Archive for June, 2008

For Father’s Day a couple days ago, I got to see both ends. First, from my son who’s majoring in creative writing, he put all his skill into … finding and sending this ecard.

like a father

OK, er, thanks.

Then at church that day, I was in the Jr High class where I help out. I was with the 6th grade boys, who were given a flat stone, and asked to write or draw something relating to God’s faithfulness. I sat down by one boy who had written ‘Dad’ on one side. I asked about it, and – without seeming disturbed about it – he showed the other side, which said ‘Left’ and mentioned something about how while God was always around, his dad had left. Sigh.

With this simple episode I think we can summarize the basic Christian concept of how things work. I think it all boils down to:

(a) God is good
(b) People are messed up in a variety of ways. (When worked out in all their subtle ramifications, this can eventually lead to ‘Dad Left’ on a kid’s rock.)
(c) Because (a) is true, there’s at least some home for people in the (b) category, i.e. all of us.

There’s a lot more to Christian faith, of course, but it’s pretty much just an expansion and detail-filling on the good-God / broken-people / hope-for-people-due-to-good-God thing.

Or not? Let me know.


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Funny Money

Well enough bills have trickled in that it’s time to post the final total for my brain upgrade to v 2.0. Without bothering to add in the $180 for the MRI in India and the $6 neurologist visit there, my count puts the total at a little over: $266,000. With that kind of money I could fill up my car’s gas tank five or six times.

The insurance company did the honorable job of stepping up and keeping me from having to sell my house and/or my children. They have negotiated rates with the providers, so they ended up “only” paying about $188,000. I paid a small piece for deductibles and the rest magically disappeared in the negotiated rates thing.

There were some 55 medical bills ranging from $30 up to this whopper from the hospital, which covered many things like the rooms, xrays, ct scans, and a little $30,000 item called “OR (operating room) services.” (Click on it to see it in life-$ized glory.)

Harborview bill

Better start saving some pennies for my next upgrade.

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I recently read an interesting book by a stroke victim. Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain scientist, had a signficant stroke at age 37. Some 8 years later she felt that she had fully recovered, and undertook writing My Stroke of Insight.

As she discusses frequently in the book, she lost much of the connection between the right and left sides of the brain, and for a long time her detail-oriented left brain was out of order. That gave her an intriguing take on the world, as in for example how she couldn’t always tell where shapes began and ended, and didn’t know what color was for a while.

Her stroke experience was quite a story, how she knew she was having it, but due to its effect she almost failed to get help. She sat by her phone trying to stay focused on using it to call for help. You can see a synopsis of the experience on this video (thanks Cheri!): Jill Bolte Taylor’s talk.

Her recovery is certainly spectacular and inspiring, and I think the way that she slowly but surely works her way back (with her mother’s help) to apparently normal brain function is inspiring. It should prove helpful for others who suffer similarly.

I think, however, that she has a tendency to mix and mistake scientific observation for her philosophical or religious leanings. I’m all for advocating a philosophy and building a sound position to try to convince others that one’s thinking reflects reality. The opposite end would be rampant speculation with little solid support, and I think Taylor does that increasingly thoughout the book. For example, she takes her “right-brained experiences” as new insights, such as perceptions of energy all around and a vague fluidity / oneness with the universe due in part to an inability to distinguish shapes. Curiously, the more likely possibility never seems to occur to her: that these were the results of brain malfunction, not new and accurate function.

My mini-strokes were 1/1000 the magnitude of what she went through, but during the episodes I was always under the impression that I missing something, and that as my perception would return, I would see how I had been a bit befuddled a moment earlier without quite realizing it.

[A commenter on this post provides a site with some others who don’t necessarily think Taylor’s ideas are top-notch science, here.]

Hey, let’s continue rambling on a bit. This tendency to overstep from speaking authoritatively on scientific details, to trying to speak just as authoritatively on other areas may be a common temptation. One popular example is with the biologist Richard Dawkins, who writes on evolution-related topics. His most recent work, The God Delusion, is largely a philosophical work on theism, in which he speaks with scientist-like confidence despite being often over his head.

I’ve heard a decent philosopher explain his frustration with Dawkins’ attempt to do philosophy. And one of my favorite philosophers, Alvin Plantinga, gives a review here and finds him a bit unskilled in that field. As does my faviorite blogger, David Heddle (“favorite” because he’s the only one I read semi-regularly), who happens to be a physicist — see last part of this post.

And this post, of course, was speculative philosophy authoritatively delivered direct from the depths of my right brain.

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