Archive for January, 2011

Suffering Presence – 2

In Suffering Presence Hauerwas quotes Alasdair Mcintyre (a bit like Lewis quoting Macdonald)

any account of morality that does not allow for the fact that my death may be required of me at any moment is an inadequate account

The above quote is understood not to suggest we are moral because we suffer but we suffer because of our moral convictions.



You can do better than me

I have of late developed something of an interest in theological ethics. So I figured reading some relevant material on the principles of philosophy and ethics might be useful.

Perhaps typing “philosophy and ethics” into the Trinity College library was a bit of a simplistic place to start but I figured it was a start.

I found this book – Philosophy and ethics of medicine – by Michael Gelfand.

Being published in the sixties by a guy who lived and worked in the country formerly known as Rhodesia didn’t make me that optimistic.

I was not to be disappointed. Or impressed.

It was kind of weak on the philosophy bit, and the ethics bit wasn’t too hot either, and I really wasn’t sure about a lot of the medicine…

Early in the book he defends “medical epistemology” as being best because it follows the scientific approach with no argument to justify why this might be best  approach. Or even that other approaches exist.

This was one of my particular favourite quotes

what should the doctors attitude towards telling his patient the true nature he is prescribing for him other risks invovled in an operation he has advised? The problem is a complicated one. Firstly the doctor should avoid, if possible frightening the patient or the family lest he refuse the treatment and so endange his life

It’s much better that the medical profession should endanger your life rather than let you endanger it yourself…
Truth telling is good as long as they do what we think they should do.
And the specific drugs he was considering warning the patient about in the above quote were named as emetine (a drug that eventually ended being used to induce vomiting and is now abandoned even for that purpose), arsenic (enough said…) and antimony (which used to be used for treating parasitic diseases but we gave up on it cause it behaved a little too much like arsenic…).

The Politics of Jesus – 4

Yoder ends with talking about how modern social ethic is obsessed with meaning and direction of history and making sure it heads in the “right” direction.

He suggests this in itself makes 3 big assumptions

  1. the relationship of cause and effect is measurable and visible. If we make the right choices it will move the way we want it
  2. assumes we are adequately informed to set the direction
  3. movement toward these goals is itself a moral yardstick.

He highlights church history as a good example of how every time we work this way it seems to go badly wrong.

He concludes with this simple phrase

Vicit agnus noster, rim sequamur

(Our lamb has conquered; him let us follow.)

This highlights something pretty substantial about how I think about the church. Something my wife has hammered home in me (via Stanley) that the church is primarily called to be faithful.

Perhaps that much seems obvious to you. But it seems in stark contrast to how we actually seem to live it out. We live as if our job is to change the world. When perhaps that is not our “job” but the “job” of the one we follow.

If we are faithful no doubt the world will be changed but that is somewhat different.

Suffering Presence – 1

[A few thoughts on reading through this collection of essays]

Hauerwas talks alot about how medicine as a moral act is difficult to sustain in a society as morally confused as the one we exist in.

To illustrate it I found this quote:

we blame physicians for keeping us alive beyond all reason, but fail to note that if they did not we would not know how to distinguish them from murderers.

Those of us who have been involved in talking about end of life issues, either in the church or in the public sphere, will realise how such conversations can go. The multitude of opinions found (and how uncomfortable we are with them and the language we use to talk about them) gives light to the moral confusion we live under.


The Best of 2010

Seems somewhat appropriate given the time of year. At least the time of year that I first started thinking about this, not the the time when I actually wrote the blog.

I started 2010 as I had a few of the past few new years – in work. Hanging out with the slightly inebriated revelers of South Tyrone and Armagh and re-attaching their lips and eyebrows to their faces. Mainly in the appropriate position.

I then ended up in Texas of all places. The wedding we went for was kind of cool. Texas itself was kind of weird and perhaps not a place I find myself rushing back to. You’ll have to do better than that America!

I spent a lot of time maintaing the long-distance international relationship with my good lady friend. This involved a lot of time driving and listening to 6 years of back recordings of Emergency Medical Abstracts and learning more about emergency medicine, primary care and research methodology than I would care to imagine.

I spent some a lot of time on the train too. I tended to spend this time hunched over the laptop and this lovely program making little red notes and highlighting PDF files.

I discovered Lifehacker. Which is a little bit like discovering crack cocaine. Anything that can pump your RSS reader that much in a day can’t be good for you. I kept finding annoyingly useful things like bulldog clips, downgrading an iPhone back to the stone age of 2007 and oodles of free software.

I discovered torrents too.

Angry Birds became a dark and sinister addiction in many of my friends lives.

Our hospital went to a digital radiology system and the switch over went surprisingly smoothly and the whole thing has made getting and looking at x-rays a whole lot easier. We’ll not have anywhere to put you once we know you need to come into hospital but hey…

I got a new job teaching anatomy. Well kind of teaching. My kind of teaching at least. This made me feel slightly less guilty about quitting my “real” job in may and not doing any other work till september.

We stayed a weekend here and it was immense.

I had to say goodbye to living with these guys

I finally played a gig with a band and me singing my songs and it was thoroughly terrifying and enjoyable at the same time.

I had a stag do and so to avoid being tied naked to a lampost and degradetated we went to a small island in the middle of the largest lake in the british isles. I also proved that I have the best friends ever who would follow me on such a trip.

I spent considerable time and effort planning and getting through and enjoying our spectacular spectacular wedding affair.

Our wedding rocked like a hyperactive puppy on steroids strung out on meow-meow who’s been fed too much sugar. You should have been there.

To wind down we went to a series of tiny Scottish islands which combined unemployment, beauty, and ancient history into one.

I read a lot of books. I suppose the highlights inculde:

– East of Eden

– The Hauerwas stuff, which has hopefully ruined my career in medicine as I knew it and left me more deeply in love with the church

– The Mission of God

– Yet more Kurt Vonnegut

Of movies I’d give it to

– Of God’s and men

– The station agent

– Inception

Maybe (as i’ve been writing this for 45 mins now) I should call this the best of the first half of 2010.

Since getting married I seem to have a million more stories to tell, as if the second half the year was so much more filled with activity. Perhaps it is the simple proximity that helps me recall it but i suspect it is the lack of a full time job which gives me the time to do all the stuff.

This is kind of cool and much appreciated and not to be sniffed at. Part-time is the new full-time. Or something like that…

I haven’t talked about any of the shitty bits…

I have managed to attain a detailed knowledge of the course of the hypoglossal nerve and have discovered enough exciting books and ideas to keep me going for ages yet.

I now live in the same town as many of the “blog friends” (slightly above facebook friends on the friendship hierarchy) and have managed to fool most of them into becoming real friends.

I continue to lament the loss (or more accurately the absence) from my life of my previous co-conspirators in the North of this fair land. I continue to struggle with the simple limits of how many relationships one can keep spinning well.

The older I get and the more people I meet, the more frustrated I get at how poorly I manage to love them.

I am surrounded by grace, mercy and love. That is something special.

Now that I’m getting all weepy I suppose I may as well admit that getting married kind of made 2010 for me. Marriage is terrifying. It is impossible to get away from the fact (that John Cusack put so well in High Fidelity) that “I am a fucking asshole”. It is a miracle to be loved in return.

The Politics of Jesus – 3

There’s a great bit when Yoder talks a wee bit about translation of this famous verse. In my mind always remembered as “if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation”. Yoder translates it somewhat differently

if anyone is in Christ there is a whole new world



January 2011
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