Deva Hupaylo: "Mental waves upon awaking from long stupor"
My old Ozark friend Deva Hupaylo, who is currently living in Connecticut and has recently recovered from a month-long bout with Lyme disease, has sent me an email titled "Mental waves upon awaking from long stupor," which opens with a medical interview conducted by a doctor at a mental health clinic who seems to have wanted to study those 'mental' waves:
Yesterday, while being interviewed to participate in a brain imaging research study at Yale Mental Health Hospital, a nice doctor asked questions like "Do you have any metal implants?" "Do you have medical insurance?" (that one made me cautious...) and "What is your religion?"The big question . . . but as a query about Deva's ultimate 'insurance', it might pose even more alarming concerns about the safety of this good doctor's brain imaging research study!
Knowing that he expected another one word response to that last broad topic, I declined to answer. He persisted by asking, "What gives you hope?"Perhaps the doctor should have asked about "ultimate meaning," but he didn't, so Deva was stuck with his query about what gives her "hope":
Now that is a hot topic with me. I thought about how I cringe when one of the managers I work with says, "I hope the project finishes on time." Or "I hope to stay under budget."
What I hear is, "I take no responsibility for the outcome. I have done nothing to plan for unforeseen events. I have no contingency plan. Pay me anyway for my inability to accomplish my task."
What I said was, "Good long term financial planning???"But that was just Deva playing comedian . . . like Bob Hope. However, she'd already gone four words over the one-word limit, so she couldn't answer the doctor in full. She therefore turns to me, a different sort of doctor:
But what I meant was more complicated. I think most organized religion is used to excuse responsibility for the current life. "I know there is a better world (incarnation, inter-being, whatever) so I don't need to be too concerned about this one. I can continue to have children I can't support. I can ignore the poor people of the world, country, or even community, because God is watching over them. I can just protect my family from the growing poverty/drug/crime problem on the other side of my community, because good will triumph in the end. I can spend all my time watching 'reality' TV while my body and mind atrophy, because there will be a better one in the next life."That was the critique . . . and I should add that these words by Deva come from a person who has firsthand experience with organized religion. I would also like to interject a comment at this point, namely, that I agree that organized religion often has this flaw. Religion too often takes the recognition that we lack full control over our own lives and misapplies it in ways that encourage irresponsibility. The best of organized religion, however, insists that we become better people and inculcates responsibility. But I'll stop at that and return to Deva's own religious inclinations:
Should I explain to the hard working doctor that I take wisdom from every religion? That I can appreciate the Hindi need to create good Karma, as well as the Buddhist acceptance of the irrational, the Christian need to adhere to a single pattern of behavior, and the Jewish drive for preservation of ideals apart from mainstream culture.When I worked in the summer of 1976 for my high school math teacher Jim Scott as a chainman on his survey team in the Ozarks, he once asked me what I wanted out of life. I thought about it a bit, then answered "Peace of mind." He scoffed at my reply, retorting, "You can have that with a cup of coffee." Some twenty years passed before I realized that he was exactly right. A cold beer after an hour of exercise does even better. So, I have to agree with Deva about the importance of life in the here and now.
Should I tell him that my life is here and now? To appreciate the pleasures of my mortal life (intimate personal relationships, cherry popsicles in August, flowers from the woods, a good soccer game with friends, the smell of a new car, my children learning skills, swimming in clear blue water, learning the secret of how cells differentiate to form tissue) is good use of the short life we can expect here.
If there is a life after this one, that would be good, but I don't want to ignore a known world for one that I have no solid evidence exists. That just does not seem like something the God I have read about would accept as good use of his talents.For some reason, I think of the legend recounted in Bede's Ecclesiastical History of England in which King Edwin of Northumbria calls a council of his wise counselors for advice on religion, and during the session, one of the counselors says:
The present life of man upon earth, O king, seems to me, in comparison with that time which is unknown to us, like to the swift flight of a sparrow through the house wherein you sit at supper in winter, with your ealdormen and thegns, while the fire blazes in the midst, and the hall is warmed, but the wintry storms of rain or snow are raging abroad. The sparrow, flying in at one door and immediately out at another, whilst he is within, is safe from the wintry tempest; but after a short space of fair weather, he immediately vanishes out of your sight, passing from winter into winter again. So this life of man appears for a little while, but of what is to follow or what went before we know nothing at all.After these words, the same counselor adds:
If, therefore, this new doctrine tells us something more certain, it seems justly to deserve to be followed. (Bede's Ecclesiastical History of England, translated by A. M. Sellar, London: George Bell and Sons, 1907)Given the counselor's remarks about "that time which is unknown to us," then the "something more certain" that he then alludes to -- namely, the Christian doctrine under consideration in King Edwin's pagan council -- would appear to be grounded in no truly solid evidence but more in a hope that the new doctrine is true. The Medieval world, grounded in this hope, constructed a vast, complex intellectual scaffolding to shore up the superstructure that the hope supported -- much as the flying buttresses shored up those Gothic cathdrals that otherwise would have collapsed from striving too hard to reach too high.
But to bring this back down to earth, to Deva, and the doctor:
Incidentally, I don't think they will invite me to participate in the study, since I don't seem to fit in any of their neat little categories. Too bad. I was really wondering what the inside of my head looks like. And if their drugs can change it.Well, Deva Hupaylo never did fit any of the neat little categories -- her name itself implied that she wasn't entirely local to the Ozarks. Speaking of names, she added:
Jeff, if you put this in your blog, you can use my name. It seems that everyone I meet googles my name and finds your blog. This will save me some time explaining to them what my religion is.Well, since I have that long-hoped-for permission . . . okay, consider it done. You see the solid evidence before your very eyes!
Finally, Deva ends with a declaration of war on carriers of Lyme disease:
After a month of lying on the sofa in an antibiotic stupor (don't ever let them tell you the only side affect of doxycycline is stomach upset) my mind is returning to normal function. My employer will appreciate that! Lyme disease is the only flaw in my little Connecticut paradise so far. I hope to keep it away. Planning my revenge on arachnids, both chemical and organic (Guinea fowls love to eat them.)I thought that ticks were the carriers, but a ticked-off, yet hopeful Deva seems set on attacking not just the order ixodida but the entire class of arachnida!
Don't make too many enemies at once, Deva. Divide and conquer is the best strategy.