Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

BEING MORTAL [W, 9-19-18]

CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith and Life for the Years of Winter… 

I am reading Atul Gewande’s Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. I picked it up on the way out the door to take the car to the tire place, because it is a fairly small paperback—easy to carry and to read in a cramped and noisy waiting room that features 10W-30 coffee.

Why that book was in the stacks on the main level of the china cabinet in the living room I have no idea. That is where we keep current to-read books. We mark in a book who gave it to us—gifting being the source of almost all our books—but there is no such indication. It has the look of a used book, but we have avoided the temptations of used-book emporia and library sales for years, just because addicts must avoid the occasions in which their addictions can be fed. Books at our house just sort of hatch on their own and then, fledging-like, take flight until they land where we will pick them up because of their physical properties, like small enough to carry out into the world of tire repairs.

As I worked through the book--trying to avoid the voices of the two women and the tire guy who were arguing about who said what about price before the repair was done, each of the three totally misunderstanding what each of the others was saying—I realized that what I was reading sounded quite familiar, as in having read it in the pages of “The New Yorker” when Gewande had speculated on being mortal before he put it into book form. But I was younger then, like five years, and I have become much more mortal in those five years, so “being mortal” has taken on new urgency.

What really frosts me in the years of winter is how we old folks are told to do the exact opposite of what we have worked our whole lives to avoid. Well, maybe it’s just me, but that’s still frost-worthy.

I have wanted—nay, desired—my whole life to be able just to sit down and do nothing. No, no, the experts say; you must stay active.

I have wanted—nay desired—my whole life to have people leave me alone. No, no, the experts say; you must remain social and engaged.

I have wanted—nay, desired—my whole life to devote my days to eating ice cream and peanuts while watching sports on TV. No, no, he experts say; you must eat vegetables and turmeric and avoid blue screens.

Gewande writes beautifully, and insightfully, and usefully, and I recommend Being Mortal to you. But be prepared to get frosted.

John Robert McFarland

Speaking of writing, my most recent book, VETS, about four homeless and handicapped Iraqistan veterans who are accused of murdering a VA doctor, is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BOKO, Powell’s, etc. It’s published by Black Opal Books and is available for a limited period of time for 99 cents.

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