Clinical ethics, Buddhism, Consolations

Was up way before dawn today, but instead of repairing promptly to the blogspot I had instead to deal with dogs. They usually live in their own space out back, in the “barn,” but with the mercury dipping so low we brought ’em in. So, lucky me, I got to take ’em out at 5 am and experience the thrill of polar vortex at first hand.

It didn’t kill me. In fact it inspired. What a magnificent planetarium show I’ve been missing. The stars! So amazing always, but even more boggling when you’ve just stumbled out of slumber and not quite come back to yourself. Why do we let ourselves sleep and blog obliviously through that, day after day, when we could be gazing and wondering at eternity? Another cost of comfort we forget to calculate.

But it did throw me off my routine. I’m sold on the life- and meaning-giving properties of habit, but a little deviation from time to time is good for the spirit. There’s a cosmic meaning-space out there you can’t really find any other time of day. Mustn’t be a stranger to it.

Today in Bioethics: clinical ethics issues like the status of fetal life, transplantation, regenerative medicine, mental health, end of life care, and much more. The binding thread is respect for the lives, autonomy and dignity of all humans, including (from the POV of caregivers) all patients. 

And that connects nicely with today’s A&P topic, Buddhism & Science. Owen Flanagan is interested in naturalizing Buddhism, making it safe and meaningful for atheists and humanists. There too, the thread that binds is one of respect for all sentient beings, compassion for their suffering, amelioration of their pain.

Pain and suffering give rise to Lamentations, which in turn elicit Consolations in our humanist Good Book. We’ll again go around our circle of friends and nominate favorite verses. I like those of the Stoics. Two jump out at me this morning, with the memory of loss fresh in mind. (Seneca is the source here, I think.)

“The remembrance of lost friends is a good; It honors them and consoles us, and keeps them with us in our hearts.” Consolations 4.16-17

“Whatever can happen at any time can happen today.” Consolations 4.39

And then, again, there is the deep cosmic consolation of the stars. We are starstuff, we are golden, we are in the garden already. We must tend it.


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