admit that half of the time I did not quite understand what I was reading. Nonetheless, I have continued to read with fascination and try to understand what the Popes, these men of power ensconced in seats of empyrean try to tell their flock, and for that matter to the world. Of the six succeeding Popes since Pius XII, and they are Saint John Paul XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, Saint John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and now Pope Francis, I have found The current Pope Francis to be most clear in identifying and focusing the human issues, such as poverty, income inequality and gender. I often compare the Popes and their writings to the Chairs of the American Federal Reserve System.  Some are as confusing and tortuously unintelligible as the utterances of the former Chairman Alan Greenspan, and some are as clear and lucid as Paul Volcker… and some like Bernanke, somewhere in the middle. Pope Francis is an exception. His language is simple; his pronouncements, credible and his rhetoric imbued with passion and commitment. By the way, I have not made up my mind about Janet Yellen! Pope Francis speaks in intelligible and easy to understand language. In his exchanges with the heads of states including Presidents Obama of US and Putin of Russia, his primary expressed concerns are peace, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and sheltering the homeless.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio born December 17, 1936 in Buenos Aires, Argentina was elected Pope in early 2013 and took the name Pope Francis after Saint Francis of Assisi. In fewer than ten months he managed to place himself in the center stage of the world. As one Journalist put it “He placed himself at the very center of the central conversations of our time: about wealth and poverty, fairness and justice, transparency, modernity, globalization, the role of women, the nature of marriage, and the temptation of power…:”

I like Pope Francis. To me, his admirable humanity asymptotically approaches Godliness. I look forward to reading his future encyclicals and seasonal Urbi et Orbis and anything else he has to say or write.

The Pope’s latest encyclical deals with the issue of climate control. The encyclical is a book length treatise consisting of six chapters, and a footnote of some 75 references. In one chapter, the stunning title “Ecological Education and Spirituality” the Pope examines our individual responsibility and the moral imperative of caring for our home, the earth. This is the first time, ever, I have seen the word “ecology” uttered by a Pope.

In this work, Laudato Si’ (praise be to you, my Lord) Pope Francis does not take sides on the controversy of climate change. He does not assert the correctness of “science” vs. “non-science” approach or assertion about climate change. He merely examines the issues and makes recommendations for being a more concerned and aware citizen of the world. To keep our home, the earth, clean and tidy. Care for the health of our common home, our earth, just like a father teaching his children the virtues of cleanliness. In his May 24, 2015 encyclical, Pope Francis states that “We can see God reflected in all that exists. Our hearts are moved to praise the Lord for all his creatures and worship him in union with them.” The Pope is not only a church father, a theologian, but a philosopher. This is a rare combination. In 2000 years history of the church we have had fewer than what you can count on one hand, people who qualified for the empyrean seat of “philosopher and Saint”. They are Saint Anthony (born early first Century; died middle of first century), Saint Augustine of Hippo (Nov 13, 354-August 28, 430 AD), Saint Ambrose (340-April 4, 397 AD), and Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225- March 7, 1274). Maybe you can add Pope Gregory (540-March 12, 604) to the list. I taste the delicious flavor of that rare combination—philosopher and saint–in the makings of Pope Francis. It is exciting!

In assessing Pope Francis’ spiritual place in the world, frankly, our Pope fits in the Sufi Khaneghah, as a Kalender, as a Jew in a synagogue, as a Buddhist in a Temple, as a Hindu reading and preaching Bhagavad Gita, and as a global evangelist re-inserting God in the lives of seven billion (soon to be eight billion) inhabitants of the earth. I am personally impressed that the Pope is evangelical and not evangelistic. In the true sense of the word, Pope Francis is a catholic (with small ‘c’)—a man of universe, a citizen of the world, a faithful and comfortable child of God who while exuding joy, conducts a consequential life.

Critic of his holiness’ Encyclical:

In Pope Francis’ May 24, 2015, “Laudato Si’, urging the world to act on climate change, what I find missing is a lack of emphasis on prevention. I fully agree that we should feed the hungry, clothes the naked and shelter the homeless. Those are the primary responsibilities of every child of God. However, in his encyclical, the Pope does not address the issues of how to prevent hunger, nakedness and homelessness. Very few suggestions, if any, are made on the Church’s directions and responsibilities for prevention, family planning, and birth control. No mention of investing in education to prevent generating irresponsible sex machines who reproduce, bring children to the world and abandon them.


*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).

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On Commencement

“Monday Musings” for Monday May 4, 2015

Volume V. No. 18/226


Commencement Address

William Peace University

Sunday May 2, 2015

By Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*


(Editor’s Note: Below is the Commencement address the writer delivered to the 2015 graduating class of William Peace University, Raleigh, NC)

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

I take the podium’s prerogative to ask for a moment of silence honoring the memory of my good friend, the late Trent Ragland, Jr., a former trustee of this beloved institution….  Thank you

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 anlage 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 a 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 a 100 degree heat 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, 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 dozens of 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 Greek.

In Greek, there are three words for love: Eros, the love involving sex, reproduction and carnal fusing necessary for procreation. 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, Khalil 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.


*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 Science of Memory

“Monday Musings”  for Monday April 20, 2015

Volume V.  No. 16/224

The Science Series: Memory

by Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*

Part I:  The nature of Memory

Faithful readers of this space recall our review of the book “Searching for Memory” by Daniel Schacter, a UNC alumnus and now professor of psychology at Harvard. In that book with an outline of different types of memory, Schacter devoted a broad section to persistent memory which is the hallmark of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, recurring unpleasant memories. In this piece, after describing and discussing the phenomenology and architectonics of memory and its types, I will focus on Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.

Schacter’s research explores the relation between conscious and unconscious forms of memory, the nature of memory distortions, how individuals use memory to imagine possible future events, enhancement of online learning, as well as the effects of aging on memory. In general, there are four large categories of memory which are always included in psychiatric evaluation and standard mental status examination. They are:

1)    Episodic memory: dealing with the patient’s ability to recount biographic data such as dates, places of significant events of life, marriage, birth of children, service in the Armed Forces, travels and jobs.

2)    Somatic memory: has to do with the functions of various parts of the brain, and the reaction of those brain structures to the cascade of neuronal hormones sweeping over them. Somatic memory is often affected by anxiety and depression.

3)    Procedural memory: how well the patient can repeat a series of numbers or objects forward and backward, immediately, or after a given time lapse, and how well the patient may recall a seven part story.

4)    Verbal fluency memory: testing a patient’s ability to generate words starting with a given letter, such as “O”. The number of such words generated in a given time, say one minute, and the quality of the words generated, reveal much about the patient’s memory and general fund of knowledge and vocabulary. For example, if a patient is asked to generate in one minute words starting with the letter ”O”, and he goes on like a machine giving words in alphabetic order such as “octave, octennial, octet, octillion, octillionth, October, octodecimo, octogenarian, octomerous, octoary, octoploid, octopod, octopus, octoroon, …” etc., you know that he excels in verbal fluency memory and is of superior intellect.

Schacter characterizes memory in a different way.  He calls these seven sins of memory “The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets”.

    • 1)  Transience–the decreasing accessibility of memory. Schacter cited as a somewhat facetious example former President Bill Clinton’s “convenient lapses of memory” during the Monica Lewinsky investigation. Clinton claimed in the hearings that he sometimes couldn’t remember what had happened the previous week.
    • 2)  Absent-mindedness–lapses of attention and forgetting to do things. Examples, said Schacter, are forgetting where you put your keys or glasses. He noted a particularly famous instance in which cellist Yo-Yo Ma forgot to retrieve his $2.5 million cello from the trunk of a New York City cab.
    • 3)  Blocking–temporary inaccessibility of stored information, such as tip-of-the-tongue syndrome. Schacter recounted the embarrassment of John Prescott, British deputy prime minister, when a reporter asked him how the government was paying for the expensive Millennium Dome. Prescott struggled to find the word “lottery,” trying “raffles” instead.
    • 4)  Suggestibility–incorporation of misinformation into memory due to leading questions, deception and other causes.
    • 5)  Bias— For example, research indicates that people currently displeased with a romantic relationship tend to have a disproportionately negative take on past states of the relationship.
    • 6)  Persistence–unwanted recollections that people can’t forget, such as the unrelenting, intrusive memories of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. They become a “tragic prisoner of memory,” and some eventually commit suicide.
    • 7)  Misattribution–attribution of memories to incorrect sources or believing that you have seen or heard something you haven’t.

Next week, Part II, we will discuss Post-traumatic Stress Disorder which has to do with sustained unwanted, obsessive intrusive memory.


*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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Onward, the NC Symphony

“Monday Musings” for Monday September 22, 2014

Volume IV, No, 37/137


(Editor’s Note:  The North Carolina Symphony is 82 years old.  We are pleased to observe the auspicious occasion by reprinting the News & Observer’s deputy editorial page editor, Mr. Jim Jenkins’ September 18, 2014 column.)

NC Symphony Plays a Rising Tune

By Jim Jenkins

As the North Carolina Symphony opens another classical season this week, the musicians will be elegantly attired and their instruments polished and tuned to perfection. Meymandi Concert Hall in downtown Raleigh will welcome the city’s prominent swells to the opening shows, and Grant Llewellyn, the magnetic Welshman who is the orchestra’s music director and public face, will again lead the symphony in musical triumph, no doubt.

Some will listen from up high in boxes, others will be in the orchestra level. My noble friend Dr. Assad Meymandi, the Raleigh physician who gave $2 million toward the concert hall named for his parents, will lean in intensely as he always does, taking in every note from his box. But all through the hall, in the boxes and above the floor, the spirits of more than 80 seasons past will be drifting and applauding in the hall.

One, of course, will belong to Maxine Swalin, for over 30 years the symphony’s impassioned advocate. Her husband, conductor Ben Swalin, another spirit in attendance, certainly helped bring the orchestra to prominence, saved it some would say, but it was Maxine Swalin who managed things, who went to classrooms all over North Carolina, when that wasn’t easy to do, and helped demonstrate for awestruck students the sounds of different instruments.

She saw in those faces, in all those hundreds or thousands of classes, eyes widen and mouths open at sounds the children had never heard before. Some would remember those sounds all their lives and develop, from that one visit, a passion for music. Yes, lives would be changed.

The symphony, this spectacular symphony, has come far since Maxine and Ben Swalin retired more than 40 years ago, but the nation’s first state-sponsored orchestra had its course well-charted by them and their successors, those other spirits you’ll feel in the hall this season.

It was never meant to be, since its infancy in 1932, a staid and stationary group. In 1943, improbably in a Southern state with rural roots, still with far to go on educating its people, and thousands of miles of unpaved roads, state lawmakers provided money for the orchestra, hardly enough to keep it going but an important symbol nonetheless.

And so Ben Swalin and his successors stayed true to the mission of bringing the symphony to the people, traveling statewide as a whole or in part, to bring classical music (and other forms) to the hamlets and hollows and cities and towns. It is in the memories of the children in those places, tens of thousands of them by now, for the tradition continues, that is found the heart of the North Carolina symphony.

In the memory of the kid from Shelby the sound of the cello offered some kind of inspiration that carried him through hard days at home. In the memory of a fifth grader from Moore County is that unmistakable timpani that brings a smile when she needs it. In the memory of one kid from Rock Ridge was his mother’s encouraging him to play violin after hearing the symphony. Jim Hunt served four terms as governor, but even now can call forth clear memories of his Mama and that violin.

Lives change even if those who hear the symphony as children never gain skills on an instrument, but learn to love music of any kind.

The symphony still goes to the people, still guided by the spirits and by extraordinary leaders who have followed them and some musicians with a dedication to their art that only those with music inside them, rising from their very souls, can have.

Meymandi Concert Hall, state of the art, made a big difference. So did conductors who followed Swalin and each, in his own way, advanced the musicianship. And so did those who are today parents themselves and remember when the symphony came to their town and the musicians came to their school, and now see their own kids inspired and entertained by this next generation of symphony players.

The pioneers paid it forward. But institutions such as this must never be taken for granted, though it’s easy to do that. Without the symphony, or the Museum of Art or the Museum of Natural Sciences or other magnificent institutions that honor and enlighten the people and especially the young people of the state, the color would be drained from this place.

So, Maestro Llewellyn, raise the baton and strike it up, if you please. There still are lives to be changed.


*The editor 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).

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On Two Seminal Events

“Monday Musings” for Monday September 15, 2014

Volume IV. No 37/137


Constitution Day and the  Birth of Samuel Johnson, Father of the English Dictionary

By: Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*

This week portends occurrence of two seminal, historic and consequential events worthy of observing and celebrating:

First, The US Constitution and Constitution Day:

On Sept. 17, 1787, exactly 227 years ago, the Founding Fathers of our beloved Republic signed the sacred document we know and cherish as the U.S. Constitution, giving birth to our great nation. No, America is not great because of its prosperity. It is not great because of the proverbial American Dream of a brick home with a two-car garage. It is not great because it gives us security, opportunity and order. It is not great because of its advanced technology and its number of Nobel Laureates in science, medicine, literature and humanities.  America is great because it is a nation of laws and because of its absolute commitment to uphold and maintain the supremacy of the rule of law. Today, Constitution Day, it is fitting to take a psychological scalpel, analyze and dissect what goes into America’s reverential devotion to upholding the rule of law. These two cases, one national, one local, dramatically and eloquently give us the reasons.

Psychiatrist Nidal Hasan went on a rampage on Nov. 5, 2009, killing 13 and wounding 32 of his fellow soldiers at his Texas military base. Speaking on his own behalf in court, he said, “The evidence will clearly show that I am the shooter.” Hasan is paralyzed below the chest and requires special medical attention at Brooke Army Medical Center. He is incontinent and in need of round-the-clock nursing care and rehabilitation. Also, there is a special security team assigned to protect his life day and night. He was tried in a specially fortified court room. Sources familiar with his care report that Hasan’s security detail rivals that of the president. The cost is in the millions.

Yes, the majesty of the supremacy of the rule of law in our beloved land of America is dramatically demonstrated by how we are treating an admitted killer. The American Dream is not vacation homes, technology and prosperity. It is our laws, our sacred Constitution and the sacrifice of the Founding Fathers that are the muscles, bones and spirit of the American Dream. The supremacy of the rule of law and not the whims of a dictator, a king, a shah or an ayatollah is the foundation of the majesty of American democracy.

On the local scene, a few years ago, with astonishment and awe, I sat and watched the court proceedings of former Gov. Michael Easley on television. I ws astonished, because a former chief executive officer of a sovereign state was being sentenced, and in awe, because of the unshakable and uncompromising supremacy of the rule of law in America.

America, from time to time, may go down financially we may experience high national debt and low employment, but we bounce back out of the doldrums. Nowhere on earth the sanctity and supremacy of the rule of law are so cherished and enshrined in our nation’s psyche. Our responsibility as Americans is to partake of the liberty, be a patriotic citizen and vote. Also,  In my view, the catechism of being an American should consist of a good knowledge, if not verbatim memorization, of four documents. They are The Declaration of Independence, US Constitution, The Bill of Rights, The Federalist Papers and George Washington’s Farewell Address. I believe every American child by 9thor 10th grade ought to memorize the 7200 words of The Declaration of Independence, The Bill of Rights, The Federalist Papers, and GW’s 6091-word Farewell Address to gain an appreciation for the responsibility of being and American. These four documents are the civic catechism of our beloved nation. We should be thankful for them. Long live America.

The second event is The birth of Dr. Samuel Johnson: 

This is a special week for the lovers of the lexicographers, especially the lovers of  the English language, because Samuel Johnson, the author and compiler of the first English dictionary was born on September 18, 1709. He spent his life compiling and collecting words while studying at Oxford for a doctorate degree. The book was finally published on April 7, 1755. In comparison, the Académie Française had forty scholars spending forty years to complete its dictionary, which prompted Johnson to claim, “This is the proportion. Let me see; forty times forty is sixteen hundred.  As three to sixteen hundred, so is the proportion of an Englishman to a Frenchman“.

Academie Francaise was literally created by Cardinal Richelieu in 1635, a full one hundred and twenty years before Johnson’s English Dictionary. So, Samuel Johnson had a lot of catching up to do.

 Permit me to relay a personal connection: The day Dr. Johnson announced the completion and publication of his dictionary was on Thursday April 7, 1755, at 11:00 AM. I arrived in United States, New York’s Idlewild Airport, on Thursday April 7, 1955, at 11:00 AM, exactly 200 years after the birth of the first English dictionary. While learning the English language and preparing to enter college pre-medical studies in September 1955, I learned about Dr. Johnson, and through the auspices of the Library of Congress, managed to find a copy of his original dictionary containing fifty thousand words, which I memorized.  In addition, I was memorizing the 285 thousand words of the 1955 edition of Oxford Dictionary. By the way, the first edition of the Oxford Dictionary was published 150 years after Johnson’s original dictionary. The love affair between me, Dr. Samuel Johnson, and the English language, over the years has only deepened.

We take our language for granted. But look, the English language is so fresh and young. It did not exist 2000 years ago.  Every English word we use was coined by someone, there was a need for its invention, and there is always an exciting story behind the circumstances of the creation. In depth learning of English words and language makes you a personal friend out of every word, so conceivable you can make 285,000 friends. No language on earth gives you free access to its ancestral roots—etymology—and no language is as flexible, changing and accommodating as the English lexicon.   Not only one may memorize and learn the meaning and use of each English word, but also learn about the etymology and origin of each word. I recommend this project as a stimulating pursuit- learn about the need and the occasion for creation of each English word, the person responsible for coining of the words, and the changes the words have undergone since their coinage. I my early days in America, I truly fell in love with the Samuel Johnson’s English language, and continue to cherish that precious love affair.

Back to this week’s hero. Dr. Johnson was a complex sort of fellow. He was posthumously diagnosed as a possible Tourette Syndrome victim (remember our Monday Musings about beloved Mozart who had the same presumed diagnosis). This is a condition whose victims engage in scatolalia, coprophilia, and uncontrollable motions-tics-with socially unacceptable manners that approach vulgarity. In the case of Samuel Johnson, these grotesque habits and gestures were aggrandized by his giant-like appearance, over six feet tall and a huge girth. Children often either ridiculed him or were afraid of him. Dr. Johnson studied and later on taught at Pembroke College, Oxford. He was a brilliant man, a brilliant writer, and a brilliant poet and historian. He had a rich scholastic and literary heritage, coming from a lineage of physicians and scholars. Stories abound that the Oxford aficionados, perhaps because of jealousy, delayed conferring the doctorate degree upon him. In return, in a true passive aggressive way, he delayed completion of his dictionary by several years…

Another very interesting story about Dr. Johnson is that he had a cadre of helpers who submitted material for the compilation of his dictionary. Among them, there was a surgeon, afflicted with paranoid schizophrenia who in a bout of delusion and paranoia had killed an innocent victim. He was put away for life in a mental hospital. This brilliant surgeon contributed as many as 5000 entries to Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary. The book “The Professor and the Madman” by Simon Winchester gives you a delicious read. Wonder where are the Samuel Johnsons of today!

Johnson visited the surgeon  in his mental hospital ward often.


*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 Few Thoughts

Monday Musing for Monday March 3, 2014

Volume IV, No, 9/165

Thinking Man

Thinking Things Through

By Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*

Inventing Disease To Sell Pills

I have spoken against the unholy alliance of medical-pharmaceutical complex. The alliance seems to medicalize all social ills and treat them with pills. Fortunately, our medical profession is doing away with free lunches, free trips and free favors provided by drug companies. Yes, in medicine, we do have waste, duplication and in some instances, fraud. The US medical system is broken and expensive. It is eating 17 % of the gross domestic product (GDP) annually. However, the line must be drawn. I am referring to the recent decision by US Preventive Health Service (USPH) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to disallow prostate specific antigen (PSA) test for cancer of prostate. In the US, there are roughly 250,000 patients with cancer of prostate annually of whom about 10%, or 28,000 die. Cancer of prostate is one of the most painful types of cancer especially if it metastasizes (spreads) to the adjacent pelvic bones. PSA is a reliable test to measure the rate of progress in prostate cancer. If the values shown by the test are rapidly elevated from year to year, more aggressive treatment is indicated.

The rational for disallowing the test is that all men will get cancer of prostate if they live beyond 80. USPA and FDA suggest that since there is only a small percentage of the afflicted who die, it is much too expensive to run tests and do procedures on a relatively non-lethal disease. The denial of testing is a cost saving measure.

No, I am not a urologist.  No, I am not writing to suggest how wrong it is to disallow this vital test because I am on the north side of 70, and am slowly approaching the decade of octogenary. I write because I believe it is fundamentally wrong to politicize the medical profession. Disallowing PSA test is the start of a slide on the slippery slopes to ultimate formation of “Death Panels” designed to determine who gets dialysis, transplants and ventilators. Let’s not pursue that ominous path. American government is not a socialized monolith, nor should it be allowed to become one.


Alcohol and College Age Students

While prohibition is often counterproductive, I believe the answer to binging, abuse and unreasonable use of alcohol is education. The answer also lies in curtailing greed and hunger for money. The university leaders ought to cut out advertising of beer from all TV sports. It is sheer greed to have alcohol products sponsoring sports events, and it is sheer hypocrisy for university leaders to tolerate this practice because it produces revenue for their institutions. Ban alcohol ads from all television sports.


A Brief History of Duke

Next time you are in Scotland, be sure you will take the time and visit Edinburgh Botanic Garden, (they call it Botanic and not Botanical Garden), all 300 acres of plush land every inch planned and designed to perfection. They have trees as acrobatics twisting around boulders and walls. The trees and shrubs look like dancers doing the ballet of life.The air in that piece of heaven is pure-bearing the promise of eternity and the ether of many tomorrows. It is in many ways a replica of Angkor Wat of Cambodia.

A bit of history:

327 years ago, the plot of land—the Botanic Garden of Edinburgh–was used to plant the pharmacopeia for Edinburgh Medical School. They had foxglove (Digitalis), opium, sunflower seed oil, tarragon and other herbs. Four of the Edinburgh Doctors came to US to start the Johns Hopkins University, and in 1931, four of the JH’s University physicians came to NC to start Duke Medical School. An aside, one of the four was pathologist, Dr. Wiley Forbus whose daughter George Ellen married Raleighite Duke medical student, who became a psychiatrist, the late Wilmer Betts—we used to tease Wilmer that he married the professor’s daughter so he would get a passing grade in pathology. So, Duke and North Carolina  have a direct intellectual and professional connection with Scotland and Edinburgh University


Canary And The Mine

It seems that the arts and humanities are the canaries and the mine, the first victims of any tight budget. The recent elimination of music programs in Peace University and Meredith College, without any public hearing and discourse, was appalling. I learned about them through the pages of our Raleigh News and Observer, only after the ugly and unwelcome deed was done. I do hope that the new administration of both these fine and historic institutions of higher learning will revive their programs of the arts and humanities.


Tobacco Should Be Regulated By FDA

I strongly disagree with Senators Richard Burr and Kay Hagan in their united front against stricter regulation on tobacco as reported by the press. Congressman Henry Waxman, whose voting record waxes and wanes, got this one right. Food and Drug Administration should be in charge of regulating tobacco products and the tobacco industry. Tobacco is a killer. It is a dangerous drug. Growing tobacco is not any different from growing coca leaves to produce cocaine. Why we have such an ominous and morally bankrupt double standard for nicotine is beyond any reasonable thinking. And why the two NC Senators have taken a leave of their common sense and oppose the much-needed regulation proposed by other solons, is confounding. We need to treat tobacco the same way we treat cocaine.


*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 Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Monday Musings” for

Monday April 8,2013

Volume III, No. 13/116

Monday Musings 

By: Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD,

Dietrich Bonhoeffer – His Legacy of Noble writing, justice and moderation


Exactly 68 years ago, On April 9, 1945, on the gray morning of Easter week, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged. He was 30. Germany was on the verge of total defeat. But Hitler’s killing machine was still operating. Bonhoeffer was charged as a traitor to Hitler and to the Nazi regime. We are dedicating today’s “Monday Musings” to honor the memory of this outstanding scholar, theologian, Lutheran pastor and writer. Bonhoeffer was the son of a well to do and prominent German neurologist, professor of neurology and psychiatry at the University of Berlin and the director of the psychiatric clinic at Charité Hospital in Berlin, Dr. Karl Bonhoeffer. Dietrich, with his twin sister, were the fifth and sixth of eight children. His mother, Paula von Hase, was a daughter of Klara von Hase, a Countess by marriage who had been a pupil of Clara Schumann and Franz Liszt Paula was a college graduate and home-schooled the children. The family was full of classical musicians and music advocates. He was in America in 1930, and later pastored miners and common people in Barcelona as a pastor and not academic theologian. He was interested in ecumenism. He concentrated on removing and neutralizing Hitler and his despotic regime.

Dietrich was an exceptional pianist, and his parents thought he might pursue a music career. He was also athletic and played championship tennis and chess. He was expected to follow his father into neurology and psychiatry, but he surprised and dismayed his parents when he decided by age of fourteen to become a theologian and later a pastor. When his older brother told him not to waste his life in such a “poor, feeble, boring, petty, bourgeois institution as the Church”, 14-year-old Dietrich replied: “If what you say is true, I shall reform it!”  What we learn from his later life, he was a martyr, too. Just like Socrates who had a chance to escape the prison where he was awaiting death sentence on charges of corrupting the youth of Athens, Dietrich, too, had a chance to accept the help of the World Council of Churches and flee to US. But he did not. He waited his trial, spending two years in jail before his execution. During his time in jail, he wrote a series of articles and treatises about human rights and humanities that approach Socratic dialogues in their eloquence and Plato’s Republic in the beauty of poetry and linguistic supremacy. From prison, he also wrote love letters to his twin sister. The collection of these letters and the ones written to other members of his family and friends provide superb reading to understand the potential strength of conscience and man’s devotion to the truth. And the truth to him was that the Nazi Regime was despotic in need of elimination. He was a participant in the German resistance movement against Nazism and a founding member of the Confessing Church. His involvement in plans by members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office) to assassinate Adolf Hitler resulted in his arrest in April 1943 and his subsequent execution by hanging in April 1945, 23 days before the Nazis’ surrender. However, recent research now challenges the assumption that he was directly involved in the assassination attempt. His view of Christianity’s role in the secular world is well-known. He did not advocate theocracy, but strongly suggested that humanity ought to be governed by laws that are fair, righteous and moral. As a matter of fact, the last thing he did before approaching the gallows, he was reading from his pocket edition of Plutarch, and was quoting from Bible. Faithful readers of this space recall that we reviewed Plutarch book “Moralia”. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was reading passages from that book before his execution.

Bonhoeffer has written 25 books all worth reading and re-reading. From the collection, I find myself going back to two volumes, Act and Being.

Like any classic literature, Bonhoeffer’s writings have a theme, are written with elevated and noble language, and change the lives of the readers.  His pen continues to speak to us today.


*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 Persian History and Christianity

“Monday Mornings” for Monday March 18, 2013

Volume III, No. 11/115


Norooz, Persian (Iranian) New Year

By Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*


March 21, the first day of spring, vernal equinox, is also the first day of the Persian New Year. Iranians will celebrate year 5774 on Thursday. The Persian people and the Persian civilization were there before Moses (1590 BC-1470 BC, lived to be 120 years) wrote the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament (scholarship not-withstanding)……

The Persians were there before the Code of Hammurabi, the Babylonian law code, was written in 1772 BC.

Persia, the Persian Empire and Zoroaster gave humanity monotheism, and issued the first declaration of human rights. Persia was there before the Old and the New Testaments….

Avesta was there before the Synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation…. Monotheism was exhorted in Gata and the Book of Gushtasb by Zarathustra before Moses wrote about Yahweh….

The Zoroastrian code of conduct: “good thought, Good word, and Good deed” was there long before the Ten Commandments…

Cyrus the Great of Persia liberated the Jews 500 years BC (Babylonian Captivity). There are dozens of references made to him and to the Persian Empire in the Bible. In Isaiah 45 Cyrus is named Messiah. Additional references may be found in Chronicles, Ezra, Daniels, Hezekiah, Maccabees 1, Maccabees 2, Maccabees 3, Maccabees 4, Maccabees 5, Esdras, Sirach, and Esther. 

The world’s first charter of human rights, Cyrus Cylinder, housed in the British Museum, has started its exhibition tour in the United States. It is being exhibited in Arthur M Sackler Gallery (the late Dr. Sackler was a psychiatrist).  It will go to J Paul Getty Museum, Los Angles, in December. The writing is elegant cuneiform (Mikhi) script (link below).

And the Persian New Year, vernal equinox, when the day and night are equal and exactly 12 hours long, representing nature’s exquisite justice, was celebrated 5774 years ago, in the month of Edar Awal which followed the month of Shavat, as the Persian new year or Norooz. Therefore, on March 21, vernal equinox, we celebrate Norooz, the first day of the Persian calendar 5774.

We are Persians; we are inheritors of such dazzling history and civilization….

And with humility and gratitude, we share this joyous occasion with all humanity.  Happy Norooz (New Day, New Year) to All.


 *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)


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On Goethe, Two Revolutions and Rights

“Monday Musings” for March 11, 2013

Volume III.  No. 10/114


Mein Herr, die Zeiten der vergangenheit sind

uns ein Buch mit sieben Siegeln.  Der Geist, den

Ihr den geist der Xeiten heisst, das ist zumeist

der Herren eigener Geist, in dem die Zeiten sich


                                                              Goethe, Faust

 George-Washington-resigned-his-commission-as-Commander-in-Chief-of-the-Army-to-the-Congres-December-23-1783.                     Goethe_(Stieler_1828)


By Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*

Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe is to German literature what Shakespeare is to English, Voltaire to French, Ferdowsi to Farsi and Eusebius of Pamphili (Josephus) to Arameic.  The magisterial and imposing volume of collected work of Goethe is a good companion to pick up and hold (if you don’t have a bad back!), and read. It does wonders for the soul.  The part I like the most is Goethe’s treatment of history. Right after the American and French revolutions in the late eighteenth century, two Republics were created, one led by George Washington and the other by Napoleon Bonaparte, both military men of substance and valor. Napoleon went on to be defeated and exiled while George Washington went on to be lionized and immortalized in the annals of human history. Goethe’s sage observation of both revolutions and these two men are of historic significance. George Washington’s gift for limiting his appetite for power is considered by Goethe as a “remarkable and rather rare attribute.” After fathering America, serving two terms as President, like the famed Greek General, Cincinnatus, he returned to his farm. He liberated his slaves and worked and lived as an ordinary citizen. However, Napoleon’s expansive ego, maniacal greed and insatiable appetite for power brought him an ignominious ending and demise. As students of history, we can learn that Washington’s character, his self-discipline and altruism, placing the welfare of his country before anything else, poured the foundation of our Republic. Washington and the framers of US Constitution have given us not a perfect system of government, but one that can be purged from time to time to ensure its lasting health.

America’s constitution and its rule of law are the envy of the world. Several years ago, while in Siberia, I learned that in order to create a lasting government, they were translating the US Constitution verbatim. Our system has withstood the Watergate, the 2000 voting debacle, the Clinton-Lewinsky histrionics and many more crises with not a shot fired. With the celebratory gains of civil rights, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, America’s passion for individual right and its reverential devotion to freedom and protection of First Amendment are transcendent. In the annals of the history of Neolithic man, there are no parallel in these collective achievements.

Our nation endured unprecedented tragedy on September 11, 2001. Patriotism was at a fever pitch high. We rallied around our flag.  Unprecedented amounts of money were contributed to assist the victims. Americans love their country. When in trouble, its citizens come to its rescue. However, in my mind, as a citizen by choice and not by birth, one of the most puzzling and astonishing issues is our collective apathy toward voting and electing our representatives. The local election office tells me that, in general, fewer than 20% of registered voters cast their votes. An online survey of the national picture is not any better.  Across the nation, the voting rate was about 22%! There are gazillions of people paying more than as forty to fifty dollars even over one hundred dollars attending rock concerts, but very few go to the polls to vote at no cost in an ultimately beneficial endeavor to them. I believe voting is the most elemental way that citizens could (and should) show their patriotism. We hope to see a better turnout in all US elections.


*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).

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