Posts Tagged ‘pneumonia’

brief candle

May 8, 2010

It wasn’t the Friday it was supposed to be, grading from dawn to dusk, and so it will be a grading weekend. Forrest was right, you never know what you’re gonna get.

Before heading down the pike once more to administer one last exam, the one flooded out on Monday, I stopped by the radiologist’s for my latest close-up. Just need to confirm that this barking hack isn’t my old pneumococcal nemesis back for a return engagement. Fingers crossed.

Then, gratefully released back into the light I had to take a moment to inspect the Richland Creek Greenway behind the radiology lab. The flood’s damage there was extensive. Damn. But the  good news: they’re at work constructing a new path that will extend to Knob Road.

Before finally giving that final final, there were three final report presentations to hear. Tanasha’s on Darwin gave me an excuse to mention “Darwin Got it Goin On,” which I’d just tweeted about, and to remind everyone that Darwinism and Social Darwinism are two different critters. Most students have been misinformed, usually by pastors and pietists, about that.

Then, to the Dean’s memorial service not far from school. Not surprisingly, the turnout was huge. He was a Dean’s Dean, up from our ranks but still one of us. It was a delight to meet his twin brother Tom McDaniel, whose eulogy was the highlight of the service.

There were a couple of lowlights I must report. One was the pew-mate who took offense at my colleague’s and my brief pre-service conversation, inspired by the Dean’s love of baseball. The Dean would not have understood or endorsed her protest, I’m guite sure.

Another was the hollow sanctimony of the officiating minister. All those smug, desperate, incredible assurances that mortality is a fiction. I wish the Dean had written the service.He did write his own obituary:

Having lived ‘the examined life’ with animated good humor, Dr. McDaniel leaves behind few regrets and many memorable moments… Teaching Shakespeare’s tragedies for four decades left him with the distinct impression that almost everyone dies in the end, though he had hoped that perhaps in his case an exception would be made.

But not really. A good Shakespearian, like a good Confucian or a good Taoist or a good Humanist, knows better than to seek light from an expired wick.

But he also knows that there are other candles. Like me, the Dean walked every day past a tablet on our campus– located near the historic Walnut Grove, the stand of trees germinated by seeds harvested at George Washington’s Mount Vernon– bearing the Plutarchian wisdom that “the mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be lighted.”  Our good friend John lighted many fires.

Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more.

One of our very best players has left the stage. Those of us still on it who bade farewell to our friend and teacher yesterday are very fortunate to have studied with a master. Our tomorrows will creep less pettily for the privilege.

Postscript. We were also privileged, last night, to bask in the impressive collective wattage of Younger Daughter and her peers at the 5th grade “Cafe Night” talent show. One candle dims, countless others flare up. The future looks bright.


September 19, 2009

Went, on my GP’s advice, for a precautionary chest x-ray yesterday morning. It revealed an unwelcome little swirl of  infection in the lower quadrant of my left lung, nothing much to look at but the tech said it raised a flag that could spell pneumonia.

Had that before, a few years ago, when it responded quickly to targeted treatment. And my doc, having seen it before too, was a step ahead and had already started me on the appropriate meds when I arrived for my morning snapshots yesterday. So I had no medical reason to panic, and no contagious fever. That might be why I took in the news with stoic calm and relative indifference, then phoned home to share it, and then hopped in the car and drove to work. All just like normal, on what turned out to be a very good day of classes.

dont-panic-copyOr maybe I didn’t panic because I’ve always been a diligent follower of Douglas Adams’ travel advice.

Or maybe it’s because I had Seneca on my mind, and his praemeditatio:

The wise will start each day with the thought…

Fortune gives us nothing which we can really own.

Nothing, whether public or private, is stable; the destinies of men, no less than those of cities, are in a whirl.

Whatever structure has been reared by a long sequence of years, at the cost of great toil and through the great kindness of the gods, is scattered and dispersed in a single day. No, he who has said ‘a day’ has granted too long a postponement to swift misfortune; an hour, an instant of time, suffices for the overthrow of empires.

How often have cities in Asia, how often in Achaia, been laid low by a single shock of earthquake? How many towns in Syria, how many in Macedonia, have been swallowed up? How often has this kind of devastation laid Cyprus in ruins?

We live in the middle of things which have all been destined to die.

Mortal have you been born, to mortals have you given birth.

Reckon on everything, expect everything.

Or maybe it’s because I’m one of the lucky winners of the cortical lottery and, being a glass-half-full kind of guy, just always expect things to work out. “Optimists have a high happiness set point, habitually look on the bright side, and easily find silver linings.” (Jon Haidt)  Not sure that’s really me, or (if it is) that it came by way of the genetic lottery. But I do mine for silver.

Or maybe my health care safety net, provided by my employer the state– I work for its  Enormous State University– accounts for my confidence that the  little invasive blip will soon  be  gone, at no crippling expense to our family budget or my emotional equanimity. That’s a confidence I share with a great many state and national politicians who’ve been ranting about the evils of socialism and railing against the the very “public option” we take for granted. I hope the ranters remember that in these unsettled times, state employees like us don’t have the job security or safety net to support long-term confidence in the containment of personal health costs.

Well, whatever the source I’m grateful for the resources that made yesterday’s little bump in the road nothing to rage And I’m amused to discover that my pulmonary consultant from years back was also Younger Daughter’s softball coach. We didn’t recognize one another as doctor-patient, after a single office visit, at the ball-fields. We were wearing different hats there.