As part of a fellowship in International Emergency Medicine, I spent six months (multiple trips over a two year period) in northern Ethiopia. One of the most otherworldly experiences I had during that time was exploring Lalibela, a town which occupies a revered place in Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity. A walk through town revealed temples hewn from single enormous slabs of rock and pilgrims gathered by the dozens in white robes atop cliffside churches. Religion pervades rural areas (where 80% of Ethiopians live), and many subsistence farming families send male children to live and study in monasteries. Extremes of poverty and piety are everywhere.
Closet-sized caves containing barely more than simple cots surround the perimeter of many of the churches, in whose entrances religious zealots dressed in saffron robes finger amber rosary beads and read verses from bibles made of parchment as they beg for alms from pilgrims. These men are known as hermits, and they spend lives of devotion to the faith in these caves.
Ethiopian hermits come to mind because the FIRE universe is a bit of a cult, and we even have our own modern-day hermits.
I was introduced to the concept of “insensible losses” in medical school. Briefly, excess fluids lost from the human body are difficult to measure via the lungs, skin and GI tract, but can take a significant toll on the state of hydration. Conditions that stress the body and increase metabolic rate (burns, fever, a pint of Ben and Jerry’s in the lactose intolerant) result in increased insensible losses. Reading an endearing blog post on Marriage in Retirement by Darrow Kirkpatrick led me to believe that relationships, too, have their version of insensible losses. From his post:
Long ago, somebody told me that each member of a successful partnership has to give more than 50%. That’s because of losses due to “friction.”
This morning I took a hike with a friend through the hills along the California coast. My friend is a thoughtful, deeply intellectual academic, and our conversation turned to the topic of what legacies we hope to pass onto our children.
Bringing order to chaos and stamping out small fires as they occur in the emergency department turn out to be great preparation for family travel. It's like any other shift, only it stains your regular clothes.
My daughter, a budding third grade artist, has begun to reflect on what she likes to do and whom she looks up to as a source of career inspiration. A few weeks ago, without prompting, she announced she was going to become either a teacher or an artist. This led me to do some soul searching about what kind of guidance I ought to give, and what kind of father I ought to be.
Growing up with immigrant parents, you find that certain “old country” practices your folks learned as second nature don’t always translate so well in the new country.
Some concepts that would be perfectly acceptable in the home country were a little off here in the U.S. When my great-grandmother died while my siblings and I were away at summer camp, my parents decided to postpone telling us until we returned, so as not to ruin our special camper experience. I was an irritable thirteen year old at the time, and I was convinced that they had violated my right to contemporaneous grieving. I argued passionately to my parents that they had no right to withhold this type of information. Dad listened patiently, then dryly observed, “The half hour you just spent berating us, Soviet kids spent mastering physics. This is why the Russians are beating us.”
I have an embarrassing confession to make. Despite my otherwise frugal instincts, I’m a sucker for a well-designed Apple product. My brother-in-law, a conscientious consumer, reminds me that the equivalent PC or Android product offers far more flexibility and bang for my buck, but I see a sleek aluminum case and my rational mind turns to mush. The prospect of a less buggy, more integrated ecosystem of products (supported anecdotally by my wife’s frequent expletives while using her Android phone or PC computer) are usually sufficient for me to feel vindicated despite the additional expense.