Remembering How to Breathe

There is a cosmological model that posits that every time some probabilistic event happens in the universe, reality forks into two or more universes, one where each possible outcome has occurred. In other words, when you flip a coin you immediately spawn two universes: one where you get heads and another where you get tails. It is a popular staple of science fiction stories, where infinite numbers of universes are there to explore.

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Solitude Must Seek Its Own Repair

Solitude must seek its own repair,
Relying not on others to find right,
Trusting but to God, to self, to prayer.

Though counsel has its place to help prepare
For journeys taken to advance our sight,
Solitude must seek its own repair

If it is to escape from others' glare
And find its own true, perfect shaft of light,
Trusting but to God, to self, to prayer.

Confusion borne of conflict and compare
Might rob the staunchest seekers of their might:
Solitude must seek its own repair.

When striving to touch truth, best to take care,
Avoiding those who paint in black and white,
Trusting but to God, to self, to prayer.

Though lonely time can reek of dark despair,
Only unencumbered thoughts take flight;
Solitude must seek its own repair
Trusting but to God, to self, to prayer.

RonRisley – 30 Mar 2005


“Petrichor” is the smell produced by the first rain on dry ground. It is a wonderful word as well as one of my favorite scents. We just had a couple of weeks of dry, sunny weather followed by some pretty intense rainfall, and the petrichor, though faint, was evocative. As always, it brought back a singular memory:

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Wealth and Privilege

I have been in a major funk, feeling sorry for myself. I don’t imagine it’s pretty, but my friends have been supportive nonetheless. One particularly close friend was having problems of his own, having recently been ripped off by a huge, faceless corporation that refuses to even acknowledge his existence beyond threatening to make his life miserable if he doesn’t pay their spurious charges. The amount of money is more than trivial, but less than catastrophic. For him, though, the experience has been devastating, as he has been made to feel that he has no control over his financial affairs (I think any victim of identity theft or an IRS mistake can probably relate).

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Tincture of Time

I simultaneously trained in both family medicine and psychiatry. That road has frequently landed me in a situation where I will be in a general medical clinic when someone comes in having a psychiatric crisis. I am often called upon to intervene. Invariably, when the intervention is successful, the first comment I hear is “I don’t know how you do that.” My usual flip answer is “Magic.” I wondered, myself, for a long time. I watched non-psychiatrically trained colleagues — who were smarter than I, more empathic than I, more experienced than I — struggle with these suffering patients. I could credit my specialized training, my appearance, good fortune, the aura of mystery surrounding psychiatry (a placebo effect?), or the tone of my voice. Doubtless, all play a role. The “magic,” though, ends up being a remarkably simple thing. I shall now reveal the secret:

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Elizabeth Keating

In 1988 I closed my information technology consulting practice and embarked on a thirteen year quest to become a physician. It was a journey filled with remarkable people and events. Among the most memorable people was Elizabeth Keating, Ph.D. who taught an obscure English 205 course at San Diego City College. Dr. Keating was a small, older woman with a big presence, an English accent, and very definite opinions about writing.

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