...are the ones that make the biggest difference


Why are you doing this?

Part of my nightly duties includes giving at least 2 baths to patients. Sometimes that's easy, sometimes finding a willing participant can be difficult. A couple of weeks back, I had to bathe a lady because she was having problems with a drainage bag. She's alert & oriented, but has had multiple abominal surgeries in a relatively short period. The doctors apparently used the same incision site several times and now it is taking a very long time to heal. So I was in her room at about 4am giving her a bath after the nurse had finished reapplying her dressings and fixing the drainage back for probably the 3rd time that night. On the other patient's tv was an infomercial for a pornographic video set. I will be circumspent because I don't want a bunch of hits based on the search term, but its basically "Young Women Gone Crazy" or "Females Devoid of All Inhibition." This is a company that has been around for a number of years and started out, from what I understand, making compilations of girls drunkenly displaying their assets for the camera at bars and frat-parties - spur of the moment stuff. Anyways, the curtain was closed so all I heard was the audio, but I've seen brief snatches of it as its been on in other patient's rooms (it seems to be on every morning about 4 or 5am). This latest video set is not the usual drunken debauchery. Instead, the producers have whisked (apparently) dozens of girls away to an island location for some Olympic-style pornographic games with plenty of depraved variations.

I know porn exists, I know many, many men are heavily involved in it and have even looked at it myself, thankfully not getting "hooked" in any way. So usually when this kind of thing presents itself I just dismiss it as yet another example of our fallen world. But this night was different, largely because of the patient I was working with. She is in her early 60's and, according to her chart, battled drug addiction for a goodly portion of her life. And she told one of the other aides (a woman) that she had also worked as a prostitute to support her drug habit. The juxtaposition of this woman, hurting in body & soul, burdened from a lifetime of being used by men, laying in a hospital bed with practically no family and who will almost certainly die alone, and the women who willingly subject themselves to that kind of degradation for some stupid video was especially acute. I can understand why this woman, as it happens with so many women, got caught up in the humiliation and degradation of prostitution. I've known several people who were drug addicts and the horror of that dependency can drive people to insane lengths to feed their habit. But these women on the screen, the one's exposing themselves or putting on female-on-female sexual displays for what? a few bucks? the approval of some guy with a camera? or some lonely schmuck who can only find a glimmer of emotional fulfillment from his DVD player or internet connection? I don't get it. What is missing in them that they are willing to humiliate themselves, to abuse their bodies & souls in this way for what can only amount to a fleeting feeling of acceptance and approval? What is wrong with them? Moreover, what is wrong with the men who rely on these sexual crutches? I think this is the real crux of the matter. If men didn't want it, if they didn't watch it, then this kind of thing would not exist. So why do so many men seek fulfillment in watching an endless parade of women degrade themselves? Why can't they connect with a real woman? Why do they abuse their body and souls with this kind of depravity? What is wrong with our society that we produce people like this and that so many consider this "normal"? How have we so disempowered women that they willingly subject themselves to these things?

I know I'm only echoing questions that have been voiced many thousands of times by people far more astute and well-spoken than myself, but I could not help but see this differently after getting to know someone who has lived that reality.

I've got $20...

in an Amazon gift card burning a hole in my (online) wallet - any suggestions for books or music?


Obstetrics 'R' Us

I'm sitting in a coffee house working on my joke of a communications paper - I mean, what exactly does a 5 page research paper accomplish? - and 2 men sitting at the table right next to me, who are either doctors or hospital administrators, are having a fascinating discussion about potential models for some hospital's obstetrics department. Given the sensitive nature of their discussion one would think they'd be a little more discreet, but such is not the case. The basic thrust of their conversation is how to market their hospital better while controlling costs through changing the way their hospital delivers babies. I was doing a good job of focusing on my paper until one of them started talking about why many doctors prefer c-sections to vaginal births. Apparently, traditional birth, ie, the way humanity has done it since we were created, is "hard" on a woman and c-sections are just better. Oh, and its relatively cheap, too. From there, they've moved on to talking about offering massages, facials and aromatherapy as well as a 30-minute sit-down with the doctor who will actually be delivering the child. Really? A whole 30-minutes with the man who will be cutting my wife open to save on malpractice insurance costs? Gosh, doctor, thanks for wasting your time with us.

Another way to contain costs, apparently, is also to take a "team" approach using several nurse midwifes under the direction of an obstetrician. At least one of the midwives will be at the hospital at all times in case of an emergency delivery and the doctor would be on call. This seems like a good plan - most nurse midwives are skilled & dedicated professionals, but they seriously questioned whether or not a woman should be given a choice in picking which midwife or doctor they wanted to bring their child into the world. They thought they could just introduce the whole team to the expectant mother and say "one of these people will do the delivery." One guy did have the sense to wonder if most women would go along with that system. From my perspective, I don't care what the women think I DON'T LIKE IT! No way would I want my wife and child left into the hands of the person who just happened to get the short straw that day. I want to know and trust the person who will literally be taking my wife's and my child's life in their hands.

Ahhh, the world of medicine-as-business...what am I getting myself into?


Untrodden Portal: III

In lieu of any meaningful posting for the next few days - the bulk of my finals and projects will be done by next Tuesday - I'm bringing this post to the top of the stack. An interesting debate about Mary's sinlessness, original sin and a host of side issues has sprouted. Read, comment, enjoy.

Its been a while since I've had time to read any of Gabriel's Mary: The Untrodden Portal of God, but I got some time this afternoon so I figured I'd best keep up with my series on it. Chapter 4 focuses on a refutation of certain gnostic heresies that claimed Christ was not born according to the natural rules of childbirth. Chapter 5 discusses the Dormition and Chapter 6 details the differences between Orthodoxy's understanding of Mary's birth & death and that of Catholicism. I found that chapter most illuminating, primarily because I haven't really studied this subject matter before.

As I haven't heard of any modern commentators claiming that Jesus actually transpired out of Mary's side, I won't get too in depth with chapter 4. It was interesting to see how far the ancient heretics went to avoid the reality of the Incarnation for fear of contaminating divinity with materiality. It seems people will ever vacillate between a false asceticism that sees all matter as either evil or as completely void of all spiritual significance, and the hedonism that says matter is all there is so we might as well enjoy it. Christians have, for obvious reasons, tended towards the former and I see subtle strands of that in many Protestant thinkers. Not "all matter is evil" but that matter is empty, its meaningless and holds no import for spiritual matters. It is present in the pragmatic iconoclasm and austerity of our worship spaces, in the refusal to bless objects or regard any place as holy, to name but a few examples. It is a tired repetition and one I hope we will eventually be rid of.

Chapters 5 & 6 are closely linked in Gabriel's mind and he lays the groundwork in 5 to explore the key differences and their implications in 6. I knew Orthodoxy had special views about Mary's death and her role in heaven, but did not know the particulars. I found it particularly striking that Orthodoxy emphasizes her true humanity by acknowledging her death, whereas Catholicism is forced, by certain tenets of Augustinian theology, to deny it. As Gabriel rightly points out, the language of the Assumption can indeed lead to Mariolatry in one form or another. If no one is exempt from original sin except Christ and Mary, why, it makes perfect sense to begin elevating Mary above and beyond her proper role in relation to Christ. But Orthodoxy knows that this is not the case, that whatever she is, she is only that because of her relation to Christ. Though she was without the stain or blemish of sin, she still inherited the generational consequences of it, ie, death. She had to die because she was human but her theosis rendered her body incorruptible and as Gabriels says, "her bodily translation from Earth reflected the real mystery and awesome power of the Incarnation and the promise of the same incorruption for all."

Of course, the Protestant in me is going nuts about the thought of Mary being whisked away into heaven. Mother of God or no, it just seems wrong somehow. But then again, we know even less about Enoch (Gen 5:24) and we're told he was taken up into heaven. Elijah was a great prophet and he was taken up, so why do we have such a hard time acknowledging even the possibility that Mary received similar treatment? Yes, its not in the Bible and that is a key difference, but frankly, and this is becoming a similar refrain as I discuss Orthodoxy with people, quite a bit isn't in the Bible. We're told Jesus appeared to as many as 500 people at one time (1 Cor 15:6) after His resurrection and we don't receive a single piece of information about when this happened, who was there, or what Jesus said or did at this important event. We're not told what Jesus was writing in the sand in John 8, nor are we told what Jesus, Moses & Elijah talked about on Tabor. I think Protestants like to pretend that the Bible is just chock-full of all kinds of useful tidbits and that there aren't any blank spaces. There's nothing that needs to be filled in, nothing that can't be answered. But that's a load of crap! We're missing so much and so much of it is important stuff that I'm increasingly finding it hard to give a whole lot of credence to the argument that "its not in the Bible so it must be wrong."

So as I consider the Dormition, I have to say it makes a certain kind of sense. If you accept that grace redeems not just souls but physicality as well, then the unlimited font of grace we find in Christ that dwelt in Mary had to have an effect on her. It had to have changed her somehow, and if the Ark of the Covenant was treated with such absolute reverence that whatever place it entered became holy, how could we but view Mary's body as holy as well? And does it makes sense that God would toss something holy like that into the ground to rot?


Staving off a finals-induced stupor

The last 2 weeks have been rather uneventful thanks to the dull monotony of nearly constant studying - and I haven't even hit finals yet! I'm not sure why teachers thing scheduling large exams the week before finals hit is a good idea, but its happened. And one of my teachers changed all his due dates, so now I'm currently behind in that (worthless) class - on to more homework.