Chapter 2: Shattering the Glass Floor

Matthew 25:31-46

Match Day 2014 at the Keck School of Medicine

Dallas Willard: An Enigma in the Modern World or an Anachronistic Artifact from the Past.  

My First role model was this man.  He is and will always be the most influential person upon my life because he helped me understand that my greatest value in “the pursuit of truth” was in fact his as well.  He taught me how to ground a life of honesty upon this one value which barely anyone holds anymore.

atwotalentjourney:

The Value of the Pursuit of Truth

Meet Dr.  Dallas Willard.  Most know him as the man in the top picture.  He became most famous in the Protestant world with his first Christian book called “The Spirit of the Disciplines.”  In the last few years before his death last summer, he was a pioneer in the movement of Spiritual Formation with his book called “Renovation of the Heart.”  But another hat he wore was the Director of USC’s Philosophy department.  That’s where his story intersects mine.  For me, Dallas Willard was my philosophy teacher for my classes: Reasoning and Logic, Philosophy of Religion, Moral Philosophy and my Senior Thesis.  I knew him as the guy in the bottom right picture: the professor with THE messiest office by far! I think his desk was literally just a pile of books.  

For so many Christians, Dallas Willard was famous because of the content of his books and the position he held at USC. He really was an enigma of the Modern World.  Either that or an anachronistic artifact.  Yet for being such a highly respected individual in the Christian world, he never once put a plug in about Jesus in any of his classes.  Another friend of mine took 7 classes with him and confirmed this observation.  (Yeah he had student cult followers, both Christians and Non-Christians alike.  He was just a really friendly man.  Everyone wanted him to be their grandpa!)  Even in his office hours, which always had a line!, he wouldn’t talk about his faith and would focus on helping the student navigate the philosophical topic they were pursuing.  I bet many Christians would have thought he should have used his position and intelligence to help others learn more about Jesus Christ.  But he didn’t.  

That’s not to say he just lifelessly taught each class without sharing any personal interest or value.  Quite the opposite!  In every one of my four classes with him and my friend’s seven classes with him he would always spend at least 2 hours talking about Socrates and the value of pursuing truth!  In every office hour I spent with him talking about my projects he would help me improve my reasoning skills and would emphasize the importance of using good reasoning to pursue truth!  Every one of them!  So he was definitely preaching one message to all his students and his sphere of influence.  He would even guest speak at different USC Christian student organizations and emphasize the value of the pursuit of truth there!

Here’s where it gets controversial for Christians.  Because if you really think about it, if Dallas Willard’s highest value in life was his faith in Jesus Christ, he should have talked about Jesus in all his classes and not Socrates.  Or at least Socrates with Jesus.  But if the value of the pursuit of truth was his highest value, then his actions make perfect sense.  This has two significant implications: 1) He believed both his faith and God to be rational and true, such that he trusted that his students would find God or God would meet them halfway if indeed his faith was true.  2) His value of the pursuit of truth entails the humble acknowledgment that his whole faith might be wrong, and therefore if his faith was false, it would be better for the student to find the real truth than for him to make the mistake of preaching a faulty faith to all his students.  For the Christian reader specifically, take some time to chew on these two implications.  

In a recent conversation with a good friend, I’ve realized I’ve let my own highest value of the pursuit of truth become lax.  Through undergrad and into medical school, other things have fought for my time and distracted me from actively living and preaching my highest value like Dallas Willard did in every one of my interactions.  I’ve let it escape my thought life.  I’ve lost touch with this old friend.  But another friend helped me remember that this value of the pursuit of truth really is the foundation of my entire life.  I’ve philosophically built my life upon it and can trace all my beliefs, values and actions to it.  My Christian faith submits to my value of the pursuit of truth.  Its the value that keeps me honest and open minded because it literally entails that my Christian faith must incorporate a functional escape pod, if I come to learn that my faith is false.  And it also has huge implications for medicine and ethics.  I would even argue that the philosophy and spirit of Humanism (which I adore and love) can be founded upon the value of the pursuit of truth.  So be prepared for a series of posts and thoughts that root from this value.  And for my friends, if I haven’t talked to you about this already, expect a conversation about the value of the pursuit of truth sometime in the future!  It truly is a treasure I’ve found and Dallas Willard has poured his own legacy into my life by helping me understand this gem better.  In honor of this great man, I choose to carry his legacy into my life.  Yet, this legacy really did stem from the Greeks and more specifically Socrates himself.  Anyways I’ve already violated my Blog rule “Don’t write posts over 3 paragraphs”, so no more talking :P   Bye!  

May 8th 2013
atwotalentjourney:

My USC Philosophy Professor and mentor Dallas Willard passed away this morning.  I can’t believe he is gone and will miss him dearly.  He played a fundamental role in my undergraduate years and also showed me through his word and life that faith and truth are compatible and not mutually exclusive.  I’ve read one of his best books called “Renovation of the Heart” which I recommend to all Christians and have several other books by him in my queue.  
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Interestingly, in the three classes I took with Dr. Willard he never once mentioned a word about his faith.  Yet, he did go out of his way in every class to study Socrates and the Socratic method and commitment of pursuing Truth.  He never told or hinted to his students what he thought the truth was, but he hounded both those with and without faith to stay committed to truth.  
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I think he feared that the post-modern youth would lose their bearing on truth and so if there was anything he told us to remember from any of our classes it was to stay committed to aligning our beliefs with reality in a reflective, dialogical, humble, honest and critical Socratic manner.   As the shoe fits the foot, he taught me to shape my beliefs around reality and facts and not wishful thinking, ignorance, dogmatism, skepticism, politics, or social pressures.
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He was that one and only professor I knew who gave us his home phone number the weekend before finals so we could call him with last-minute questions on the material.  Although, honestly, his lectures did put me to sleep sometimes, I enjoyed every one of them and will miss this great man.  Thank you for everything!
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"What kind of person am I? I’m happy to have a mistaken idea of mine proved wrong, and I’m happy to prove someone else’s mistaken ideas wrong, I’m certainly not less happy if I’m proved wrong than if I’ve proved someone else wrong, because, as I see it, I’ve got the best of it: there’s nothing worse than the state which I’ve been saved from, so that’s better for me than saving someone else. You see, there’s nothing worse for a person, in my opinion, than holding mistaken views about the matters we’re discussing at the moment." -Socrates "Gorgias"

May 8th 2013

atwotalentjourney:

My USC Philosophy Professor and mentor Dallas Willard passed away this morning.  I can’t believe he is gone and will miss him dearly.  He played a fundamental role in my undergraduate years and also showed me through his word and life that faith and truth are compatible and not mutually exclusive.  I’ve read one of his best books called “Renovation of the Heart” which I recommend to all Christians and have several other books by him in my queue.  

-

Interestingly, in the three classes I took with Dr. Willard he never once mentioned a word about his faith.  Yet, he did go out of his way in every class to study Socrates and the Socratic method and commitment of pursuing Truth.  He never told or hinted to his students what he thought the truth was, but he hounded both those with and without faith to stay committed to truth.  

-

I think he feared that the post-modern youth would lose their bearing on truth and so if there was anything he told us to remember from any of our classes it was to stay committed to aligning our beliefs with reality in a reflective, dialogical, humble, honest and critical Socratic manner.   As the shoe fits the foot, he taught me to shape my beliefs around reality and facts and not wishful thinking, ignorance, dogmatism, skepticism, politics, or social pressures.

-

He was that one and only professor I knew who gave us his home phone number the weekend before finals so we could call him with last-minute questions on the material.  Although, honestly, his lectures did put me to sleep sometimes, I enjoyed every one of them and will miss this great man.  Thank you for everything!

-

"What kind of person am I? I’m happy to have a mistaken idea of mine proved wrong, and I’m happy to prove someone else’s mistaken ideas wrong, I’m certainly not less happy if I’m proved wrong than if I’ve proved someone else wrong, because, as I see it, I’ve got the best of it: there’s nothing worse than the state which I’ve been saved from, so that’s better for me than saving someone else. You see, there’s nothing worse for a person, in my opinion, than holding mistaken views about the matters we’re discussing at the moment." -Socrates "Gorgias"

My First Physician Role Model:  Dr. Giuseppe Moscati
 I am pleased to introduce you to Dr. Giuseppe Moscati.  A poor doctor for the poor.  Born of nobility in 1880 in Italy, this “Holy doctor of Naples” harmoniously melded faith with science.  After caring for his brother through his fatal traumatic head injury, Dr. Moscati became interested in medicine at a significant period of medical advancement.  Noted for his pioneering work in biochemistry, Dr. Moscati was among the first to experiment with insulin to treat diabetes and stimulate the heart with what is now known as CPR.  Also a brilliant diagnostician, Dr. Moscati became an administrator for the Hospital of the Incurables and a forensic surgeon and director of the Pathological Anatomy Institute.  Additionally, between 1903 to 1916, he had written an impressive 27 scientific publications.
In a time of scientific discovery, there were other doctors with equally remarkable credentials.  What made Dr. Giuseppe Moscati admirable, was his heroic act during the April 8th, 1906 Mount Vesuvius eruption.  In genuine selflessness, within a few miles from the eruption, Dr. Moscati rescued elderly and paralytic patients trapped inside the Hospital at Torre del Greco just before the roof collapsed under the weight of the ash.  What made Dr. Moscati memorable was his charity.  He and his sister Nina sold most of their family’s possessions to continue caring for the sick.  In fact after working at the hospital, Dr. Moscati would return home to see patients at his home who could not afford hospital visits.  He refused to charge the poor for their treatment and was known to sometimes send a patient home with a prescription and a 50-lira note in an envelope (~$US 33 in 1927, which may have been near $100 if prescribed during WWI Italian inflation).
But what made Dr. Moscati unforgettable and worthy of canonization as a Saint by Pope John Paul II on October 25th 1987, was his faith and the extent to which he let Jesus transform him.  He was recorded as having said, “Today, I realized something: Jesus lives in every sick person.  If I were only to treat the diseases I would be destined for defeat.  I would think of science’s limitations and feel helpless.  I realized that with Aniello’s death [–an orphan he befriended who died of tetanus].  Being a doctor is a lot less and a lot more.”*  It was his faith and his conviction to love the poor as if each sick person were Jesus himself suffering on the cross that made his faithfulness and love so powerful. To his friends and colleagues he wrote, “You will be blessed if you remember that as well as bodies you are dealing with immortal, divine souls that you must love the way you love yourselves.”*
During the 1911 cholera epidemic in slums of Naples, Giuseppe worked all day and night treating the poor without charge.  He was known to have prayed for all of his patients, even the impossible cases.  And so in loving the poor in humility and simplicity, this brilliant researcher and physician born of nobility and wealth, chose to sell all his possessions—and his sister’s possessions with her support—in order to serve the poor in Naples. On April 12th 1927, at the height of his career, esteemed by his peers and widely consulted, Dr. Moscati died at his home at age 47 after spending a morning receiving Mass and seeing patients at the hospital.  As news spread rapidly, all of Naples mourned for his death, especially the poor people who had lost their only doctor.
When I reflect on Dr. Moscati’s life and faith, I have to wonder at the radical kind of love he lived his life by.  It was a unique love drawn to suffering itself, for its origin lies with Christ’s own suffering on the cross. This poor doctor of Naples foreshadowed the life of another major saint whose life overlapped his own.  Born on August 26th 1910, “Mother Teresa grasped the depth of Jesus’ identification with each sufferer and understood the mystical connection between the sufferings of Christ and the sufferings of the poor.”**  Her complete obedience allowed her to answer Jesus’ call to “‘Come, come, carry Me into the holes of the poor.  Come, be My light.’”**   This radical expression of God’s love has now penetrated the world through Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity ~5,000 sisters world-wide—133 countries—serving the poor with hospices and homes for those with HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, orphanages, schools, and children’s and family counseling programs.  What makes them radical by anyone’s standards is their vows of absolute poverty, chastity, obedience and “wholehearted and free service to the poorest of the poor.”  Yet these kindhearted sisters are not miserable souls.  On the contrary, in their life of material suffering, prayer and service, they are some of the most joyful people I have ever met.
Dr. Moscati, Mother Teresa and the 5,000 amazing selfless sisters worldwide truly embody Christ’s own words in Matthew 25:40 “‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”(See Matthew 25: 34-46)  Dr. Moscati embodies the vision of medicine I always longed for.  Without him as a role model, I would always question my rationality.  For I’ve always felt that the necessities of faith and compassion for the poor call for a sacrificial type of medical service.  Medicine serves suffering and so medical practice itself is bound within suffering.  To me a life as a doctor is a life of suffering for the poor in service and charity.  Medicine in the service and care of injury, disease and death should never be comfortable.  It is necessarily uncomfortable.  But in faith this somber profession can be transformed into one full of joy and love, just like the Missionaries of Charity!  For doctors can only postpone death, but God can save and redeem lives!  This is the beauty in medicine that Dr. Moscati is helping me seek.
Sources:
*Movie St. Giuseppe Moscati – Doctor To The Poor
**Father Kolodiejchuk, Mother Teresa: Come be my Light
Wikipedia
http://www.catholic.net/index.php?option=dedestaca&id=6453
http://www.moscati.it/English/En_Bio7.html
http://www.moscati.it/Eng.html

My First Physician Role Model:  Dr. Giuseppe Moscati

 I am pleased to introduce you to Dr. Giuseppe Moscati.  A poor doctor for the poor.  Born of nobility in 1880 in Italy, this “Holy doctor of Naples” harmoniously melded faith with science.  After caring for his brother through his fatal traumatic head injury, Dr. Moscati became interested in medicine at a significant period of medical advancement.  Noted for his pioneering work in biochemistry, Dr. Moscati was among the first to experiment with insulin to treat diabetes and stimulate the heart with what is now known as CPR.  Also a brilliant diagnostician, Dr. Moscati became an administrator for the Hospital of the Incurables and a forensic surgeon and director of the Pathological Anatomy Institute.  Additionally, between 1903 to 1916, he had written an impressive 27 scientific publications.

In a time of scientific discovery, there were other doctors with equally remarkable credentials.  What made Dr. Giuseppe Moscati admirable, was his heroic act during the April 8th, 1906 Mount Vesuvius eruption.  In genuine selflessness, within a few miles from the eruption, Dr. Moscati rescued elderly and paralytic patients trapped inside the Hospital at Torre del Greco just before the roof collapsed under the weight of the ash.  What made Dr. Moscati memorable was his charity.  He and his sister Nina sold most of their family’s possessions to continue caring for the sick.  In fact after working at the hospital, Dr. Moscati would return home to see patients at his home who could not afford hospital visits.  He refused to charge the poor for their treatment and was known to sometimes send a patient home with a prescription and a 50-lira note in an envelope (~$US 33 in 1927, which may have been near $100 if prescribed during WWI Italian inflation).

But what made Dr. Moscati unforgettable and worthy of canonization as a Saint by Pope John Paul II on October 25th 1987, was his faith and the extent to which he let Jesus transform him.  He was recorded as having said, “Today, I realized something: Jesus lives in every sick person.  If I were only to treat the diseases I would be destined for defeat.  I would think of science’s limitations and feel helpless.  I realized that with Aniello’s death [–an orphan he befriended who died of tetanus].  Being a doctor is a lot less and a lot more.”*  It was his faith and his conviction to love the poor as if each sick person were Jesus himself suffering on the cross that made his faithfulness and love so powerful. To his friends and colleagues he wrote, “You will be blessed if you remember that as well as bodies you are dealing with immortal, divine souls that you must love the way you love yourselves.”*

During the 1911 cholera epidemic in slums of Naples, Giuseppe worked all day and night treating the poor without charge.  He was known to have prayed for all of his patients, even the impossible cases.  And so in loving the poor in humility and simplicity, this brilliant researcher and physician born of nobility and wealth, chose to sell all his possessions—and his sister’s possessions with her support—in order to serve the poor in Naples. On April 12th 1927, at the height of his career, esteemed by his peers and widely consulted, Dr. Moscati died at his home at age 47 after spending a morning receiving Mass and seeing patients at the hospital.  As news spread rapidly, all of Naples mourned for his death, especially the poor people who had lost their only doctor.

When I reflect on Dr. Moscati’s life and faith, I have to wonder at the radical kind of love he lived his life by.  It was a unique love drawn to suffering itself, for its origin lies with Christ’s own suffering on the cross. This poor doctor of Naples foreshadowed the life of another major saint whose life overlapped his own.  Born on August 26th 1910, “Mother Teresa grasped the depth of Jesus’ identification with each sufferer and understood the mystical connection between the sufferings of Christ and the sufferings of the poor.”**  Her complete obedience allowed her to answer Jesus’ call to “‘Come, come, carry Me into the holes of the poor.  Come, be My light.’”**   This radical expression of God’s love has now penetrated the world through Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity ~5,000 sisters world-wide—133 countries—serving the poor with hospices and homes for those with HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, orphanages, schools, and children’s and family counseling programs.  What makes them radical by anyone’s standards is their vows of absolute poverty, chastity, obedience and “wholehearted and free service to the poorest of the poor.”  Yet these kindhearted sisters are not miserable souls.  On the contrary, in their life of material suffering, prayer and service, they are some of the most joyful people I have ever met.

Dr. Moscati, Mother Teresa and the 5,000 amazing selfless sisters worldwide truly embody Christ’s own words in Matthew 25:40 “‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”(See Matthew 25: 34-46)  Dr. Moscati embodies the vision of medicine I always longed for.  Without him as a role model, I would always question my rationality.  For I’ve always felt that the necessities of faith and compassion for the poor call for a sacrificial type of medical service.  Medicine serves suffering and so medical practice itself is bound within suffering.  To me a life as a doctor is a life of suffering for the poor in service and charity.  Medicine in the service and care of injury, disease and death should never be comfortable.  It is necessarily uncomfortable.  But in faith this somber profession can be transformed into one full of joy and love, just like the Missionaries of Charity!  For doctors can only postpone death, but God can save and redeem lives!  This is the beauty in medicine that Dr. Moscati is helping me seek.

Sources:

  1. *Movie St. Giuseppe Moscati – Doctor To The Poor
  2. **Father Kolodiejchuk, Mother Teresa: Come be my Light
  3. Wikipedia
  4. http://www.catholic.net/index.php?option=dedestaca&id=6453
  5. http://www.moscati.it/English/En_Bio7.html
  6. http://www.moscati.it/Eng.html

“Being a doctor is a lot less and a lot more.”

—   Dr. Giuseppe Moscati (via atwotalentjourney)

“Remember that you must treat not only bodies, but also souls, with counsel that appeals to their minds and hearts rather than with cold prescriptions to be sent in to the pharmacist.”

—   Saint Dr. Giuseppe Moscati (via atwotalentjourney)

Dr. Giuseppe Moscati

atwotalentjourney:

was canonized as a Saint by Pope Giovanni Paolo II on October 25, 1987.  His body lies in the church of Gesù Nuovo in Naples, Italy under the altar of the Chapel of Visitation.

“…and after this, you will discover you can ease pain with a gesture, with some advice, with words, with an embrace, not only with a cold prescription.”

—   Dr. Giuseppe Moscati (via atwotalentjourney)

“We mustn’t consider pain just as a physical spasm. It is a brother’s cry for help, and we must help him with love…”

—   Dr. Giuseppe Moscati (via atwotalentjourney)

“If I were to treat the disease I would be destined for defeat. I would think of science’s limitations and feel helpless. I realized that with Aniello’s death. Being a doctor is a lot less and a lot more.”

—   Dr. Giuseppe Moscati (via atwotalentjourney)

“I want to give my whole strength, my whole life.”

—   Dr. Giuseppe Moscati (via atwotalentjourney)

“Today I realized something: Jesus lives in every sick person.”

—   Dr. Giuseppe Moscati (via atwotalentjourney)

“If life brings persecution, accept it.
If life brings torment, bear it.
If for the truth you have to sacrifice yourself and your life, be strong in your sacrifice.
Death is not the end; it is the beginning.”

—   Dr. Giuseppe Moscati (via atwotalentjourney)

“Show what you are, without pretense and without fear.”

—   Dr. Giuseppe Moscati (via atwotalentjourney)

Gorgio and Elena, my friends,

Life is but a moment. Honor, victories, wealth and science all fall. Every charm in life passes and only eternal love remains, the cause of every good deed. Love lives on after us because love is God.

—   Dr. Giuseppe Moscati (via atwotalentjourney)