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.