March 25, 2020

The Feast of the Annunciation

Today is the Feast of the Annunciation, which commemorates the story in the Gospel of Luke where the archangel Gabriel tells the young Mary that she is destined to bare a special child. I don't think I've ever marked the date before and only noticed it today by chance. Whether you take it literally or literarily, it is a charming story.

I love the sheer radicalism of the song this young (probably teenage) woman was said to have spontaneously sung on receiving the message:

My soul doth magnify the Lord, * and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.
For he hath regarded * the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold from henceforth * all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me, * and holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him * throughout all generations.
He hath showed strength with his arm; * he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat, * and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things, * and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel, * as he promised to our forefathers,
Abraham and his seed for ever. 
Putting down the mighty, exalting the humble, filling the hungry with good things...let me just say that works for me.

Then there's the amazingly brief but eloquent way she responds to this news:

"Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word."

I hadn't given much thought to Mary or this story until I walked the Camino de Santiago in the fall of 2018, where you can't avoid seeing her image over and over. Whatever the Palestinian Jewish woman who gave birth to Jesus may have been like in history, I came to appreciate  the power of the archetype of Mary as the Theotokos (Greek for God-bearer).

March 23, 2020

Happy 10th, Affordable Care Act!

Happy 10th birthday, Affordable Care Act! Here's a blog post I wrote at the time President Obama signed it into law:

It's official. President Obama signed the health care reform bill into law yesterday.

He told those in attendance that
We have just now enshrined, as soon as I sign this bill, the core principle that everybody should have some basic security when it comes to their health care.
Critics of the bill may point out that this isn't exactly the case, but there's no denying that this is a landmark piece of legislation that will extend health coverage to millions who have been doing without it. The New York Times calls it
the federal government’s biggest attack on economic inequality since inequality began rising more than three decades ago.
It remains to be seen whether the immediate benefits (political and otherwise) will outweigh the blowback. This item from Politico argues that the former will come before the latter, but I'm not sure I agree. It always seemed to me that a major drawback of the legislation was that the major expansion of health coverage via Medicaid and subsidies won't hit until several years down the line, meaning that the risks might hit earlier than the benefits.

Still, it probably will be hard for those who want to repeal it to win much of a crowd by saying "Bring back the donut hole" for Medicare Part D, or "let's cut those young people off their parent's insurance" or "Bring back denials of coverage for pre-existing conditions!"

The game has changed, although it's hard to guess just how or how much.

March 22, 2020

The dream cure

Healing temple of Asclepius at Kos, by way of wikipedia

The ancient Greeks had some interesting ideas about healing illnesses. One of these was the custom of using dreams to find cures. It worked like this: the patient would visit  and sleep in an Asclepeion or temple dedicated to the semi-divine physician Asclepius, son of the Apollo. The dreams of the patient would be used as the basis of the treatment.

I've always been interested in dreams and tried to pay attention to them. Sometimes they're just static, sometimes funny or scary, sometimes transparent wish fulfillment a la Freud. But sometimes, as Freud's renegade disciple Carl Jung argued, they're very deep. They can represent the insights of our unconscious mind, the oldest and biggest part of our mental apparatus.

I had a pretty good one last night that speaks to our current situation. In it, I was working to repair the roof of a house pretty far from the ground, something I'd never be able to pull off in real life. The slope of the roof was steep and I was in danger of falling off.

It occurred to me that I needed some kind of supporting connection, like a rope tied to something secure to keep from going over the edge. There were images of different kinds of knots--bowlines, square knots, slipknots and others I've long since forgotten from my volunteer firefighting and scouting days. Obviously, the knots and connections represented relations with others.

I think that's a pretty good metaphor for the social connections we need during this outbreak to keep from going over the edge, even if they involve social distancing or occur over long distances. Even if they're just remembered.

I'll take that. Thanks, Asclepius!