Friday, January 10, 2014

Why Write? by George Orwell

     For this post, you are going to have to do a little homework:

     First of all let me point out  the above blog site, Brain Pickings. I have this site set to deposit its essays on my Facebook. It does so 3 times a day which may be a little much. I don't read all the postings. In fact some days I don't read any. However, the site makes use of graphics very effectively and there is often one of these graphics which catch my attention as something I would be interested in reading. In this case, the post that grabbed my attention was one about the cold spell that we have recently suffered. Tea was suggested as a cure. The curative suggestion was to read George Orwell's essay on the 11 absolutely necessary steps in making a good cup of tea. I used to have tea parties at our new home when we moved in, about in 1998. So even though I am American, and not British, I know about making a good cup of tea and about all the necessities and ramifications of holding an afternoon or late morning "tea." I have several small but fancy "coffee table" style books about different themes for the tea party. So I could readily relate to George Orwell's rules of the teapot. But at the bottom of that essay as an advertisement for this blog, was a link to a post called "Why Write?" Of course, I couldn't resist hitting on that link. This is how this site becomes addictive.

     The "Why Write" essay also by George Orwell struck me. As the author of the blog says, it could apply to anyone pursuing creative projects.  So that is your homework. First read the essay at the above link.

     Have you read it?

     Orwell says that the 4 motives for writing are: 1) Sheer Egoism; 2) Aesthetic Enthusiasm; 3) Historical Impulse; and 4)Political Purpose. 

     Now I have to do my homework. Why did these four motives for writing grab me? And where do I stand in the balance of importance of each in my own thoughts while contributing my posts to this blog?

      First, I admire Orwell's candidness about the first motive. Sheer Egoism. I would guess that everyone who creates has some of this motive and in many people, it must be quite primary. My upbringing and my career taught me to serve others. Therefore, it is easy to kid myself that my motives are unselfish and for the good of others. But when I read Orwell's article, it was as if that first paragraph was typed in bold letters. Yes, there is no doubt that I write to promote myself, to shine in others eyes, and to hear the comments when someone I know has read my blog and liked it. There is a feeling as Orwell describes of having that post in writing to show the people I know what I have become, yes to shine in their eyes. For me this is a big motive for posting on Facebook, when I have added new writing to my blog. Like many teenagers, even though I was smart, and had a lot of friends in elementary and high school, I had very low self esteem. It was not until I was well established in college that I began to really believe in myself. I think that needing the accolades attributed to my writing, even though I very seldom see them directly, is leftover from that period of my life when I didn't have confidence in myself. That's why I often turn to the numbers of people who are reading my posts and look for comments, and see where the readers are coming to some of my posts from all over the world. This number 1 motive is a big one for me.
      Interestingly, the other three motives for me are exactly in the order that Orwell has placed them. The number two motive for me is Aesthetic Enthusiasms, not so much in the word finding. I am sure that I lack abilities in the pretty prose category. But I do love to write about aestheticism and I like to put together an article with the necessary beginning, middle and end, the conflict and the resolution. I like to impart some knowledge from which I think others would benefit. And of course my frequent writing about nature fits right into this aesthetic category.
      Historical Impulse is less important to me. However, I certainly do include history in my travel writing, since world trips do get very involved in local history. We in the United States are very provincial. Our history courses concentrate on the United States and our connection to Europe especially during the World War II period and since then. Of course this is the rightful path for our history teachers to follow. But unfortunately it leaves out a huge view of the rest of the world. Most of us know nothing about South American history, even less about Indian history until we might visit that country, and of course we think that African history is nothing but tribal warfare and poverty. Yet there are ancient cultures there that my husband and I have learned in our travels are of tremendous value. Also the country of Turkey is a total surprise. There is so much history of mankind there and we who have been educated in America may not even understand how Turkey straddles the European and Asian continent and is the birthplace of the first travels by Biblical humanity (Abraham in Ur.) There is so much to learn from the rest of the world's people.
     Seldom do I write about politics. I have very strong feelings about the various views and on rare occasion I may succumb to the temptation to put my opinions in a post. But for the most part, I keep my views to myself. Especially given the pattern that current political thinking has developed, I think that it is almost worthless to try to change any one's opinion. Everyone has become set in their views and the only thing that I feel a written piece can accomplish is to arouse other's anger. That is not my purpose in these blogs. Therefore, I rate this fourth motive as the very least in my list.
     Whatever the motives, I have always been a frustrated writer.  I have a trunk of hand written journals and individual sheets, from before electronic techniques. I have put together some ideas for fiction and non fiction. But they would require a lot of polishing to get any one of them published in hard print. During my active medical career, it always seemed too much work to prepare any of these for sending out for publication. And now, many of these things I had written do not apply. Or I have forgotten or even changed in my original views on the topic. Because of my laziness, I guess, this blog fills a need for me. The posts are short. I can apply them to our travels, to my life, to my hobbies, to nature, and once in a while to strong views that I have and I can hope that others benefit from these posts. So hopefully you will continue to seek out my blog and look for what is stimulating my interest. Here's to the modern technological world!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Another clock and my father.

     On 1/24/13, I wrote a piece about a clock and its behavior in a family event. I always intended to tell here another story about a clock, time, and dying, that will go into our family lore. Here writing in January, 2014 is that other story.
     My father had the genetic curse that ran through his family -- a very low HDL (the good cholesterol) so that even though his total cholesterol or even bad cholesterol were not extremely high, his HDL was low. Even though they were not able to measure these levels in the past or provide medication to alter these bad actors, I am sure that many family members on his side of the family had this problem. His father and all of his father's 6 siblings died of heart disease in their 60s. And my great grandfather also died of heart disease as did his father my great great grandfather who died in his 50s.
     My father had had a myocardial infarction, a heart attack when he was in his 60s. Then over time, there apparently was further loss of heart muscle. When he was in his mid 70s he began to really feel short of breath, and he was having angina, ie chest pain with the least bit of activity. He had a catheterization and was found to have some blood vessels blocked. Though his cardiac output was down suggesting not good muscle function, he decided to take the doctors up on their offer of a bypass. We knew that this bypass would be more risky than the usual because his cardiac function was so low. But he still wanted to try it. The alternative would be to let the arteriosclerotic process go until he had another heart attack, which would mean more damage and he probably would not survive that heart attack. Surprisingly with the help of a pump assist to the heart he survived the surgery and the bypass circulation gave him another two years of relatively good quality life.
      But then gradually there was more damage, no big heart attack, but a slow deterioration in heart function. He became very short of breath, very fatigued, and unable to do much activity at all. His quality of life plummeted. Nowadays he might have been a candidate for a heart transplant but he was 78. That would not have been offered even today to a man at his age. He did receive a drug called dopamine intravenously for several days on several different occasions. This medication stimulates the heart muscle and he was able to have a few weeks each time of better quality of life. But finally he was hospitalized for the final time. He had developed complete heart block--a rhythm disturbance of the heart where the heart rate slows down so much that the heart can't do the pumping necessary to keep the brain alive. This occurred on a weekend and the cardiologist on call didn't know his case. Therefore as an emergency she had placed an external pacemaker. I headed to that hospital to provide whatever advise or decision making that would be needed.
      It happened that this had occurred on July 1. My father's birthday was July 4th and that day had always been very important to him. He always loved to celebrate and he always said that the whole United States celebrated his birthday. Just like that song, Yankee Doodle Dandy, he was "the real life nephew of his Uncle Sam, born on the 4th of July." So I felt even though we would not be putting in any permanent pacemaker because of Dad's poor quality of life which the pacemaker would not improve, perhaps it was fine that the temporary one had been placed. It might let him make it to his birthday.
     July 3rd came. All of the family had gathered at the hospital. But Dad had become worse. He was going in and out of consciousness. Even with the pacemaker, his heart was not functioning well at all. As the doctor daughter, I was trying to work with the nurse to regulate the morphine that he was needing for better comfort in breathing. My middle sister, herself a nurse, was basically almost collapsed in tears at his bedside.  It was getting into the afternoon. I spoke with my younger sister. We decided that we better celebrate his birthday right then and there. We drove to a nearby grocery store, purchased a birthday cake, paper plates, plastic utensils, candles, and balloons. As my father opened his eyes he looked at the round clock that hung on the wall at the foot of his bed in his room. I knew he was keeping track of the time. He was trying to make it to his birthday. But he was suffering and we were suffering with him. So during one spell when he lost his lucidity, we took the clock off the wall. We put the balloons where the clock had been. We pulled the room's shade. We lit the candles on the cake and served up some pieces on the paper plates. The next time Dad came to, we told him, "Happy Birthday, Dad. You made it to your birthday." We even each ate a bite of cake and gave him a little of it also. You could see him trying to see that clock and he looked toward the window. But it wasn't long and he lost consciousness again and this time he was able to let go. He died at about 8 PM on the eve of his birthday. Yes, we faked him out. But I think he would forgive us our little fake birthday party. Maybe he thought he could have made it, but we were all suffering so much with him that it was questionable if we would have made it. That was in 1995. He would have been 78 years old on July 4th of that year. We all still miss him. But we were all there to send him off with a birthday celebration. He had begun to talk about his wishes for his funeral. He said he wanted to be carried out of the church to a John Phillip Sousa march. We arranged that. And some of the organ interludes included an organ version of "Yankee Doodle Dandy."