Recently my favorite blog writer introduced me to some comments about “Depth of Faith” and the superficiality of many persons ostensibly committed to an organized religion; comments put forth by Tariq Ramadan in his book, “Islam and the Arab Awakening”. The book covers a number of topics growing out of last year’s widespread political changes throughout the Middle East, and provides what I, as an amateur viewer, believe are practical and necessary solutions to the continuing upheaval.

However, my interest was especially piqued by his speculation about an individual’s commitment to religious beliefs, whether such commitment is real or only imagined. Coincidentally, I have been re-reading Mark Twain’s skeptical commentary contained in the short story, “Letters From the Earth”, a highly-acerbic attack on religion in general. In the story, archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Satan are observing a certain degree of restlessness in God, and become concerned when He decides to experiment and create a planet (they don’t really know what the term means). They then see Him follow up with making all sorts of things, some he calls “animals”, and his final act is to create some beings he calls “humans”. Becoming increasingly ill-at-ease about these activities, the three decide that one of them must visit this new creation, and Satan draws the assignment. He is to go to this “Earth” and write letters back to the other two, commenting upon what he observes. Many of the letters focus on the erroneous (to Twain) beliefs of humans that God is forgiving, loving, etc., while at the same time sending things like pestilence, drought, plagues, and other nastiness. Satan can’t understand how humans continue to imbue God with all these good qualities when they can see that his real actions fly in the face of those qualities.

I plan to have my own copy of the Ramadan book, and read it in comparison with Twain, to further my own closely-similar opinions about religion. I greatly admire those persons who have a true commitment and who totally immerse themselves in the underlying practices decreed within their particular code. I personally consider myself to be deeply committed, but to concepts that developed within my own being and only include elements unintentionally from the organized belief systems, as appropriate to my personal perceptions. My blogger “resource” is one of those individuals of deep faith, and I take her commentary as “Gospel” (yes, that’s a pun!).

Speaking of books, a number of years ago (1964) I was fortunate to have lunch with Norman Cousins, former editor of the Saturday Review of Literature, and author of many books and articles including the small commentary, “Anatomy of an Illness”. This latter had an influence on my thinking about the nature of dying, in that Cousins had faced the prospect of imminent death by immersing himself in a cornucopia of humor, his idea was that laughter and its associated physical effects on the body would forestall the intrusions of his particular disease. He watched lots of Marx Brothers and Three Stooges films, he read humor from a variety of sources, he listened and watched radio and TV comedy, and involved himself with anything else that would add to this arsenal. And Lo!—his illness went into remission!

And so, over the years and particularly with the florescence of technology, I have personally amassed a large collection to use if ever it needs be. With my current health situation, I have been considering turning to those resources, “just in case”, but after my first day at the Mayo Clinic today, things may be looking up a bit. Tomorrow and Friday I continue, with a number of tests on both days and even one next week just prior to my returning home. The purpose of the testing has the partial intent of validating the neurologist’s opinion that the CIDP diagnosis is not correct, that while there is still a version of neuropathy present, it may in fact not be progressive. At the same time, I was informed that MGUS is common in persons over 70 and is generally classified as a “benign condition”. If no bone tumors are evident, then all that will be done is an annual checkup to make sure none have appeared, and this happens in only about 15% of MGUS cases for all age groups.

And speaking of humor, I recall when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the early 60’s, I was walking by the library at our school and heard someone laughing. I looked in and saw one of the staff, Mr. Shetty from India, sitting alone and laughing out loud. Now think about that; people don’t usually laugh out loud when they’re alone, so whatever he was reading must be really good. I asked him about it, and got my first taste of P. G. Wodehouse, the creator of the “Jeeves the Butler” stereotype along with his master, Bertie Wooster. I began to surf my way through all of Wodehouse’s writings, eventually reading everything he had written. I developed a great appreciation for the way he created phrases with which I could empathize: “I was sitting in a warm bath, and raised a meditative toe”, or “I took my cigarette for a stroll in the garden”, images I could easily apply to my own activities.

My final year in Ghana, I was living alone in the most isolated part of the country, but as one of my responsibilities was a 5000 volume school library, I was able to continue my Wodehouse study as a vehicle to help me maintain my sanity. Upon returning to the US, I wrote him a letter thanking him for providing that support, and I was highly pleased that he thought enough of my letter to send me a note thanking me for thanking him. I had hoped to meet him when I worked briefly in NYC, and he lived on Long Island, but that meeting did not materialize. However, I include Bertie, Jeeves, Aunt Agatha, Gussie Fink-Nottle, and the others in my personal collection, and I even have the videos of the BBC’s “Jeeves” series among my treasures. They are supported by my Mel Brooks’ Collection, Pink Panther tapes, “Some Like It Hot”, and a few others, even some TV variety shows such as Sid Caesar’s “Show of Shows”. I think that everyone should have one of these collections, it could be a important as a well-placed shelter from Nature’s calamities.

Always Be Happy!         To Our Youth!

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