I'm halfway through the new Ross Douthat book, "The Deep Places", and it's riveting. Can’t put it down. It’s a memoir about his illness, Lyme disease and now I’m borderline obsessed with his life. A killer quote:
In my state, I felt like I had grasped a crucial secret: that good health is basically a superpower, which I had wasted once but never again, and any amount of money lost on treatment could be earned back, with interest, if only I had those superhuman powers back.
He also writes sharply of the radical dichotomy between the medical establishment’s blasé attitude towards the disease and the Connecticut community who know someone who have it and know how real it is. (We've all seen that now with the media, where they live in an entirely different mental landscape.) He found the official line from doctors versus the lived experience of even wealthy, very stable types “consistently startling”. I thought about how another’s health or happiness is so impervious to our ability to really influence... Often, how little even doctors can do.
“For the young, intense physical suffering was a lightning strike; for older people it generally became the weather...There was comfort there, sort of: I was just living in a storm that had rolled in a little early. But there was also betrayal, because so little of my education prepared me for this part of life.”
It’s an interesting juxtaposition to be reading this with the Eric Metaxas book ("Is Atheism Dead?") on the amazing series of “fortunate accidents” that God used to have life on our planet. There's a gentleness there. As the Psalm goes, “When I see the work of your hands, the moon and the stars which you arranged, what is man that you should keep in mind?”
This “arrangement” of the moon and the stars takes on a new lustre with the science backdrop, how crucial Jupiter be as big as it is, how crucial the moon be where it is, etc.. There’s nothing haphazard about it.
This translation from Romans 11 (the colloquial Message bible) kind of hits at the heart of things, that ties together the Douthat and the Metaxas:
"Make sure you stay alert to these qualities of gentle kindness and ruthless severity that exist side by side in God - ruthless with deadwood, gentle with the grafted shoot. But don’t presume on this gentleness. The moment you become deadwood, you’re out of there."
That severity and gentleness is certainly exhibited in our physical earth, which can be at turns charmingly gentle and ferociously ruthless.