Wednesday, October 13, 2021

I say he was "religious!"






IMG_1107.jpg


This is the picture of a horse and colt done by a pentalist artist. The drawing is done with a very sharp pencil making dots on the paper. The artist was invited to many horse shows to draw a memorable horse. There is more to the story of this picture than a horse show.


The artist was being treated for cancer and his daughter shared an observation with her father. You have never drawn a picture of a mother horse and her colt. He did not respond right away but he did begin. And the first drawing had the horse on one side of the drawing the and colt on the other. Then he drew another as his cancer progressed where the horse and the colt were closer together. His last drawing before his death was this madonna and child. 

He claimed to the end that he wasn’t religious. I say his drawing says otherwise. Religion from the Latin language is made up of two words re and ligio. We get our word ligament from the root word. And re is again and again. Re-runs, etc. Religion is how we connect with deeper meanings again and again. Maddona and child is definitely about a deeper meaning. 

The family had the funeral service at St. Peters Episcopal Church in Bettendorf. Iowa. I gave the homely and I had the picture propped up in a way so many could see it. His Faith journey is in the picture and his daughter’s invitation allowed him to make a powerful connection with compassion and love. The picture is an archetype transcending the mundane in a timeless way. 

The homely was longer but the distance of years keep me from reinventing all that I said. The gist of what I said is here.

More could be said, but for now let your imagination feast on this pencil drawing.

As one philosopher says, Susan Langer, our symbols are imbedded in us and they come out in music, art, and language.

Shalom,

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

An Advocate for Physical Therapy

Experience can be our teacher although you wonder sometimes how some people seem to learn so little from experience. The experience I want to commend comes from a number of sessions with a physical therapist. 

I asked my doctor for a referral to the location where Niki is the physical therapist. Annie, my wife, had been helped by the exercise to overcome some pain. My doctor made the referral and I was soon on Niki's schedule.

I wanted her to address the issues I have as I age. Balance was a major issue. The first time I had a series of 8 sessions also included help with back pain from a couple herniated discs in my back. I first experienced the pain in 2009. We are talking about 11 years with this ordeal. I have tried various approaches. Surgery was not on my list. I hear too many people have surgery without all of the best results. I don't know if it would make a difference. At my age in the 80's it was not an option and now I am 90.  Surgery is even less of an option.

Now at 91 I have been back to see Niki. I needed physical therapy after cateract surgery on my eyes. There were a number of limitations during that four week period with rules, no driving, no gardening, no lifting over 5 pounds, etc. I lost physical strength. To regain my strength Niki gave me some exercises and she returned to work on balance. Physical strength and balance are related. Now I am finished the physical therapy, I had to wait to drive for that. I have returned to the fitness center and I am getting my strength back. Best of all I am back in the garden where production is heavy with a number of plants. Green beans and tomatoes are especially productive as well and egg plant and several variety of peppers. 

We have a new fertilizer in our five raised beds, worm castings. A town over, LeClaire, has a worm factory in a garage. I buy by the pound now for my other plantings. More about gardening and worm casting later. Gardening is also physical therapy.  To be continued

Marlin Whitmer







A Wisdom Source

During my junior year in high school I came across an essay on wisdom. That did it. My interest and journey has continued to this day, now age 91.

The Celtic saying adds to the journey. "To journey with God, not knowing where you are going, but you will find out when you get there." The journey is intentional. 

Marlin

 Song of Pilgrimage 

Before I ventured forth,even while I was very young,

I sought wisdom openly in my prayer.

In the forcourts of the temple I asked for her, and I will see her to the end.

From first blossom to early fruit,
she has been the delight of my heart.
My foot has kept firmly to the path, diligently from my youth have I pursued her.

I inclined my ear a little and received her I found myself much wisdom

and became adept in her.
To the one who give me wisdom I will give glory, for I have resolved to live according to her way.

From the beginning I gained courage from her, Therefore I will not be forsaken.
In my inmost being I have been stirred to seek her, therefore have I gained a good possession.

As my reward the Almighty has given me the gift of language.

and with it I will offer praise to God.

Translated from the Latin (Ecclesiasticus 51:13-25) 


Monday, September 20, 2021

Chapter 2: Healing Power of Stories


The Healing Power of Stories


To Journey with Story Listening:

Medical, Biblical, and Pastoral


Abstract:

Stories and metaphors/metonymy are pervasive. Recovery of both has been going on for some time in our culture as story telling comes back into vogue. As for metaphors/metonymy, they can be found in any discipline. (Sacks, 1979) I will share my experience with several disciplines, concentrating mainly on the medical, Biblical, and pastoral. All provide us with important root and orientation metaphors.     

 


1. Medical 


Dr. James Knight of the Turo Infirmary in New Orleans at a Chaplain's Convention in 1967 spoke on "A Psychoanalyst Looks at the Role of the Chaplain." He helped shape my early days as a chaplain with a traditional word. He said "don't go native. You are a missionary in the exotic land of medical science. .... Engage in the Spiritual quest by having an “unresolved identity." I am still on the journey with an unresolved identity. 


I went to one of Dr. Hans Selye’s workshops on stress where he told stories and played down the scientific method saying “That is the way you write up your findings” (Selye, notes). The scientific method doesn't make discoveries. Discoveries are made by asking the question no one else is asking. Then he told the story of watching four patients come into the amphitheater when he was a student. The professor came up with four different diagnoses. Selye had a question no one else was asking, "What was going on in the body that made them all look sick?" His professor’s response, "Selye, do you want to get through medical school? Don't ask questions like that?" His peers echoed the same. The question haunted Selye and ten years later in an unrelated research project he got his first clue. Stress affects five glands of the body (Selye, workshop).


The Stress Response Syndrome is called "non-specificity" since more than one stressor can set off the same response. I wonder if the same be true about Story Listening/Story Telling. Could they be a "non-specificity" since different stories can have a similar effect on the body. Humorous stories would certainly qualify 


I haven’t researched a Story Response Syndrome in the same way as the Stress Response Syndrome. But I have some indication there is a StRS. As Selye named two types of stress, distress and eustress, I know story/metaphor can go either direction, and the terms nacebo and placebo are used by some to connote this very happening (Davidson, p. 48-50). 


I met Sir Roger Bannister (the first person to break the 4 minute mile) at a dual conference of the International Society of the Autonomic Nervous System and the Shy Drager National Support Group. I found myself in a one-to-one meeting with Sir Roger, a noted neurologist in England. I asked my $64,000 dollar question. “Befrienders, our lay hospital visitors, find on occasion that listening to the patient's story causes a change in color around the eye, from dark to light. What is going on in the autonomic nervous system to bring about that change?” Without losing stride he replied, “The placebo effect.” Others then came up and interrupted. I was left not understanding his short answer. 


I found what Sir Roger was alluding to in an article by Dr. Davidson on nacebo/placebo a year later (Davidson, pages 48-50). There was a reference to the Lancet Medical Magazine. "The placebo effect in general practice is the power of the doctor alone to make the patient feel better, irrespective of medication" (Thomas, p. 1067). That relationship in England is defined as placebo.


Sir Roger, knowingly or unknowingly, was saying we are all on the front lines of the health care delivery system. I contend other health care providers, professional and non professional, participate in the same phenomenon, especially through story listening. The Befrienders and I know it happens. We know we contribute to a patient’s quality of life, even extending life in some cases beyond what was predicted by the doctor. 


The placebo is redefined by Dr. Herbert Benson as "remembered wellness" (Benson, p. 20-1). When people tell their story they can move from sad times to good times and in so doing they are engaged in self care from a health standpoint. 


The placebo effect yields beneficial clinical results in 60-90% of diseases that include angina pectoris, bronchial asthma, herpes simplex, and duodenal ulcer. Three components bring forth the placebo effect:

(a) positive beliefs and expectations on the part of the patient; (b) positive beliefs and expectations on the part of the physician or health care professional; and (c) a good relationship between the two parties.


Because of the heavily negative connotations of the very words "placebo effect," the term should be replaced by "remembered wellness." Remembered wellness has been one of medicines most potential assets and it should not be belittled or ridiculed. Unlike most other treatments, it is safe and inexpensive and has withstood the test of time. (Benson and Friedman, p. 193) 


I would include the peace experience of patients part of the "remembered wellness" effect and the same components can be manifest in the relationship any person has with another. Lay people, then, become new clinicians on the front lines of the pastoral/spiritual/health care delivery system facilitating this phenomenon since health care is out in the communities in a variety of settings. 


One of my stories with "remembered wellness" came shortly after I bought Dr. Benson's book onTimeless Healing. We had stopped in Las Vegas to visit my Aunt residing in a nursing home. At one of the meals I sat next to an elderly lady who after preliminary remarks began to tell me about the death of her husband. Tears streamed down her cheeks. She continued with different parts of her story. Then she began to tell me about the birth of her younger sister in the family home. It was in the middle of the night when she was awakened. When she reached the hallway an older sister chased her back into her room. She began to laugh. Her sadness was gone the remainder of the meal. I was a witness to what I had been reading about, "remembered wellness." The telling of her experiences gave witness to the placebo effect. 


Journal writing is a way of moving these insights to a similar benefit. The effect of journal writing by asthmatic and arthritic patients has been investigated (Smyth, Stone, Hurewitz, and Kaell, 1999; Spiegel, 1999). Preliminary research for these studies comes from the work of Dr. Pennebaker (Pennebaker, p. 3-18). His work and the work of others have direct implications for the point of view in these presentations and the Healing Power of Stories. His studies began with students writing about their trauma experiences and the subsequent reduction in visiting the campus medical clinic as compared with students who wrote about more superficial events who in turn appeared more frequently at the clinic. Many others in various ways since have studied this. A long article by Pennebaker about their work and conclusions appeared in the spring 2000 issue of Literature and Medicine. The significant line for us is, "While hard and fast conclusions are rare in our line of work, the evidence of dozens of studies over a decade of research strongly suggests that there are significant, positive, consistent, and identifiable relationships between writing and speaking about difficult or emotional experiences and physical health" (Pennebaker, p. 3-18). Out of this research has come a computerized word study of significant words and the words used to identify the transition (Pennebaker and Francis). 


Here is another source for documenting story listening. Chaplain Larry VanderCreek wrote a short article on "Tragic Events and the Benefits of 'Cognitive Processing" and 'Finding Meaning." " They researched story listening with the effect on certain T-cells of Aides patients. The implications were sufficient to suggest relevance for chaplains (VanderCreek, p. 15). I am saying the research suggests relevance for all of us. 


I have a few stories to illustrate an interdisciplinary approach. At a Faith/Medical Forum on "the Role of Metaphor in Illness," doctors and clergy had different stories. What they had in common were important metaphors for understanding. We were on common ground. A neurologist had the story of a patient with back pain. After numerous tests he could find no physiological cause. He asked her what is going on in your life. When she told him he understood her back pain from the emotional load she was carrying. 


The bibliography giving metaphor resources from different disciplines of knowledge disappeared by the end of the evening. Almost every field of knowledge I know of identifies metaphor at some point in their material. Most medical terms have been moved from one field to another (Vaisrub, 1977).


2. Biblical


Every weekday morning chaplains and Befrienders gathered in the chapel for a shortened form of Morning Prayer with four Scripture readings followed by an open discussion after each reading. Prayers were offered following the readings and discussion. 


The greater awareness of metaphors in 1975 changed our discussion a great deal. We began to identify Biblical metaphors plus matching them  with our every day experiences. We began our own maieutic education as match makers. I had already been in the habit of bringing the Hebrew and Greek interlinear so word study had been established. Different translation were used to see various interpretations. 


Early on we came across forms of parakaleo (a called one alongside) and we moved the word to the ministry of presence. Having updated some of my study of William Temple I know he stressed the Body of Christ in public as “9/10’s.” We are out in the community “9/10’s” while “1/10th” in worship and learning. Parakaleo is where service and ministry in the world take place. 


Parakaleo informs my role as a Chaplain as well as the story listening role of Befrienders. This word has many different forms in Greek, one of which is "paraclyte" which is the word for Holy Spirit. Jesus says in John's Gospel, "when the Advocate (paraclyte) comes, ... the Spirit of truth" (NRSV, John 15:26). 


We miss the frequent places this Greek word appears since it gets translated out in English different ways depending on the translation: comfort, console, encourage, exhort, beseech, invite, advocate, helper, entreat, pray. 


You know the familiar translation of the Beatitude, "Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted" (Matthew 5:7). John Knox translates this, "Blessed are those who mourn for they shall have a Befriender." I paraphrase this, "Blessed are those making major transitions in life for they shall have a 'called one alongside.'" St. Paul has to have loved this word. In his beatitude from 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 he uses a form of parakaleo 10 times in 5 verses.


Blessed be The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ. If we are being afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation; if we are being consoled, it is for your consolation, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we are also suffering. Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our consolation. (2 Cor. 1:3-7, NRSV)


Now substitute "Befriender" for consolation. Next, substitute "called one alongside" for consolation. 


In the Letter to the Romans we have sumparakaleo meaning “mutually encouraged” (Romans 1:11, RSV) or “together we are alongside each other.” May these presentations and our e-mail discussion be the same for us as we continue to gather around our table in cyberspace. 


Our discoveries did not end with parakaleo. Then we found hineni. The word hineni is used five times in the call of Samuel. (1 Samuel 3:1-20) The word also appears frequently in the book of Genesis. 


Also, the discoveries do not stop. A web site reference helped give this concrete meaning (see http://www.csac-vt.org/news-naomi.html). Naomi Tannen gave a presentation to an all Counseling Service of Addison County staff meeting, "The Healing Potential of Responsiveness.” Her talk gives witness to the importance of hineni for her.


Since story listening was and is our mode these words in Hebrew and Greek are foundational. They provide a link with Scripture in our intentional direction.  


Scripture builds a case for listening as primary as “hear” begins the Jewish creed. I am also pursuing a study of the word akouo, listen/hear, which is used over 427 times in the New Testament. (page 111, Hedahl) I don’t know the number with shemei in the Old Testament for hear, listen, and obey but the number is considerable.


A Greek verb form of present active imperative provides the meaning of continuous in the present. This is the verb form used to describe the way Mary listens to Jesus in Luke 10: 39. She is "continuously listening." It was the better part. I say “listening continuously” is the better part in our pastoral role.


In Acts 10 we have Peter coming to a new realization that “God shows no partiality.” The new realization in Greek is a form of katalambano. I tracked the word lambano in the New Testament. The Gospel of John in chapter 1 has three forms sometimes translated apprehend, accept, and receive. (RSV) St. Paul in his letter to the Romans in chapter 1 has “we receive” related to the word “call” used three times. (RSV)  


The above were a few of our many word studies connecting with the stories we were hearing and our own lives.


4. Pastoral


a. Prayers.


My wife and I made a Celtic Spirituality Pilgrimage the summer of 1993. On Holy Island, Linisfarne, in the North Sea, I heard Deacon Kate give a definition to peregrantio which turns journey into a metaphor.


To journey with God, not knowing where you are going, but you will find out when you get there.


When I heard that I said, “I have been doing that all my life.” Peregranatio describes our gathering around the table in cyberspace. 


Celtic Prayers are basically poetry with repetition and rhythm, they were sung, and they use the metaphor to move from the earthy to the eternal. Prayers were said for all kinds of life experiences starting with rising in the morning, the various activities during the day, and retiring in the evening. They were the support for peregranatio. The practice is one we can easily employ from a metaphorical standpoint..


With the dawn of the new day may Christ ever dawn anew in my life.


A Celtic prayer with a metaphorical shift, “I kindle the flame in the hearth ... I kindle the flame of love in my heart. ... “ The secular disappears as all become one when the metaphor flips from earth to the transcendent. (de Waal, 1988)


b. research


My brother Ron found a web site with an article on metaphor entitled “Seeing with the eye of the heart” by Rachel Stanworth (Stanworth, 1997). I was able to get in touch with her, in fact, my wife and I had a most pleasant visit with her on Saturday morning, July 4, 2003, in London. She is much more into metaphor than I am and it was a pleasure to meet her and learn of her pastoral research at St. Christopher’s Hospice. This was before her book, Recognizing Spiritual Needs in People who are Dying, was published by Oxford University Press (Stanworth, 2004). 


Her research involves tape recorded interviews with 25 patients who are dying. The methodology is called “participant observer.” She describes in some detail her preparation to select and ready herself in the first half of the book. I say her preparation is as important as her findings. She makes the focus on listener concrete in comparison to the more abstract approach of Dr. Fiumara. Both come to the same perspective without knowing of each other as referenced. The internal preparation we make for listening become primary for both authors. 


Her findings are grounded in an understanding of symbol, metaphor, story, and the interior change within herself as she reflected on various aspects of language and various disciples of knowledge. She comes down decidedly on the side of pastoral care as being more open to the mysteries and that which points beyond words for ultimate meaning. A sacramental view of life is an essential for her (Stanworth, page 168-172).


A "divesting methodology" is at the heart of her listening model (Stanworth, p. 37-39). Slowly, I began to learn that to really hear another is akin to an "active divestment of self” (Stanworth, p. 39). ... real training for service asks for a hard and often painful process of self-emptying. The main problem of service is to be the way, without "being in the way” (Nouwen, 1998:79/Stanworth, p. 224).


Her approach to listen matches up with the kenotic insight of St. Paul in Philippians 2 plus Jesus instructions on dying to self. “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus ... emptied himself ...” (Philippians 2:5-8, NRSV). 


She writes: “This is a conversational model of knowledge where wisdom does not equate with hitting some theoretical "bed rock’, but the ability to sustain dialogue in an ongoing process of discovery. The most successful outcome is shared understanding and mutual transformation. We feel that we have received something new and helpful for negotiating life and that some how have been enriched as a people.” (Stanworth, p. 7)


The last chapter on “Implications for pastoral care” completes the story journey of her preparation. Her basic orientation, “Attention is my chosen avenue for approaching the practicalities of welcoming, comforting, and learning from others” (Stanworth, p. 231). Instead of active listening we have attentive listening. And the discipline is one of intentionality. In the background is the Latin word tend for shepherd. 


For her metaphor and symbol are not simply about representing one thing in terms of another. They reveal something of the unknown and enable patients to explore and articulate the silent side of the boundaries in which they stand. Seeing the like in the unlike may even offer sanctuary in an apparently critical situation. 


Although the word poetry is not used as in Heidegger’s writing about listening, nor having a habitat as in Hadahl, she wants to explore this intangible from the standpoint of an artistic frame of reference, mystery, paradox, using story and narrative. And then taking the next step to say symbol and metaphors are the tools of story. Moving tools to name symbol and metaphor was a new leap in understanding for me (Stanworth, page 16-22). 


Her attentive review of the 25 interviews revealed nine metaphors that become the way spirituality is mediated in the here and now. “When one closely observes and listens to patients, these metaphors are clearly discernible” (Stanworth, p. 97). 


Her nine metaphors are temporality, marginality, liminality, control, letting go, archetypal hero, archetypal mother, archetypal stranger, and surplus of meaning (Stanworth, p 97-214).


Shortly after I purchased her book Bobbie became seriously ill with her third cancer, a lymphoma tumor. We had a chance to relate our own experience through these metaphors. In so doing we came to an unresearched conclusion. The metaphors to summarize the conversations wtih the 25 interviews can also be moved to any illness situation, any transition, including our own. 


We would add another metaphor from our experience. There are “gaps” in the health care system. “Gap” is the metonymy and an addition for the latin limen. “... doorway or threshold, liminality implies a borderline state. ...  " (Standworth, p. 117).We were often on the threshold of a new experience not being addressed. One gap now being addressed is cancer fatigue the side effects from treatment. 


Day by day we live on the frontier of the unknown, making new connections for meaning and living to fill in the “gaps.” We know first hand the question of time limits. How much time do we have? What do we need to do in the time we have? We know marginality, living on the edge, as a side effects require needs to be addressed at the time while lingering on into the remision stage. At present lymphadema in the arm needs attention. 


Beyond the mystery of the threshold (liminality) lies an opening for new understandings and connections. Rachel’s term “Surplus of meaning” for the ninth metaphor seems awkward to me. It is her catch all term and the place for the holy. At the same time I know what she is saying about going beyond our words to include the mystery in our encounters. 


We gave thanks in the midst of mystery on June of 2005 when the oncologist told us “complete remission” after reviewing the latest C.T. Scan. I said I want to write that down so I don’t forget. Thanks be to God! 


Rachel Stanworth’s nine metaphors, others from this presentation, still more to be identified, as well as the tools of story, all provide sensitivity in listening for clues and developing the ear of a poet. This reality becomes more important as health care moves out into the community for prevention and survivors of all kinds. Here is where we all are on the front lines of the health care delivery system. 


References:


Herbert Benson; Timeless Healing: The Power and Biology of Belief; Scribner, New York; 1996; 350 pages 


Herbert Benson, MD, and Eileen M. Stuart, RN, C, MS; The Wellness Book: The comprehensive Guide to Maintaining Health and Treating Stress-Related Illness; A Fireside Book, New York; 1992.


Herbert Benson, MD, and Richard Friedman, PhD; “Harnessing the Power of the Placebo Effect and Renaming It "Remembered Wellness’”; Annual Reviews of Medicine; vol. 47; pages 193-199;


Bible with the Apocrypha, New Revised Standard Version, Oxford University Press, 1991, 432 pages. 


Davidson, Stuart. (1996, November/December). Tomorrow's medicine: Placebos and nacebos,Healthcare Forum Journal, p. 48-50. 


Esther de Waal; Every Earthly Blessing: Celebrating a Spirituality of Creation; Servant Publications, Ann Arbor, Michigan; 1991; 148 pages. 


Esther de Waal; The Celtic Vision: from the CARMINA GADELICA --- Orally Collected in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland by Alexander Carmichael; St. Bede’s Publications, Petersham, Mass; 263 pages. 


Susan K. Hedahl, Listening Ministry, Fortress, 2001, 123 pages. 


George G. Hunter III, The Celtic Way of Evangelism, Abingdon, 2000 

Levine, Carol, and Murray, Thomas H., Ed.; The Cultures of Caregiving; Johns Hopkins University Press; 2004; 187 pages 


Pennebaker, James. (2000, Spring). Telling stories: The health benefits of narrative,Literature and Medicine, Vol 19, No 1, p. 3-18. 


Pennebaker, James, and Francis, Martha. (nd). Linguistic inquiry and word count, University of Texas at Austin; Published by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Software and Alternative Media, Inc. 


Pennebaker, James (web site search name: James W. Pennebaker) 

http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/homepage/faculty/pennebaker/Home2000/JWPhome.htm 


Smyth J.M., Stone A.A., Hurewitz A., Kaell A. (1999, April 14). Effects of writing about stressful experiences on symptom reduction in patients with asthmatic or rheumatoid arthritis: a randomized trial, Journal of the American Medical Association, 281:1304-1309. 


Spiegel, David. (1999, April 14). Healing words: Emotional expression and disease outcome,Journal of the American Medical Association, 281:1328-9. 


Stanworth, Rachel; entitled originally 'Spirituality, language and depth of reality" ; is reprinted from the International Journal of Palliative Nursing, Vol 3 No. 1, Jan-Feb 1997 


Stanworth, Rachel; Recognizing spiritual needs in people who are dying; Oxford University Press, 2003, 255 pages 


K. B. Thomas; “The Placebo in General Practice’; Lancet; Vol 344; October 15, 1994; pages 1066-7 


VanderCreek, Larry; “Tragic Events and the Benefits of "Cognative Processing’ and "Finding "Meaning’.” The APC News, Nov/Dec 2002, page 15 


Vaisrub, Samuel, Medicine's metaphors: Messages and menaces.Oradell, NJ: Medical Economics Co., 1977, 124 pages. 


Copyright © 2008, Marlin Whitmer. All rights reserved.


 

Friday, August 27, 2021

Denying Evident Truths: a letter to the editor

This article appeared in the Quad City Times, Davenport, Iowa, on Friday morning, August 27, 2021, in the Letters to the Editor section.

 

The main editorial on Monday, Aug. 16, reflects on the end of the world. Instead of the high drama, I want to make it more individual and personal. Fractional suicide is more evident to me. I first heard the term in 1971 while training in an alcohol treatment unit in Iowa City.

 

Fractional suicide begins with denial, our first and major defensive mechanism. When a person denies they have a problem they begin putting nails in their coffin. For the alcoholic liver failure is the final nail.

 

The phenomenon can be moved to other life experiences. As an emergency room chaplain, I don’t know how many times I heard the gasp for air and then, “Oh, no!” as they heard the worst news. Denial begins. Sometime during my 28 years as a chaplain I read “Psychological Autopsy,” which asks the question “when does a person begin to die?” Some are beginning to die when they refuse COVID vaccines, threatening their own lives and others.

 

My father taught me directly by being unable to accept the loss of the family farm in 1938. He died at 57 of a heart attack. I was too young to understand what I know now. Learning to live with loss is part of becoming a mature adult.  Life is a series of descent/ascent experiences. (Losing something precious, grieving the loss and learning how to live again). This applies to politicians and political parties as well. Denial of evident truths is how fractional suicide begins.

Shalom,

Marlin Whitmer, BCC

Retired hospital chaplain, that is, if you can every retire from pastoral issues.

  

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Metaphors for the variant virus

 Aristotle said there were two major metaphors: mechanical and organic. Apparently those who politicize our ability to be vaccinated under all kinds of non rational reasons have carved their answer in stone, i.e. mechanical. I would put all our statistics and data in the mechanical.  The number of deaths recorded for that given week will stay the same as the piece of angle iron. 

I choose to use organic metaphors since the variant came I being as a mutation and without more people being vaccinated I have read we can have more varianst from mutations. We are into a virus that seeks a home, and acts like what the name organic covers.

With that short introduction I want to talk about two organic metaphors I have read about. The first is marathon and the second is dance. I may find more. The two are for starters.

To be continued

Marlin Whitmer, BCC


Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Metaphorical Patterns: Resistance


Abstract:

The next three presentations deal with patterns that are unspoken yet evident in the way a story is told. They are hidden as iambic pentameter is hidden in a sonnet and as meter is hidden in a hymn making possible the same tune for different words. Those listening to the story will find these patterns assist in being a "called one alongside" (parakaleo). The patterns add to our effectiveness for spiritual care and health care for body, mind, and spirit. I will begin with various patterns of resistance to listening, dialogue, and our deeper relationships with God, others, self.

Introduction:

First, a word about metaphorical patterns and models, etc. The Biblical word in the Greek is "tupos." From the Greek we have the English word type. It comes from imprinting the image on the coin. Imaging is then related to this phenomenon.

When a cancer patient imaging pac men eating up cancer cells went into remission Dr. Carl Simonton, his radiologist, became interested in how the immune system was effected. At least that is the impression I gained when hearing Dr. Simonton in person. Dr. Simonton started a program with cancer patients using imaging.

The practice is very old. The people from the caves of France are thought to have imaged the hunt by drawing on the walls of the cave before the hunt. They may not have known about the immune system. 

After seeing the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark our oldest son asked, "Dad, where is Ark in the Bible?" Aha! The teaching moment has arrived. We went to 1 Samuel 6. The Philistine had captured the Ark from the Hebrews and a plague broke out. The mayors of the five cities got together to decide how to respond. They decided to send the Ark back to the Hebrews. But the way they did is fascinating. The cart carrying the ark was pulled by two cows who had just had calves. If they pull the cart rather than stay with their calves they will have a sign, "this is the right decision." On the cart they put five golden images, tupos, figures of mice and tumors. The tumors in Hebrew I am told literally mean hemorrhoids. Now we have a better idea of what part of the body was affected by the plague. The imaging is a foundational part of the story. They imaged the illness as a way of being released from the illness. And the Ark went back to the Hebrews.

We still develop models, images, and patterns of various experiences to explain the life process. Physicians read all kinds of imaging apparatus to make a diagnosis. Then we have Erickson's eight ages, Gail Sheehy's passages, and others. All image some aspect of our lives. The "art of story metaphor listening" found significant outlines in describing what happens in story listening. They are metaphorical in that they can move from story to story as a hidden dimension.

In previous face-to-face seminars the order has been to start with the wounded healer patterns, move to trialoging (connecting the dots) , and then resistance patterns.  

Reality necessitates bringing the topic of resistance to the beginning of metaphorical patterns.

The daily newspaper provides countless examples of resistance of one kind or another. The other day a family was resisting the new entrance to the Community College. Car lights from the road would be shining in their front room.

From physics, ohms law, to Scripture, and the doctrine of the Fall of man, we have resistance. “Stiff neck” and “stubborn” are used in the Old Testament.

I have my own resistance stories. I resisted when I was told I would be taking management training. "I'm a chaplain." The vice-president spoke quietly and forcefully, "If you want to continue as a chaplain you will take management training." I had an intellectual conversion in the class on Principles of Management. The Bible contains many management stories. "Where are you?" asked by God in the garden provides the shortest performance review question I can think of. If we have stages in terminal illness, the five stages provided by Dr. Kubler Ross, what about stages in sudden death. Dr. Alfred Noyes at the University of Iowa asked that question. His insight came from a Swiss mountain climber who told the story of his fall off a mountain. He first resisted. This was not what he wanted to do that day. He kept falling anyway. Next he had a flashback of his life. And suddenly he felt at peace. He survived the event but the memory of the "peace-experience" had him talking to other survivors. Many had the same story of Resistance, Review (flash back), and Peace.

I have changed the "peace experience" to blessing. One cold morning the alarm sounded the time to get up. I said, "it can't be; I don't believe it; I just got to sleep." During the night I had been called to the hospital for an emergency. I said, "It's nice and warm under the covers." Resist as I might it was time to get up. After a splash of water on my face and a cup of coffee I decided I could make it. Then it was time to awaken the rest of the household. They all went through the same steps: resistance to getting up, review of what needed to be done to get up, and some degree of acceptance. I concluded that is how we live most of our days by repeating this pattern over and over starting with varying degrees of resistance. And under the threat of death some people experience this more powerfully with a greater intensity as peace, light, presence, i.e. the other side. I have met people after a trauma from an accident and cardiac arrest who went through the sequence. But to some degree all of us repeat the cycle more than once on a given day. Its a metaphorical model and pattern --- a "tupos."

Dr. John Savage from Leadership Education and Development provides another outline: Awareness, Anxiety, Intentionality, and Integration
(Figure 2; see footnote 1). That was a very helpful outline when we made transitions as to where Befrienders' served. When Befrienders were invited to participate in the grief recovery group they said, "We have never done that before." They had already heard plenty of grief stories from patients and families, the dominant story in patient visiting; but they had not been hearing the stories in the format of a grief recovery group. They had reached a level of comfort in the hospital setting. We had to have a training session to walk people through the resistance by naming their

anxieties in transferring what they knew to a new setting. The training session was a metaphorical journey in itself to walk people through the familiar and help them see where the familiar would reappear in a new and unfamiliar setting. Others might call this stress-reduction training, and still others reframing. Story-listening remained the main skill. A few years later we started a hospice program. Again, Befrienders were hesitant as awareness brought anxiety. We went through a similar retraining to become Intentional before folks could integrate what they were learning in a new environment. This time the new environment was the home setting.

"Intentional" became a major emphasis in working through resistance. After a few years in the Befriender training I found resistance needed to be addressed about the 8th week in the first 10 week unit. People were beginning to seriously question whether they would be a good listener. Their beginning expectation--what to say and what to do was not being answered in the way they had expected. Now the question had been turned around, what clues do you hear from the person as to what to say and do? They were not in control of that. Listening became more anxiety producing. We would talk about those anxieties.

Two years of college Latin can be helpful. The word "tendare" meaning "to tend and care" has some other implications. From this word we can have tendency, tension, intend, intent, and intention. All are related to tend but all provide others aspects to the primary purpose of caring.

I have found you can manage by being intentional. This allows and permits all kinds of resistance awaiting those connections where a person is moving toward the original intention. This is more intuitive than rational. To do this kind of management requires accepting the tension of "not there" and the tending to "get there." Plus in the process to see it differently than originally intended. The difference between management by objectives as I understand: Objectives are set down in writing (like being engraved in stone) but intentional is written in space and offered to the Holy Spirit. After that, someone else is in charge. And you Wait! ... and you Wait! ... and you Listen! ... and then Aha! A new connection. Hello Wayne Oates Institute. I attended an early conference in the 90's after I retired. A good friend made the trip to the conference a possibility. That was a beginning.

Integration requires persistance and staying with the learning to find

yourself in a new place and a new understanding. Maintaining the intention in the mystery of the journey allows one to see differently.

Befriender stories

The need to be of help was moved to being helpful by not helping. This was often resisted in the beginning until experiencing the benefit from this seeming contradiction.

After a visit a Befriender lamented not knowing much about social security disability. It was pointed out the more complete story shared with her would not have been heard. The information could be provided by others. Her role was to hear the story. Her mother had always stressed knowing. It was a revelation to discover "not knowing" could be a benefit.

I had visited a patient at the request of a family member. I could sense his resistance to my presence. Befrienders began to visit. He began to share with them his anger about many things, including God. Finally he realized he was dumping on the Befrienders. His attitude changed. I made a visit and found him at a new place and more ready to relate. He moved to a sense of peace before he died. All had to encounter resistance.

Our chapel services with Scripture readings provided discussion following. They often involved a conversation about some aspect of resistance. One particular day the Gospel reading revealed the resistance of the disciples to Jesus in preparing to die. A Hospice Befriender acknowledged her resistance in learning the patient she was visiting was closer to dying.

Current stories

"I have been wanting to talk to you" was the greeting. This person was moving into being a presenter for a Christian Experience Weekend. His new commitment was coming a few years after his wife's death from cancer. We explored various topics he could address. Nothing was acceptable. Finally it became apparent to me that resistance might be a good topic. He became interested giving examples of how he was resisting doing the very thing he wanted to do. He left on a more confident mode. I later asked him how the presentation went. He had received a lot of accolades. Did you address resistance? Not really, he started there but

most of this talk addressed other things.

Resistance is often where we begin. I recently learned speaking in front of a group is the second greatest fear with people. This was in a class for gardening with children. The hands on experience and sharing what grows provides a way for children to move through the resistance of talking to others in a group.

Biblical Stories

An interdisciplinary Grief Resource group meeting weekly at 7 AM on Wednesday provided a setting to learn about loss and change in general. One time a psychiatrist was presenting two sessions on the book by a Dr. Horowitz, the Stress Response Syndrome. The stages included denial, intrusion, anger, and reconciliation. It so happened the Old Testament morning readings during the same time frame were the Genesis story of Joseph. His brothers conspired to get rid of him. He was sold into slavery in Egypt. There he became a servant in the household of Potiphar. He refused to advances of Potiphar's wife. She accused him of making advances and he was thrown into prison. All this takes place in Joseph with denial at work front and center. We read of no complaints. In prison his reputation grows as a interpreter of dreams. When the Pharaoh has a dream his advisors can't interpret Joseph gets a chance. His interpretation wins the day and he is made secretary of agriculture. He marries and has a family with two sons. Their names, Manasseh and Ephraim. In the family setting the intrusion sets in. The names of his children reflect "God has made me forget all my troubles and my father's family" and "God has made me fruitful in the land of my hardships." (Genesis 41:51-52) The more he says the names of his children the more he remembers. Then comes a famine and his brothers arrive for grain. He recognizes them and his anger is vented in a variety of ways. In the final episode he discloses to them his identify. He breaks into tears and reconciliation results.

Many Biblical stories can be told from a resistance standpoint. The disciple Peter is an excellent model for resistance overcome. In Acts 10 Peter resists the instruction to kill what Jews considered unclean. The dream troubles him. Then he is invited to the home of Cornelius a gentile. The moment of truth arrives in the Greek word "katalambano." "I now see,

(realize, understand) how true it is that God has no favorites, but in every nation those who are god-fearing and do what is right are acceptable to him. ..." (REB Acts 10: 34-35) This is certainly not where Peter begins.

Personal Story

An important personal experience with resistance came in March of 1973. I had offered to present a workshop on training lay people for hospital visiting at the College of Chaplain's Annual Conference. As the time approached I became extremely anxious about doing this. I had not been able to find any previous presentations on the topic. I was wondering how my peers would accept what I had to say. The Sunday before leaving I was a supply priest at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Bettendorf, Iowa. During the sermon I summarized my presentation. At the words in the consecration prayer, "he took the bread; and when he had given thanks, he brake it..." I lost my voice. I could not speak. My mind began to review how rejection had been a large part of my life as well as my father's life. Then came the word, "Brokenness is not the last word." My voice returned and I went on with the service. People commented afterwards, "are you okay?," "you turned white," " I was about to come to help you." One lady told me afterwards she knew I had a religious experience.

Later that day I called my brother who is an Episcopal priest also. He was a great help, "you ought to know better than have a religious experience in church." He was a great help. I relaxed. I was now on my way to the College of Chaplain's Conference. And yes, the workshop went well. The chaplain from a nearby hospital was there and we started training Befrienders together for both hospitals. Both hospitals continue to have Befriender programs to this day under younger leadership.

The rest of the story includes going to a session at the Conference on Black Theology by James Cole before the Befriender presentation. From my perspective blacks have a better understanding of community suffering than whites. I could identify in part having come out of the economic depression of the 30's, the loss of the family farm, and a father who died young with an unresolved grief over the loss. I also learned more about the lady at St. Peter's who knew I had a religious experience.

Reference:

Footnote 1: I did not have a good reference for the four steps in the LEADS approach. I raised the question on the Diocese of Iowa serv/list since this had been a project at one time. Where did these four steps come from? A retired priest and a former Bishop reviewed the history of LEADS in the Diocese. This wasn't exactly what I was looking for. Then another priest involved in a continuing education project had contact with a LEAD'S coach last summer. She gave me a web site. I wrote an e-mail and I received an answer back. This is an outline shared in the Basic Unit. However, their outline is: information, awkward, intention, and integrate. (e-mail) I had reworked the first two names of their outline to fit our experience with the Befrienders.

by Marlin Whitmer

Copyright © 2008, Marlin Whitmer. All rights reserved.