The universe sent me a message. It's time to take heed


The thing about insight is that you never really know in its initial energy burst whether it’s delusional. Still, one has to act.

So with the insight gained from having my heart stop a few times, I’ve decided to step away from my weekly GetReligion responsibilities and devote myself to self-healing.

It's going to take months to fully recover from the two major surgeries, hospital pneumonia and series of seizure-like heart stoppages (cardiovascular syncope, to be more medically precise) I’ve experienced in recent weeks. This followed a steady health decline over the previous several months. I want to give myself every advantage in the process.

I owe at least that much to the many people, my family and friends, that have bathed me in love and compassionate devotion during this time.

(In case you're wondering, prior to my decline I did take care of myself. I was super careful about diet and exercise. But I’m 76 and this is what happens to us all, sooner or later. Life is transient.)

I was fortunate that the heart stoppages — I’m actually unsure of the precise number I suffered — did not diminish my intellect; I did not stroke out. My new pacemaker should handle the stoppage problem.

I’m also fortunate that Medicare, my supplemental health insurance and my personal finances are likely more than sufficient to handle my bills. I fully realize that in 2019 America, and in the larger human family, I’m privileged to be able to say this.

I still have great curiosity about this amazing creation in which we get to sojourn and I’m so blessed to be deeply connected to my wife, Ruth, who taught me how to commit to love, and who I wish to show love toward for many years to come.

There’s much ahead. I remain an adventure-seeker.

I've written for GR for about four years, and as professional journalists know well, one column a week of analysis or commentary is hardly a backbreaking pace. So it's not the deadline pressure that I need to step away from.

It’s the distraction; the uncounted hours of every day consciously and unconsciously spent scouring the news for stories worth commenting on or just absorbing in hope of discerning some larger pattern that will be of interest to journalists and news consumers. I’ve finally concluded that, after more than a half-century around the news business, that this process has now become not only psychologically grinding but corrosive at its core.

Given the amount, frequency and nastiness with which the news comes at us today, in its multiplicity of forms, surely it's more corrosive than ever. I won’t be able to heal if I stay immersed in it. I’ll stay abreast, but I can't let it consume me any longer.

It’s also so damn frustrating. The news is an endless cycle of the same shortsighted compounding of human error repeated ad nauseam. Frankly, I find it depressing and I do not think it will ever change.

How many times have I written about China’s horrendous treatment of it's Uighur population, only to then come across a story in The Washington Post  about how Beijing is expanding its atrocities to include other Muslim minorities within its orbit? And no one with power or influence does anything about it. Certainly not the world’s other 1 billion-plus Muslims. The concept of the Muslim Ummah has become a farce, a concept to be wielded politically when it suits the aggressor’s desires.

The same may be said for many trends in popular Christianity or any other faith group. That includes my own; the larger Jewish community with which I identify or the more socially and spiritually expansive, niche Jewish community where I feel most comfortable.

Stories such as the Post offering mentioned above are important and must be published. Courageous journalists put their freedom and life on the line to bring them to public view. But documenting atrocities does not make them go away. Nor does it make the victims any more noble, just a bit more familiar.

Instead it seems only to spur copycat episodes across the globe. I need a break from all that. That's the message my body has conveyed.

GetReligion is a site about the journalistic attention paid to the many ways that humans seek to impose sense and order on their existence to stave off insecurity.

Both journalism and religion suffer mightily these days.

Both will survive, of course, though in what forms remain to be seen.  We are a specie that needs to communicate and we will always need to grasp for that elusive sense of control. Human-propelled climate change — the greatest of societal follies, in my opinion — could, of course, change everything. Then none of this will matter. We’ll just have to see.

Let me end by thanking Terry Mattingly for reeling me into the GetReligion boat. And for allowing me to remain a part of it despite my opinions differing, often widely, from the site’s general tone and readership. Thanks as well to my various co-workers over the years, and to the powers that fund this work.

I don't intend to stop writing, but I hope that whatever I produce will probe deeper into the mystery, which is my neutral way of referring to the spark that birthed us all. Perhaps we’ll meet up in another forum sometime in the future.

Until then, try to do some good.

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