The Sabbatical Begins

The two Iowa girls made it home, letting us have Christmas together complete as a family. The above photo shows Jonathan, Sarah, Rachel, and Diane. It was wonderful having all four children together. The only distress was an extra visitor (Schmutzie die Wutzie)-actually, she’s a cat, something we didn’t really expect, and Katze has not been very happy about her new feline roommate. The girls have gone back home, but they left the cat. That’s ok. We still love the Iowa kids.
Meanwhile, my practice has slowed down so that I have had time free to get packing. Not having made many 5 week trips out of the country, it is a little difficult to determine exactly what to bring. So, minor indecisiveness prevails while I decide on my favorite things to bring. As I write this, I notice that the temperature in Düsseldorf is -8°C, meaning that is absolutely freezing. No way I’m going to ride a bicycle and come home with frostbite. I’ll stick to walking and public transportation in Germany, for now.
Getting travel issues straightened out with my other trips to Bangladesh has been made much easier through the agency of Samaritan’s Purse. They will essentially be the organization that sends me off. They also have done this before, and so they have been superb at helping neophytes like Betsy and me organize the trips.
Snow. Yes, this year is experiencing global cooling. Next year, it may return to global warming. But, we had a moderate amount of snow, that sits in patches by the side of the road. It snowed just before Christmas, giving us a wonderful Weiße Weihnacht. Here are a few photos…

Of course, Christmas was celebrated as usual…

I was able to do a home visit to one of my patients who is now in his last days, on whom I performed a major cancer operation. I had learned that he had an absolutely incredible story of escape with his family from Eastern Germany during the cold war. We then discovered that he was my student teacher in German class in high school. I was so excited about that, that I decided to help him write his autobiography. Using my typographical skills, we slowly got his story together, which included scanned photos from many aspects of his life. I would encourage you to read the story, which can be found in Die Veröffentlichen as Meine Geschichte (My Story). Helmut has a strong love for the Lord, which takes some of the sorrow out of the soon-passing of a dear patient but also dear friend.
Exercise continues. After the accident on the trainer, I have my bicycle repaired, and am pushing the training each day. I finally figured out how to use the Garmin 705 in training mode, as I was having a problem with it making a wireless connection with the rear sensor that would tell me speed, distance, and cadence. Together with a heart monitor, I am totally in the know on my rides that go nowhere. The Garmin is actually a slave-driver

since it forces me to maintain a steady speed and cadence, and usually shows me that my cadence is too slow. Cadence is your pedaling speed, and you like to keep it between 70-90, but I usually go 60-70. Well, I have the winter to work on that.
While pedaling away, I’ve managed to work my way through Heidegger,  Wittgenstein, the Frankfurt School including Habermas, Quine, Hayek, Popper, Kuhn, the Structuralists Saussure, and Levi-Strauss. There are only a few lectures left to go, covering deconstructionists, Rohrty, MacEntyre, and Nozick. So, what has this availed me? The designers of this series have left out various schools of thought, such as the existentialists, for reasons that elude me. Truth has taken a hard hit, and nobody, save for perhaps MacEntyre, even believes in a notion of truth. Many of the lectures, including those about Habermas, Quine, Popper, Kuhn, & Rawls deal only with the nature of social interactions and language in forming a constructive society. Democracy has rightfully taken a serious hit, as these philosophers abandon the polar opposites of both socialism (esp. Hayek), and democracy in its raw form. In addition, Wittgenstein essentially destroyed the possibility of language (based on commonly accepted philosophical pre-suppositions), yet the structuralists and late 20th century philosophers don’t wish to abandon the possibility of communication, as least until they’ve spoken their mind. Popper and Kuhn, while seemingly restoring a philosophy of science, have essentially destroyed the possibility of science demonstrating ultimate truth, since the paradigms of research determine the interpretation of outcomes. Yet, we still do science since there is utility in it. Bottom line—it seems to me like the pragmatists have won; philosophers have despaired of philosophizing, and are no longer asking questions of ontology, morality, or epistemology, but simply ascertaining how to produce a functional society at peace with itself. In essence, they have become nothing but political scientists and sociologists. Francis Schaeffer again proves right, when he spoke of personal peace and prosperity is the summum bonum of the late twentieth century, rather than truth or morality. Enough philosophizing.
Many continue to ask about my plans for the Sabbatical. Here is a rough outline…
02JAN-07FEB Deutschland, esp. Düsseldorf, where I will be spending four weeks in a language school. Betsy didn’t want to go. I think she suspects Germans to all be closet Nazis or jack-booted Prussian militarists, myself included. During that time, I’ll be spending time with Onkel Herbert, visiting a childhood friend and her husband (Heinz und Debbie Fuchs) in the Stuttgart area, hopefully getting up to Bremen and Hamburg, and then going with Herbert to Würzberg to visit Katya (Herbert’s, and soon to be, my friend) and eventually on to Praha (Prague).
February – cross-country skiing, and maybe some downhill skiing. I’ll be spending a lot of time organizing for Bangladesh.
02-07 March – Phoenix, to go to the Society of Surgical Oncology meetings. Betsy and I plan on spending time with Dr. Peter T. and also delighting ourselves in one of the most fascinating characters of the twentieth-21st centuries, Peter Megyesi, who is Betsy’s brother. Peter and his wife Linda live in Scottsdale and are always enjoyable to visit, with never a dull moment. I’m not sure how Linda puts up with Petie, but they seem to remain madly in love.
15MAR-15MAY Bangladesh. I’m ready. Betsy’s psyching up. Pray for us!
Summer – will be spent in the Pacific Northwest. One does not leave the PNW in summer, as it is paradise here. Plans are to hike the 93 miles (150 km) Wonderland trail around Rainier with Jonny (again), do the entire loop of Crater Lake on a bicycle with Luc A and father while camping out with Aaron H., doing the Seattle to Portland (STP) on a bicycle in one day, only 203 miles (327 km) of fairly flat terrain. I also am considering a touring ride across the state of Washington with the Cascade Bicycle Club.
September-December – to Africa. Too far away to think seriously about, except to pencil in the days that we will be away.
While in Düsseldorf, I will try to make a blog page every week with the events of the week. I will NOT be announcing the publication of the page, in part to not burden you with unnecessary junk mail. Please stay in touch and drop comments as appropriate.