Monday, December 31, 2007


I am enthusiastically happy to announce that my daughter-in-law gave birth to beautiful, healthy twins, a boy and a girl. So I now have 4 grandchildren. How blessed can one be.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Chapter 8: The Assembly

As a preventive medicine officer, my job was, as you might guess, the prevention of disease, and the biggest disease problem among the troops was venereal disease, especially gonorrhea. It was an epidemic of monstrous proportions. The numbers were astronomical. They ran something like four hundred per cent, which means that, on the average, each soldier would have a bout of gonorrhea four times during his year in Korea. Considering that many of us never had gonorrhea at all and many cases were never reported, there were others who had it even more frequently. In fact there were some who had a continuous string of gonorrhea episodes, so that the times in between when they were free of the disease were few and short. There was also a lot of syphilis, but the numbers were not so huge. Also there was what we then called non-specific urethritis or NSU, lots of it. The numbers there would also have been astronomical if we would have counted, but we didn't. NSU gave a kind of watery discharge. We didn't know what caused it, and we didn't have a very good treatment for it. It wasn't an official venereal disease although we all knew it was, but if the government and the public had tuned in to it, they would have been on our tails. Then there would more gathering of meaningless data for silly reports, and life would be more difficult. So, we kept quiet and did the best we could with it.
You see, venereal disease was a social problem as well as a medical problem. The public back home was disturbed by reports of a venereal disease epidemic among our soldiers in the Far East. What disturbs the public, disturbs our elected government officials, and in turn disturbs the Army. But an army is a community in which the vast majority of people are young testosterone filled men. At least that's the way it was then and there. Those young men, far from their homes and families, were unleashed in a very poor country, poor after many years of occupation by Japan followed by the devastation of the Korean War which had ended only a decade earlier. I am told that since that time the Korean economy has changed dramatically, but then it was very poor. A soldier's salary might seem like a pittance to us, but there and then he was like a millionaire at a bargain sale.
Where there is extreme poverty, most people will make do, but some will succumb to whatever it takes to make a little more. And so, the thousands of prostitutes servicing Camp Casey probably altogether outnumbered the troops. The "business girls" made their contacts in the bars in the town. Each bar had its own group of business girls. They had some unofficial recognition by the local government and were supposedly checked regularly for V.D. at one of the four local clinics. Prostitution was officially illegal, but it was necessary for the local economy. There were also "street walkers" who freelanced on the streets. The most ragged and undisciplined of all were the "ridge runners" who came down from the hills to solicit along the fence. I am told that fornication often occurred through the fence between the barbed wires, even in winter, even with guards on guard duty.
One of my jobs was to visit the four local V.D. clinics in Tongduchon. Supposedly, every business girl was checked for V.D. twice a week. If that were really true those clinics would have been bursting at the seams, but generally they seemed pretty quiet. Occasionally, some colonel from Seoul (Eighth Army Headquarters) would come to visit us. They all wanted to visit the local V.D. clinics. I remember that at one particular clinic, each visitor would ask the same question, "How many girls do you examine each day?" Each time the Korean doctor in that clinic would scratch his head, look up at the ceiling, appear to be deep in thought, and come up with a number. Each time it was a different number. He just pulled the number out of the air.
Dr. Jose Mendez was one of our battalion surgeons. Dr. Mendez had come to the United States from Colombia to take his residency training in gynecology, but one year before completion of his program, he was drafted into the army. To have refused would have been to have abandoned the training time he already had put in and to have gone home without the prestige of completing an American residency. So this gynecologist found himself in Korea providing medical care to a battalion of a few hundred men with not one woman among them. Major Fratelli suggested I take him around to the V.D. clinics in the Vill. Maybe we could make use of his gynecologic knowledge? At the last minute on the afternoon we were to tour the clinics, Fratelli informed me that there was a change in the plan. There was going to be an assembly that afternoon in a movie theatre in Tongduchon. It was to be an assembly of the local business girls put on by the local officialdom, and Dr. Kim, the Korean district public health physician was going to speak there on the prevention of venereal disease. I was to be there as a courtesy to him. Anyway, I knew him. He was a nice guy, honest, and dedicated to his work. I had met him on a previous occasion early after my arrival in Korea when the Corps Surgeon, whose name I don't remember, and I paid him a courtesy call at his office in Ui Jong Bu, the district capitol. The Corps Surgeon accompanied me because Ui Jong Bu was also the location of Camp Red Cloud, the Corps Headquarters, and army courtesy demanded that the Corp Surgeon be included, or at least informed, when I was going on official business in his territory. Dr. Kim was a tall, aristocratic appearing, intellectual gentleman. He spoke a number of languages, Korean of course being his native tongue, Japanese from the occupation, German because that was the language of the medical school in Manchuria where he had studied, and English because of the American presence. The Corps Surgeon on the other hand embarrassed me tremendously by talking to Dr. Kim in the pidgin English which was the language of communication between the G.I.s and the bar girls. It was bizarre. Here were two doctors conversing. Dr. Kim's English was somewhat limited but grammatically correct. The Corps Surgeon added ee to the end of every noun that ended in a consonant and peppered his speech with words like hootchie instead of house and papa-san or mama-san instead of man or woman.
To understand the Corps Surgeon, you must first understand the Corps. The Corps is the level of command between the army, in our case the Eight Army which was the American Army in Korea, and the two divisions that sat between Seoul and the DMZ (the border with North Korea). As far as I could tell, know one knew what was actually the function of the Corps. In case of a war it probably did have a function, but in peace time it seemed like it was a receptacle for high ranking officers who somehow had risen in the ranks despite their incompetence and now had to be put somewhere. Another example of the Corps mentality was the Corps general who thought he could solve the venereal disease problem by putting out an order, "There will be no venereal disease." But I am digressing too much.
Getting back to the matter of the assembly, when Jose and I arrived, the assembly had already begun. The room was packed with prostitutes. It seemed like every harlot in town was there. They were a boisterous group, booing and cheering as the mood struck them. The mayor was the first speaker. I didn't understand what he was saying because it was in Korean, but it produced more boos than cheers. We found two seats in the back of the hall and sat down, waiting for Dr. Kim's talk, knowing that I would not understand a word of it.
On the stage, along with the mayor and Dr. Kim, sat the town chief of police, the district police commissioner, and a young U.S. Army intelligence officer. There were also a few empty chairs. When the town police chief saw me, he beckoned me to come up on the stage and sent down a police officer to escort Jose and me up to our seats. Until then, it had not dawned on me that we could not just sit unobtrusively in the back of the room. We were celebrities of sorts. After a few minutes the police chief came over to me and said, "You will give speech." I politely declined the offer, explaining that I was not prepared. The police chief walked back to his seat and then a few minutes later returned. "You will give speech. You will say I understand your condition. I want you be healthy. You go doctor all the time for check up." At that point I realized that my purpose there was to give a speech, to not give one would have been an insult, and I'd better think of something to say pretty quickly because I was the next speaker. The Korean officials received silence from the audience punctuated by occasional boos. A few police women walked up and down the aisles, putting a lid on things if the crowd got out of hand. At one point a firecracker was thrown into the aisle. Immediately after that one of the young ladies was hustled out of the hall by the police. When the young intelligence officer and I spoke, there were mostly cheers. I don't know if they really listened to or cared about what we said. They just liked Americans, especially the intelligence officer because he was good looking. He spoke about not unwittingly passing information gleaned over the pillow to people who might be enemy agents. I don't remember exactly what I said, but it was innocuous and not too different from the police chief's recommendation, "I understand your condition. I am concerned for your health. Make sure you have your regular check-ups." The last speaker was the district police commissioner. He spoke endlessly and sternly. I could not understand the words, but the tone was unmistakable as well as the silence from the audience, no boos, no cheers, just silence. Actually, Dr. Kim's talk on V.D. prevention was supposed to have been the last of the afternoon and what I had thought was my reason for being there, but by the time the police commissioner had finished there was no time for Dr. Kim.
Dr. Mendez went back to the men of his battalion and never saw a woman professionally during the rest of his tour. I saw Dr. Kim once more. He had sent me a note asking me to visit him in Ui Jong Bu, which I did. He said his position was in jeopardy because of some political problem and could I help him? I still don't know what I could have done for him. I mentioned it to Major Fratelli, but he said there was nothing he could do. Sure enough, a month later there was a new district public health physician in Ui Jong Bu. The new guy seemed pretty nice, easy to get along with, less cosmopolitan, less passionate about his work, apparently a better survivor.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Chapter 7. Passover

Winter ended and Spring began. The snow melted and the hills were just beginning to bring out their green color. Passover in the Spring, like Rosh Hashonoh and Yom Kippur in the Fall, were strange times in Korea for me, a dipping back into reality, that is to say my reality, not the U.S. Army and Korean reality to which I had become accustomed. For months I had been living in an American outpost, not the America that I had lived in since birth, but a strange far away military America with different customs, a different language, and a different way of dress. Outside my American island, I was surrounded by a basically friendly but strange people who looked, acted, ate, and dressed differently than I, and spoke a language which I for the most part could not share with them. Yet, on a Sunday afternoon in Seoul when I would wander through a park or ancient palace or museum, I would see Korean families on their Sunday outing or picnicking on the grass. I felt a kinship, a certain warmth. They reminded me more of home than Camp Casey, my safe but sterile outpost.
Anyway, on the Jewish holidays, in the middle of this foreign land, out would appear Jews, not just American Jewish soldiers, but people who were there for one reason or another, old people, young people, women, children, families. Some were there temporarily on business. Some might have been permanent, maybe the remnants of people who had fled there to escape the Holocaust. I don't really know where they all came from. There was one Korean man who came to services on all the Jewish holidays. He wore his yarmulke (skull cap) and tallis (prayer shawl), davened (prayed), and obviously knew what he was doing. Then there were the Korean observers, young men and women, who would stand in the back, a different group each time. I guess we were interesting, perhaps exotic, to them. It reminded me of the time back home when I went with a friend to midnight mass on Christmas Eve just to see what it was like. Watching someone else's religious services can be fun.
There were two Jewish rabbi chaplains in the Army in Korea, one stationed at Camp Red Cloud in Ui Jong Bu, the other somewhere further south. But the holidays were celebrated at Yongson Compound, the main army post in Seoul. That compound had been the headquarters for the Japanese army when they ruled Korea. It was a rather nice looking place. Some of the old buildings had a kind of elegance, for an army post. There were big old trees. All in all it was a rather nice place.
The seder was held in a soldiers' mess hall (dining hall in regular English). Where soldiers of the Imperial Japanese army had eaten for many years and later our American soldiers had eaten, we now were eating matzoh (unleavened bread) and saying brukhas (blessings) over the four cups of wine. One of the children asked the Manishtana (four questions). There were moror (bitter horse radish) and kharoses (a sweet mixture of apples, nuts, and wine). There were greens, salt water, and hard boiled eggs. After dinner, the men raced through the prayers until we got to the songs. We all sang together, the soldiers, the business men away from home, the obviously Jewish Korean man, the Korean observers, the Jews who just lived there for whatever reason, the men, the women, the children, the old people, we all sang together. The next morning we reassembled in the chapel for services. That afternoon I pretty much just hung around. I ran into Fishberg and some other guys sitting under a tree talking about all sorts of things, like what we planned to do when we would go home. Fishberg was going to go back to New York. He was already accepted into an internal medicine residency at some hospital back there. Lieutenant Pepper, the food service officer, was undecided about whether to go to graduate school to study archaeology or go into his father's restaurant business. I wonder what he actually ended up doing, maybe something else altogether. Passover happened to fall on a weekend that year, so the next day was Sunday and we had an extra day in Seoul. As the sun was dipping low in the sky, our conversation turned to what we would do that evening. By the time it had fallen below the horizon, we had decided on the Green Door in Yong Dong Po rather than the Ranch. When night had come and the stars twinkled in a cloudless black sky, the spell had already been broken. We were off in a taxi, like mice in Cinderella's pumpkin, dashing to our usual entertainment.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Chapter 6. Dr. Fishberg

As preventive medicine officer, I started out spending my mornings seeing the soldiers of the Division Headquarters Battalion on sick call. These soldiers were the clerks and other people who kept the paper work flowing. In the afternoon I would go back to the Division Surgeon's office to push and generate more paper. But after a few months, I was free to push paper all day long because another doctor came to take over the clinic. He was pleasant, conscientious, did his work, and got along well with everyone, but after a very short time he was rewarded for his diligence by being sent to a desolate outpost near the DMZ (demilitarized zone). The reason was that he was replaced by Dr. Fishberg who was brought down from that very same desolate outpost to the relative comfort of the Division Headquarters at Camp Casey. It's not that Camp Casey was some luxury resort, or even had the amenities of a place like Yongson Compound in Seoul, but we did have running water and flushing toilets. The place was bigger, so there were simply more people around. If you went off the post, you did not have to worry about stepping on a land mine, and for whatever it was worth there was a town across the road.
So why did fate so reward Fishberg and punish that other guy? Fishberg did not get along with the Army. There was the Army way and there was the Fishberg way. They were like oil and water. Up there in the small posts near the DMZ it was the real army, really military. At least at Camp Casey in the evening when work was over you could find a place somewhere to shut it off. But up there it was togetherness all the time, a small group of officers who worked, ate, and drank together in a small space. Dinner was served when the colonel sat down to eat. Dinner conversation was about military things which did not hold any interest for Fishberg. Fishberg was a New Yorker. He grew up in a suburb on Long Island, a town with one of those funny eastern names like Long Neck Nook or something. His fellow officers were mostly from small towns in Texas or Alabama or places like that. To them, northern cities, particularly New York, were centers of disorder, immorality, and filth, not their America. Fishberg's liberal ideas at the dinner table did not set well with them. At times he would utter socialist or communist slogans, even though he did not himself accept those ideas, just to get a reaction. After dinner all would retire into the bar for an evening of drinking and singing along with certain records on the jukebox which the group had accepted as their songs, the same songs over and over again. They could put away glass after glass, but more than one and Fishberg found the room twirling around him in a circle. And those songs, he didn't even like them in the beginning, but evening after evening, he just couldn't take them any more. They kept pounding into his head as the room would twirl. Eventually he would wear ear plugs after dinner and drink only soft drinks. This really offended the group. Not drinking with them (and drinking meant alcohol, not soft drinks) meant being unsociable. He was rejecting them. Eventually he would lock himself in his room after dinner.
When the big build up occurred in Vietnam, some of the really gung-ho young soldiers were volunteering to transfer to Vietnam so they could get in on the action. Maybe for an infantryman stuck in a little outpost near the DMZ anything might seem an improvement. Anyway, a physical exam was required before transferring out. That's where Fishberg would get involved. Along with the exam would be a lecture that usually went something like, "Are you crazy? You can get killed over there! That means dead! Nothing! The end! They'll bring the pieces of meat back in a bag and deliver them to your mother and father!" That significantly cut into the transfer rate while Fishberg was there and certainly did not add to his endearment. He continued the same counseling when he was with us at Camp Casey. Personally, I had a different philosophy on the subject. I figured every screwball who volunteered to go there saved someone who did not want to go there, and every time Fishberg dissuaded a voluntary transfer, some other poor soul was forced to go instead.
The final straw came when Fishberg's battalion went on field maneuvers. Fishberg got into an argument with the colonel. I don't remember what it was about, but Fishberg went back to the medical platoon and ordered them to fold up the tents and return to the post. It all happened very quickly, and they were on the road before the colonel or any of the other officers knew what was going on. Fishberg's sergeant had an inkling something unusual was happening, but reasoned in is mind, "What the Hell!" This was an opportunity to escape to a slightly higher level of civilization without any blame to himself. "After all, I'm just following orders."
Needless to say, the colonel and his officers were infuriated, this time, rightly so. There is a certain amount of danger to field maneuvers. The chance of accidents and other screw ups is high. It was really criminal to leave those guys out there without medical back up, no matter what the argument was about. By rights, Fishberg could have been court marshalled. In some other country's army, he could have been put to the wall and shot. But, fortunately, although it often doesn't seem that way, American values really do reach into our army. So instead of execution, Fishberg was banished up the civilization chain to the relative comfort of Camp Casey and that other poor doctor was pulled down to Fishberg's old outpost.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

My Thoughts On No Child Left Behind

The schools need to have realistic expectations of students. Students who start at different educational levels will not necessarily arrive at the same place at the same time. Some students will not go to college and would be better served by learning technical skills geared to their needs and abilities. Children who come from non-English speaking backgrounds should be taught concentrated only English for 6 months or whatever it takes before being dumped into general classes. There should be less time wasted in testing to allow for more teaching. There should be more teachers' aids and less administrators. Students with mental disabilities should not be mainstreamed where they will interfere with the teaching to the other students. They will be better served in special education classes. Rather than no child left behind, we should strive for providing the most we can do for each child to make him into a productive citizen according to his or her ability and environment

Chapter 5. The School Girl

This is a story that was told to me by one of the girls at The Green Door.
When I was in school, I studied English. Can you believe that I was once a school girl with a white blouse, blue skirt, natural face, and hair cut from a bowl? Well, I was. As I was saying, I studied English. It was my favorite subject. As you might know, American soldiers sometimes volunteer to come to our English classes so that we can hear the correct pronunciation. Well, it happened that this American came to our class, John Blake. Oh, he was so handsome. All the girls immediately fell in love with him. He was tall and thin with blond hair and large blue eyes. I had never seen such eyes before in a person. After class, we girls would talk about him and giggle and be sad in a happy way with longing as though he were a movie star.
After a while, he would stop after class and talk to me and my group of friends. It was a chance to practice English, but it was also a chance to see him, to absorb every word as though each one was more wise and witty than the previous. He could have said anything, and it would have sounded wonderful. As we listened and laughed, we each wished to be his favorite.
But as time went on, he began to favor me, to speak more directly to me when he was speaking to the group, and eventually to speak to me alone without the group. Sometimes, he would take me to lunch or to a tea house. How jealous my friends were.
John was a Christian, and I a Buddhist. At first we never spoke of religion, but as time went on, and we became more involved with each other, the subject arose more and more. John was from a small town in a place called Wisconsin. Perhaps you have heard of that place. He told me about the wooden church painted white where he would go to pray with his family. That was very important to him. All the people in Wisconsin are Christians, and they all go to church on Sunday. You say that is not true? Well, anyway, that is what John said. So, when he asked me to marry him, it seemed obvious that if I were to go with him to Wisconsin as his wife, I must become a Christian.
It was most difficult. You know the U.S. Army discourages soldiers from marrying Korean girls. John was lectured by his sergeant about how "you are from different cultures. It will not work. It is simply a temporary infatuation. Everything will look different when you are back home. Then it will be too late." We both had to see the army chaplain. His lecture was the same. It must have been from some book.
We were married by a Korean Christian minister. You know, many Koreans now are Christian. My Buddhist parents were most unhappy about it and have not spoken to me since then. I did this for John.
We rented an apartment in Yong Dong Po. Those were the happiest months. I became pregnant. But then the time came for John to go back to the States. John was happier than ever. He always spoke of our new life, a home in Wisconsin, raising a family, going to church together. What we had been dreaming of and talking about would finally come true.
But I did something foolish which I regret to this day. America seemed so strange, so far away. The unknown is always so frightening. How could I go to live in a strange country with strange people with strange customs. I had already learned English although not yet as well as now. And also it is not my first language. There are certain feelings and thoughts that I can not say in English and never will, and there are things that Americans say to each other that I will never completely understand. Everything was happening too fast.
I told John this and said that he should go ahead without me. I would stay here to have the baby. We would write. When the baby and I would be ready to travel, we would join him.
John protested. He could not understand. It would be better to have the baby in an American hospital with American doctors. And how would I manage here alone since my family had disowned me?
I answered that I was perfectly capable of managing alone (although in reality the thought petrified me). Also, my older sister and her husband were still friendly to me and took the place of my parents. They are modern people and understand me. As for the hospital and doctors, I said that he was an American chauvinist insulting my country. Korean hospitals and doctors are just as good as American (but I did not actually believe that).
Finally, John relented. There was nothing else he could do. We would send letters twice a week, and he would send money once a week.
And so it happened. John left in the summer. Our baby was born in Autumn. My sister was a great help to me. My parents never saw me or the baby. Children of mixed marriages are not well accepted in Korea.
I sent John pictures of the baby every month, so he could see how he was growing. John wrote about his new job and that he was going to college in the evenings. He was saving money for our new home. He wrote that he missed me and was anxious to see me and the baby. Every letter said to get on the next airplane and go to him right away. And I wrote to him that I also missed him and would come soon, as soon as the baby and I were strong enough to travel.
This went on for one year. After one year, his letters stopped coming. I wrote more frequently and asked why he was not writing. I was worried. Was he sick? Did something bad happen to him?
After three months, I received a letter from John. He said he could not wait forever. He had married another woman, an American woman, a Wisconsin woman, a Christian woman who lived in his town. He did not consider our Korean marriage a real marriage, and so I was not his wife and the baby was not his baby.
I could not believe it. I cried and cried. I started to write a letter about how foolish I had been, and I was now ready to come to him, but I tore it up. What was the use? He was already married, an American marriage.
Later, I went to a lawyer. He said my case had merit, but it would be difficult and take much time. I gave him money and waited. Months passed. I kept giving the lawyer money, but nothing happened. Finally, I decided it was useless and gave up.
Then I realized there is nothing left for me here. There is no place for a perhaps married woman with a half American child. No place for me and no place for my son. What will he become? Maybe a bar tender in a G.I. bar. I no longer have a family. I have even become an embarrassment to my sister who has been so kind to me.
So, I decided we must go to America, my son and I. Not to find John. That is hopeless, and I do not want him anymore. But I hear there is more to the U.S. than John's town in Wisconsin. There is opportunity if one has a good brain and is willing to work. Maybe I will find a different husband there. But to go to America I must first have money. So that is why I am working here. In one or maybe two years, I will have enough money. Then my son and I will be ready for our new life.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Chapter 4. to the Field in Winter

Every now and then, we went on field maneuvers. Usually it was planned ahead, but not always. We had to always keep a bag of stuff packed in the closet. For example, in the Spring of 1965 when the Gulf of Tonken incident occurred in Vietnam, we suddenly went out to the field. Actually in that case, we went to a spot just outside the camp with our jeeps, ambulances, tents, helmets, and various paraphernalia. We sat there for a few hours and then went back to the camp. I guess the purpose was to show the bad guys that we were ready, or maybe it's just how generals react to any exciting news. Anyway it was brief and symbolic.
Actually when the weather is nice, field maneuvers can be somewhat pleasant if you have the right job, like being an army doctor. You get to go for a ride in a jeep to an outing in the country. I went on a field maneuver in early November. It was kind of chilly when we started out because it was it was still dark out. As the sun came up, you could see frost on the rice paddies. It was a beautiful ride up and down winding dirt roads through terraced hills dotted every now and then with small villages made up of little houses with thatched roofs. Sometimes I had the feeling that if I looked hard enough, I could see Genghis Khan riding out over the next hill. By noon we had arrived at our destination, a field next to a cemetery in a valley far from everywhere (at least far from everywhere I know). The air had warmed to a comfortable temperature. The sky was clear and stayed that way during our entire stay of a few days. Sick call was once in the morning and once in the late afternoon, and always brief in the field. The brevity was probably because the regular soldiers were too busy with their military games and, more importantly, scattered over too large an area to come in for the usual complaints. Most of the paperwork was left behind, so most of the time was spent hanging around, enjoying a few quiet days in the country. The Medical Corps enlisted men set up the tents, and even they had relatively light duties after that. The Korean houseboys and cooks also came out to the field, pitched their own tents (with portable wooden floors unlike the dirt floors in our barbarian tents) and provided us with many of our usual comforts. The main drawback was boredom, particularly since the weekend was included, preventing the usual visit to Seoul. But all in all, the field wasn't bad, a time to contemplate and enjoy the fresh country air.
The next field maneuver was in January. I was assigned to stay behind to run the infirmary at the Medical Battalion which also functioned as a kind of front line emergency room. At first I was disappointed, thinking back to my pleasant experience in November, but Major Fratelli advised me that I was fortunate to avoid living in a tent in the snow, mud, and freezing temperatures. It would not be the idyllic experience of the warmer seasons.
On the other hand staying back at the infirmary wasn't so great either. First there was terrible boredom. Hardly anyone was left behind. Then it happened by chance that a howling blizzard coincided with the maneuvers. Those bumpy, winding, primitive mountain roads were not so great in good weather, but in the snow and wind they were horrendous. Trucks and tanks were sliding off the road all over the place, but the army had to be ready for any kind of conditions, so on they went. I received a call from a frantic colonel to come out to the field and treat a soldier who was in shock after his tank had tipped over. Now when a doctor hears the word shock, he thinks of medical shock which is a life threatening condition usually secondary to trauma, illness, or blood loss where the blood pressure falls dangerously low. I forgot that a lay person usually thinks of emotional shock. Even so, I explained to the colonel that I was the only doctor in the infirmary which I could not leave unattended. Bring the soldier here. So he pulled rank. He was a colonel and he was giving an order to me, a lowly captain. Then in a moment of weakness I reasoned this way. He was a higher ranking officer giving me an order. What if the poor soldier died out there? Might I be blamed? If I give the grand gesture and he dies anyway, at least I will have done the most that I could have. My conscience will be clear. Maybe coming out with a bottle of saline and starting an I.V. will make a difference. Besides I was bored sitting in the infirmary with nothing to do.
So in that moment I made the decision, and off we went, a driver, an aid man, and I in an ambulance, sliding and slipping along one of those snowy mountain roads. Finally, we found the scene of the accident. The major casualty was a heavy set sergeant who had been sitting in the turret of the tank and because of his width had not been able to duck down into the tank fast enough when it turned over. He was completely crushed and had died instantly. The soldier "in shock" as it happened was simply emotionally overwrought by the incident and had already been taken away in a jeep somewhere. The frantic colonel was also gone from the scene. I was in a hurry to get back to the infirmary and was able to get a ride back in a jeep with some soldiers who were delighted with an opportunity to escape the winter debacle. The driver and aid man stayed behind with the ambulance in order to scoop up the remains of the poor sergeant.
When I got back to the infirmary, I had been gone about two hours. Fortunately, no great catastrophe had occurred while I had been away. The ambulance followed an hour later with the body. They laid the sergeant out on a table while waiting to have him taken to the mortuary. The sudden pressure on his spinal chord had caused his eyes to pop out so they were hanging out of their sockets. It was grotesque. The few soldiers who were there stared at him, like some curiosity. Maybe it was the lack of anything else to do. Probably it was just the way people are, this fascination with the bizarre. Finally, reality took over, I told them to cover him up with a sheet. It was enough of a show.
Later that day, the general realized that enough was enough and ordered an end to the maneuvers. Little by little the troops came back. It was a relief. Boredom was over. The place livened up. Both work and comradery returned. Most of the soldiers who were injured in the many accidents out in the field didn't start arriving at the infirmary until the maneuvers were ended and they started filing back into the camp. By that time the usual Medical Battalion doctors had returned and taken over. All things considered, most of the injuries were minor.
When Major Fratelli found out that I had left the infirmary to go out to the scene of the accident. He was furious. "You do not leave your post! I don't care if the President himself gave you an order! You left our only emergency room without a doctor in the middle of a dangerous field maneuver! What if someone had been brought in with a serious injury while you were out there?" Eventually, he calmed down, attributed it to my inexperience and blamed the colonel for his intimidation. "Fortunately, no harm was done, but this should be a lesson for the future. No matter how high ranking that colonel was, he was not your commander, he was not a doctor, and he certainly should not have been making medical decisions." That night I returned to the BOQ at Division Headquarters, happy to be back in my own bed.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Chapter 3. Joe Brown

One Thursday, Joe Brown had one of his things. Mr. Conrad, his boss, the safety director, apparently had said something to him about how he wouldn't be in such a "rut" if he weren't so "hard headed." Joe stormed out of the office, went to his room which was down the hall from mine in the B.O.Q. (Bachelor Officer Quarters), pulled out a bottle of whiskey and began a state of siege. By Saturday, a few of the lieutenants in the B.O.Q. decided that something had to be done to help "old Joe" and therefore told me to go in and do something about it.
"What can I do?"
"What do you mean what can you do? You're the doctor. You're supposed to help people, especially a good friend like Joe."
When they put it that way, what could I say? If I didn't go in and face Joe, my whole reason for existence would be meaningless, not to mention being a spineless coward who turns his back on a friend. And so, I weakly tapped on the door.
"Who is it?" growled a drunken voice that sounded louder than it had ever sounded before.
"What do you want?"
" To talk to you."
I pushed open the door and, with shivering knees and hesitant steps, meekly stepped into the room.
"The guys on the floor asked me to see if anything's the matter."
"I'm fine."
"You haven't been out of your room since Thursday. You might get sick if you keep drinking."
"I can handle my liquor."
"Can I help you in any way?"
"Maybe if you saw Dr. Kagan," I hesitated. "He could help you."
With that, Joe became furious. I could see the anger welling up in him. "Kagan the shrink? You think I'm crazy? I thought you were my friend. Get the hell out of here!" He grabbed me by the seat of my pants and literally tossed me out into the hall. He was a physically strong man. The group picked me up off the floor and asked what I planned to do next.
"I can't do anything."
"What do you mean? Something has to be done. You're the doctor. Think of something."
But at that moment, being a coward began to seem preferable to facing Joe again. I retreated back to my room to think. The siege continued all weekend. I made a few attempts to reason with Joe through his door, standing out in the hall. It was useless.
On Monday, I reported to Major Fratelli what was going on. I had barely slept all weekend.
"You're a doctor. You're not supposed to get so emotionally involved. You should put the matter in its proper perspective and deal with it accordingly."
Easy for him to say. He barely knew Joe, didn't live down the hall from him, and didn't have the guilt patrol on his back.
"So, Major, what should we do?"
"First of all, we can't let this guy remain there indefinitely, being crazy."
"Exactly what are we going to do with him?"
"This guy has to be removed. He's in a sensitive position, and we can't leave a nut in that kind of job."
Did I mention to you that Joe was the assistant safety director? He and his boss, Mr. Conrad, were civilians and retired army officers. I won't say what they actually did (in fact I don't know the specifics), but it was one of those "secrets" that the enemy apparently knew all about, and we (the U.S. Army) knew they knew all about it, but no one was saying.
After assuring me that I shouldn't worry and he'd take care of the problem, Fratelli trudged over to the G2, his boss, to solve the problem. The next morning when I asked Fratelli what the G2 was going to do, he threw up his hands, stared at the ceiling, and said, "Nothing!" They tell me this has been going on for years. You know, he once got mad at some captain in the Kimchi Kabana (an officer's club at Yongson Compound in Seoul for transient officers who are in town temporarily for army business or recreation) and ran after him with a chair. When the captain escaped, Joe threw the chair through the window. Can you imagine, pieces of glass and wood spraying down from the second floor? The M.P.s carted him off to the nut house for a week. But they won't fire him because, in his sane periods in between, he's the only one who knows the work, and he's a nice guy. Its a crazy situation. He's been here forever and has had a string of bosses who never stay long enough to really know what's going on, not the way he does. On the other hand, because of his craziness he never gets promoted to safety director but remains the perennial assistant. After about a week, Joe emerged from his siege, somewhat shaven, somewhat sober, and said to me, "Doc, I'm sorry I threw you out of my room. I've just been feeling kind of low. My health hasn't been just right. Food doesn't seem to go down the way it should. I'm tired all the time. I'd like to spend a week or two down at the MASH (in peace time the local military hospital). I need a good physical exam to find out what's wrong with me so they can fix me up. I hear Kagan goes down there sometimes. Maybe I can see him there, and he can help me see things right."
Relief and joy welled up in me. I immediately picked up the phone, fortunately got a line, and made the arrangements then and there. I congratulated Joe on his good judgment. By that evening he, a driver, and a suitcase were dispatched down the road to the MASH and life returned to normal.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Chapter 2: Mr. Kim and the Filtration Plant

My closest friend and co-worker during my year in Korea was a lieutenant named Fred Yamada. He was from Honolulu, a civil engineer in the real world and a sanitary engineer in the army, having completed his crash course. Unlike me, he found toilets and septic tanks understandable and interesting.
One day early on, Fred said to me, "Doc, you haven't been to the filtration plant."
"The filtration plant? Oh, I guess I haven't. Am I supposed to?"
"Well, I'm supposed to inspect it, and you're my boss. So you're supposed to supervise me."
"When should we go?"
"How about now?"
"O.K. Why not?"
First we stopped to say hello to Colonel Wilson. Fred explained to me that when you inspect, you always see the officer in charge first and on down the line so as not to slight anyone. Colonel Wilson was the District Engineer. That made him commander of the filtration plant, although when it came to matters of plumbing and such, he was as ignorant as I. That wouldn't have been so terrible if he hadn't allowed it to bother him. But he lacked that quality of leadership that allows one to deal with one's ignorance constructively.
The colonel greeted me warmly and explained how he didn't mind when inspectors came around because, "In spite of having to deal with non-military personnel and slope labor, I run a tight ship and have nothing to hide." Then he told me that he liked me. He then started telling me about some guy by the name of Harry Cohen who owned a shoe store in his home town and how Harry was a good friend of his. He also imparted that after his rotation back to the States next year, he would only have one year to retirement.
In front of the filtration plant was a huge sign that read, "This plant is built and maintained by the Trans-Pacific Architectural Corporation for the U.S. Army" and contained a large corporate symbol (like some medieval coat of arms) which was a fire breathing dragon with TPAC tattooed on its right paw and the American flag on its left. TPAC was an American private company that had a contract to build and maintain various facilities for the Army. Its job was to please numerous Colonel Wilsons in various facilities in the Far East. The managers were Americans, and the workers were Koreans.
A phenomenon I have observed on a number of occasions is that when private enterprise works for the government, it undergoes a metamorphosis. In its effort to please the government, it becomes more government-like than the government itself. This was characteristic of the upper echelons of TPAC, although not of Mr. Smith, the manager of our filtration plant, or Mr. Kim, his assistant and chemist. Mr. Smith was a tall bald man in a wrinkled short sleeve shirt and baggy slacks, pleasant and business-like (no chit-chat). He was like many talented Americans working in far away places. One wonders why they are there, away from family and familiar surroundings. Are there no jobs at home? Yes, but these are often people with a handicap, either real or imagined. Smith's handicap was alcoholism. Alcohol had destroyed his American family and his American job. But out here, TPAC was lucky to get an American with his abilities, drunk or sober.
Mr. Smith first gave us a briefing in his office, describing the plant with charts and graphs. All I remember were pipes going this way and that. Then there was a tour (more pipes, tubes, and pools of water). At the end, he wished me a good year in Korea, invited me to visit the plant as often as I pleased, and left Mr. Kim with us so that Fred could do his thing with his check list. Fred went from gauge to gauge marking down numbers, followed by Mr. Kim and a band of Korean workers. Suddenly Fred pointed out something on the gauge to Mr. Kim who slurped a Korean slurp of emotion and barked orders to the men who jabbered back and forth and then turned dials until whatever was wrong was back to right. Later Fred told me the problem had been minimal, but "its always good to shake up the troops."
I heard little about the water plant through the autumn. The problem began on a particularly cold night in January when Mr. Smith went on one of his monthly drunken weekends. Not to say that he didn't drink in between, but by the end of the month his unhappiness reached a crescendo and required an intense blow off. On this occasion he got into a fist fight with an equally inebriated young soldier in a bar in Ui Jong Bu. The soldier ended up in the MASH with a broken jaw, and Mr. Smith was locked in the Ui Jong Bu jail with a black eye. Colonel Wilson received a call about three o'clock in the morning to come and get him. Not only was the colonel awakened in the middle of a frigid night, but he was treated to an hour of Smith's alcohol perfumed insults on the way back to the post in a drafty jeep sliding around on an icy road. The next day Smith was fired and went south to Pusan to live with an old girl friend.
That week there was a great flap at the TPAC office in Seoul with phone calls to and from the home office in San Francisco, inter-office memos, hand wringing, and arm-pit sweating as a great effort was mounted to find Mr. Smith's replacement. Actually things at the water plant were handled very well by Mr. Kim and his crew with Fred making his regular checks. But the situation did not please Colonel Wilson. He was beholden to a Korean who knew infinitely more about water purification than he, supported by "that Jap young lieutenant". He also wasn't overly thrilled with "that Jew doctor."
So TPAC had to produce a Caucasian American filtration plant manager quickly in order to maintain their contract and their collective sanity. Who happened to be available at the time was a recently retired tank officer by the name of Frost. He knew anything you might want to know about tanks and nothing about water filtration, but he breathed, walked, talked, and therefore could wear the hat. Frost was a pleasant man. His presence satisfied Colonel Wilson and allowed Mr. Kim to do his work. He spent most of his time at the officers club of the Fighting Bulls tank battalion where the bar has a foot rail made of tank treads, and one can discuss old tank battles over a stein of beer with people who can truly appreciate such stories.
During that period, I had occasion to see Mr. Kim a few times, but one meeting was particularly enlightening. I had accompanied Fred on a routine inspection. Afterward the three of us sat down in Kim's small cluttered office for some conversation over tea. I asked Mr. Kim at which university had he studied chemistry, and he responded, "I have never studied in university. My training is all on the job from Mr. Smith. Also I read many books, whatever I can find. You know, my position here is very difficult. I am not American. So I have no authority. But some day I will go to U.S. to study at an American university. I will tell them I only go to study, then return to Korea. But I will never come back."
The winter ended. Spring came. There was a little flap when our drinking water turned brown. At dinner in the Officer's Mess, some lieutenant would invariably hold up a glass of murky water to my nose to complain, "Doc, you expect us to drink this shit? What are you doing about it?" But after a few days, Fred and Kim solved the mystery and corrected it. It seems our water intake was downstream of Tongduchon. As Fred explained it to me, some stuff was deposited into the water as it passed through the Vill. The water then passed through our filters and after that reacted with our chemicals to make a sterile but brown colored precipitate. Fred and Kim solved the problem by reversing things, chemicals first and then filter.
Fred rotated back to the States the end of May. His replacement was due at some time in the future. Two days later it began to rain, and it just kept raining on and on. Two weeks into the rainy season, one of Mr. Kim's associates came into my office dripping water and handed me an envelope, saying, "Letter from Mr. Kim. You read." The letter said that the rain had brought new problems requiring decisions outside Mr. Kim's minimal authority. With Lieutenant Yamada gone, Kim had no one to turn to. Mr. Frost found his job more and more incomprehensible and responded by spending more time with the Fighting Bulls. Colonel Wilson, under pressure from General Fritz, the Division Commander, would rant about "firing everyone and making a fresh start," but fear of the consequences kept him from carrying out his threat.
Kim had heard through the grape-vine that Mr. Smith would be willing to come back if invited and that he would be in the area ostensibly to visit old friends, but Kim knew that actually he was looking for his old job. A clandestine meeting was arranged at the PX cafeteria. Over milk shakes and coffee, Mr. Kim, Mr. Smith, and I plotted our strategy. We would go over Colonel Wilson's head through my boss, Major Fratelli the Division Surgeon, to his boss Colonel Mc Hugh the G2, to his boss, General Fritz.
The next morning, I presented the story to Mike Fratelli, emphasizing the potential health danger, and how if anything happened it would be our medical rear ends that would be fried. Mike, a general surgeon by training (nothing to do with Division Surgeon) and therefore a man of action, immediately led me over to the G2 building (quonset hut) where he demanded an immediate audience with Colonel Mc Hugh. We then presented our case.
Mc Hugh said, "You know, Mike, your young doctors are inexperienced. They aren't army. It took me seven years to reach captain, and that's pretty good, but they step right in. You're asking me to talk down another colonel, a regular army man with a lot of history under his belt. I'd have to have a better reason to do that. And the General doesn't like bickering among his men."
"Look George," Mike called Mc Hugh by his first name, "If there's an epidemic of cholera or some other exotic crud because of the water, it'll be our asses, especially yours because I've informed you."
Nonetheless, Mc Hugh had to consider the matter. A few days later, Fratelli told me between cusswords that the "dumb ass" McHugh was too "chicken" to confront Wilson and "too dumb" to understand the problem, and "that's what happens when dumb ass lay people tell doctors what to do, and that dumb ass Mc Hugh is my superior and told me to forget it, and as your superior I'm telling you to forget it, and this is the Army, damn it!"
The word filtered down from me through Kim to Smith who then left for the city to take up residence with a new lady friend in Yong Dong Po. Within a few days, the status of things changed drastically. In the morning, I crossed the bridge that connected my BOQ (bachelor officers' quarters) from our office. Ordinarily it crossed over a small stream in a narrow crevice far below the bridge, often barely a trickle, but now it was a wide deep swift gurgling river, sweeping down the hillside and lapping at the bridge. Later that morning the sound of rain on the roof of our quonset hut office changed from ping, ping, ping to whoosh. Looking out the window, it seemed a solid mass of water was crashing down on the already drowning earth. I looked back at the bridge but did not see it. "I usually can see the bridge from this window. No? Yes? Yes, the bridge is gone. It's really gone."
By afternoon when the rain let up somewhat, we were in the middle of a flood, a real natural disaster. When I was a kid, I thought of floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, and that sort of thing as episodes in the movies, dangerous, perhaps fatal, but clean. Actually a flood is mud, filth, motionless toilets, dry faucets, dark nights, silent telephones, and warm refrigerators.
The first two nights were flashlights and groping around. The Engineer Corps (soldiers as opposed to the District Engineers who were civilians contracting with the Army) came out quickly, efficiently put up new bridges, and started the electricity. But the water was slower. For a month one flushed by pouring a barrel of water down the toilet, and bathing meant finding a far away obscure place called the shower point, so instead one smelled bad most of the time.
It was necessary to make the water drinkable once it started coming out of the taps again. Mr. Kim had a plan which Fratelli and I only half understood but proposed to Colonel Mc Hugh. By now Mc Hugh was under pressure from the General to "do something about the water." The next day Colonel Wilson was out looking for Mr. Smith, and after much pleading over a crackling telephone line, he induced Smith to leave Yong Dong Po and return to his former position.
Gradually things returned to normal, lights and refrigeration, water from the tap, and the most blessed of all, flushing toilets. Colonel Wilson finished out his tour grumbling about "the drunk and his Gooks and the Kike doctor who took their part against us." Mercifully, Fred Yamada's replacement arrived, a young lieutenant from Ohio, a nice guy, well versed in sewage and stuff like that. His name escapes me. The rains were followed by a hot, humid summer, the air strongly perfumed with fermented cabbage called kimchi from the Vill and the feces that fertilized the rice fields.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Memories of Korea

I spent one year as an army doctor in South Korea during 1964 to 1965. I have written a collection of stories about American soldiers in Korea during that period. It is mostly fiction but based on my experiences, the experiences of people I knew, and some things I heard about from other people. I'll start with a table of contents and will publish the chapters in future posts.

Table of Contents

1. Leaving Home
2. Mr. Kim and the Filtration Plant
3. Joe Brown
4. To the Field in Winter
5. The School Girl
6. Dr. Fishberg
7. Passover
8. The Assembly
9. The Cannibal Ambulance
10. Mr. Professor
11. Going Home

Chaper 1: Leaving Home

I received my draft notice when I was an intern. It really does say "Greeting." Along with it came a letter saying something to the effect that, being a doctor, I could enlist as a commissioned officer. Our hospital medical director suggested preventive medicine to me. "The Army has crash courses and training manuals in specialties that they need, and they always need preventive medicine officers. It's a better deal when you're a specialist."
Since I was interning in Washington, D.C., it was a simple trip downtown to talk to the man who did the placing of army doctors. "I would like to be a preventive medicine officer and I would like to be stationed in the States. Anywhere in the States will do although I have a preference for Fort Sheridan since I am from Chicago."
"You're a dreamer. However, we have a place for you as a preventive medicine officer in Korea."
"I think I would rather do general medicine in the United States."
"Actually the alternative is probably general medicine in Vietnam."
"Well I think Korea sounds like an interesting place, a chance to travel, see new places, a tremendous experience, really broadening." And my year of internship in Washington was supposed to have been my big adventure away from home before doing residency back at the University of Illinois, but fate does what it does.
So off I went to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas for four weeks of basic training and six weeks of preventive medicine lectures. To appreciate the depth of my training, you should realize that a real preventive medicine doctor puts in a few years of residency training and a life-time of experience. That's life in the Army.
South Texas is very hot and muggy in July, August, and early September. Mostly we went to lectures about how to be a soldier and later the basics of sanitation, a lot about how to dispose of feces, urine, and garbage. A group of us got together and rented an apartment in a building with a swimming pool which really made the summer bearable. The Army issued us these inflatable rectangular things to put under sleeping bags, like mattresses. They were great for floating in the swimming pool.
We spent about three days at a primitive place called Camp Bullis, where they gave us a taste of the real basic training. We slept on hard cots in dingy wooden barracks. One night, they deposited us in a wilderness, and we had to find our way out with a compass. Fortunately we were in groups, and there is always someone (an outdoors person) in the group who knows how to do that sort of thing and leads the rest of us out. Also, they took us to a place where we had to crawl over rocks and under barbed wire while they shot real machine gun bullets over our heads and made explosions in wired off holes in the ground scattered around the course. First we did it in the afternoon, and then we repeated it at night. There were some hot shots in the group who felt the need to complete the course quickly and be winners (although I don't recall any prizes being distributed). I, on the other hand reasoned differently. I took my time. I was careful not to hurt myself. After all, those rocks were sharp, and of course so was the barbed wire. So what if I were the last, or for that matter if I didn't finish at all? What would they do? Kick me out of the army? Not so likely. Once I came to that conclusion, I could relax, and it was actually fun. I was able to detach myself and enjoy the beauty of it, especially at night, the red tracer bullets whizzing over head, the explosions in the holes, like I wasn't really there but just watching a war movie. When every one else had finished the course, and I had gone barely half way, the bullets and explosions suddenly stopped, a search light went on, a bull horn shouted out, "I think some one's still out there! Is someone still out there?"
"Yes, I'm still here!" I shouted and waved my arms"
"O.K. Come on out! We can't wait for you all night!"
I was lucky to have learned this technique early. It made my stay in the army more pleasant. Perhaps under different circumstances, it would not have been appropriate, but fortunately I never ran across those kinds of circumstances.
I should mention that San Antonio is a very nice little city to visit. It has museums, restaurants, amosphere, and a wonderful entertainment area along the San Antonio River.
Then in late September, I returned to Chicago for a week. After that my parents drove me to the airport. It was a bit emotional. By chance, I happened to sit next to another army doctor draftee on the plane to San Francisco. We had a few hours in San Francisco before going to Travis air force base for the flight to Korea. My newly acquired traveling companion suggested we spend it having a drink at the top of the Mark Hopkins Hotel. Why not? So we took a bus into the city and a cab from the bus station up Knob Hill to the Mark Hopkins. I spent a half hour or so sipping whatever it was that I ordered. The sun was setting, bringing the day to an end, which reinforced the idea that one part of my life was finishing, making room for the next. I looked around at the people in the room, handsome men, beautiful women. They seemed so well dressed, so sophisticated, so much at ease, not going anywhere else because they were where they wanted to be, in their own element, satisfied with themselves. I'm sure that's not really how they all felt inside their own heads, but it seemed that way to me because I felt so unsettled, so ill at ease, not actually knowing what lay ahead of me in a strange land.
The time for the drink was brief. The sun had almost disappeared from view. We paid the bill, went down the elevator, took a cab to the bus station, took the bus to the air base, waited hours for the plane, and then around one o'clock in the morning we boarded the plane. There were two stops, one during the night in Alaska and another in the morning in Japan. Finally we arrived at Kimpo Air Base in Korea.
My orders originally were to go to Inchon, but on arrival in Korea, I found that they were changed to Camp Casey which was the headquarters of the Seventh Infantry Division. It was located at Tongduchon which the soldiers called "the Vill" but was actually a city of one hundred thousand people, most of whom made their livelihood by serving the American soldiers or other Korean people who served the soldiers. The end of town which faced the entrance to the camp, was full of bars where a few thousand local "business girls" met their customers. Also there were endless shops that sold various trinkets. There was one shop that had a large sign that said, "We Will Do Anything."
Staring out the bus window on the road to Tongduchon was like looking at a photo in National Geographic, rice paddies, small houses with thatched roofs, skinny little men carrying huge packs on their backs, buffalos (not the American kind), bicycles, rickety overloaded trucks, the rarity of automobiles, an endless sea of pedestrians, the smells of Kimchi and feces mixed together. I am told that since those times, South Korea has developed into a modern country with one of the most powerful economies in Asia. But you really had to look below the surface to see it in those days.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Letters to Kafka

This short story is a sequel to Franz Kafka's story, "A Report to an Academy."

from: G. Affe
Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America
to: Mr. Franz Kafka
Prague, Czechoslovakia
August 6, 1923
Dear Franz,
I have arrived in America, and it is a wonderful country. It is so free, and there are so many people, so many kinds of people, that someone like me can get lost in the crowd.
I don't know how I can thank you enough for doing so much for me ever since we met and became friends back in Prague. You have done everything for me, everything. You helped me write my report to the Academy. You helped me break away from Professor Schnutz who wanted to keep me as some specimen in his laboratory to be poked and questioned by armies of students and scientists. You helped me to find work, an apartment, how to get around, in other words how to live as a human being. And when I became tired and disillusioned with being a human, you wrote to your cousin Rebecca in Chicago who is employed by Professor Rabinowitz, the only man in the world able and willing to change me back to my former state, so that I can be what I was meant to be.
This letter is so brief because I must now leave for the train station.
Forever your friend,
from: G. Affe
Chicago, Illinois, United States of America
to: Mr. Franz Kafka
Prague, Czechoslovakia
August 20, 1923
Dear Franz,
Please forgive me for not writing sooner, but so much has happened since I arrived in Chicago. I met your cousin Rebecca, and I must say she is beautiful, surprisingly beautiful. How can it be that you are cousins. She is so lovely, and you have such big ears. Please pardon my honesty. You have many excellent qualities, and I will always be indebted to you for the kindness you have shown to me, but you do have big ears.
By the way, your cousin does not call herself Rebecca among her friends and associates, but rather Ramona. She says that Rebecca is an old fashioned name given to her by her old country parents with whom she has very little in common, being a modern woman. She refers to her father as the "peddler." I then imagined your uncle to be like the peddlers I remember from Prague, tired, pale shriveled bearded old men in tattered coats pushing pushcarts and calling out in the streets. But when I met him, I was surprised to find a worldly, well dressed, slightly graying but robust business man, actually the owner of a rather fashionable clothing store on Michigan Avenue, which is the very fashionable street for shopping in this city. Apparently your cousin is an ardent communist and uses the word peddler in a derisive manner to describe any business man.
Ramona has been very helpful to me. I have only been here a few days, and already she has found me an apartment near the university in the Hyde Park quarter. She has taken me around to see the city. And what a beautiful city it is. There is a lake that looks so big like the ocean. And there are parks that stretch for many kilometers along the shore. There are many tall buildings and so many museums and theatres. Everything is so new. When a house is a few years old, they tear it down and build a new one. I had thought when I was taken to Europe that I had seen everything , but this land is quite different. I am wondering if I truly want to return.
Tomorrow I have an appointment to see Professor Rabinowitz, or I should say Doctor Rabinowitz. In this country they use the title professor less than we do.
Your forever grateful friend,
from: G. Affe
Chicago, Illinois, United States of America
to: Mr. Franz Kafka
Prague, Czechoslovakia
August 24, 1923
Dear Franz,
I met Dr. Leonard Rabinowitz. Before the appointment, Ramona had prepared me. She said that Dr. Rabinowitz is an ambiguous man, and it is this ambiguity that she can not understand. I think perhaps your cousin is like you in that respect, in that she can not accept ambiguity. If I could not accept ambiguity, I do not know how I would survive. Ramona said that on the one hand Rabinowitz is a brilliant scientist with a scrupulously logical mind, and on the other hand he is a devout Jew. To Ramona, the two conflict. She often accuses her employer of being a hypocrite. To this he replies, "You're a hypocrite only if you tell someone else what to do, and I'm not telling you what to do. I can believe or do whatever I want, whether it does or doesn't makes sense to you or anyone." If she persists in the argument, he starts on her communism, "If everything has to be so scientific, why are you a communist? Karl Marx's basic ideas were just unproven fabrications. You accept them on faith. So why is your faith so much better than mine?" The argument usually sticks at this point, having reached an impasse, and ends with both of them pouting for a few minutes before things return to normal. It never seems to actually harm their daily work, and to the doctor's credit, your cousin remains employed.
Dr. Rabinowitz questioned me about my motives in wanting to be transformed back
into an ape, "You find human life so distasteful that you want to return to being an animal?"
"No, I admire humanity. It has opened my eyes completely. That is why I have agonized over this decision. It is truly a painful one."
"Then it must be that you miss your family."
"No one is left."
"Then why do you want to return?"
"Because I am not completely one of you. No matter what, I can not completely grasp your ways. People always sense that there is something strange about me. Being human is a charade at which I can not be successful."
The doctor explained to me that transforming my body would be relatively simple, a matter of surgery and some injections of an ape serum extract. The more difficult part would be changing my brain back to the intelligence level of an ape. Professor Schnutz published most of his work in scientific journals, but he left out one key step in the procedure. That was his way of keeping it his own secret. It was unscientific but very Schnutz. I know only too well.
Dr. Rabinowitz has written to Schnutz trying to persuade him to reveal the step. I do not think he will have much luck. Meanwhile, while we are waiting for the reply, Ramona and I have been seeing each other quite frequently. I have become somewhat fond of her, and I think she has some feelings for me. But I must not allow our friendship to become more than just that because we are different. We could never. What am I thinking about? She probably only thinks of me as something to help, an African ape who never quite became a European human and certainly can not become an American, but must return to what he truly is.
Before I finish this letter, I must tell you that Ramona took me to one of her communist meetings. The discussion was about how the poor workers were going to take over. But the members were all intellectuals. There was not one factory worker among them. The meeting was held in a large well decorated home, and there was a maid in a black dress and a white apron serving refreshments. Most of them recognized that there was something strange about me. Some stayed away and glanced sideways. Others were overly friendly in a forced awkward manner. The meeting ended in a song, "The International", a nice tune but not enough rhythm.
With greatest friendship,
from: G. Affe
Kingstown, British West Indies
to: Mr. Franz Kafka
Prague, Czechoslovakia
November 2,1923
Dear Franz,
You must forgive me for not writing over so long a period of time, but so much has happened. To my surprise, Dr. Rabinowitz received an early reply from Schnutz. Despite vigorous attempts to dissuade me both by Ramona and Rabinowitz, I insisted that the transformation go on. For two months, they and a team of specialists performed the difficult operations and the painful injections necessary to change my body. But then, when they attempted to transform my brain, Dr. Rabinowitz discovered just in time that the information sent by Schnutz was incorrect. It would have resulted in my death. So, Schnutz was still Schnutz. Furthermore, we found out that Schnutz had left Prague for the British West Indies with a group of apes, all but one recently transformed into creatures resembling humans.
Dr. Rabinowitz could not make my body human again because too much surgery had already been done. I could not have survived another series. Without Schnutz's secret, it seemed worse to me than ever, a human mind and soul in an ape's body, a freak forever.
Therefore, I decided that I must find Schnutz and finally get the correct information. Ramona volunteered to accompany me. I argued that it would be too dangerous for her, but she insisted, and it is true that an ape can not simply travel alone, unimpeded, no matter what is in his brain. And so Ramona began the journey with her pet ape, first by train across southern America to New Orleans City where we boarded a small ship for Kingstown in the British West Indies. Here we consulted the authorities and found that indeed Schnutz was not far. He had purchased an entire small island. They thought there was something odd about him and his actions, but not enough to warrant interference.
The next morning, Ramona hired a small sail boat. It seems she is an experienced sailor because her hobby has been sailing on Lake Michigan, the large lake next to Chicago. She enjoys sailing even more than communism. We approached the island late in the afternoon. As we neared the shore, a guard appeared from behind a bush with a rifle shouting at us to go away. I could see that he was an ape-man, an example of Schnutz's work, but not as good a job as I was. We continued. He fired one shot that missed us completely. But then a volley of machine gun fire spat at us from the bush, ripping our sail to shreds, and sending splinters flying in all directions. Water poured in from holes in the sides of the boat. The boat turned over, and we were dumped into the water. Ramona and I found ourselves clinging to each other and a board in the swirling water. How we survived I do not know, but the waves carried us somewhat down the shore and threw us up on the beach in a small cove hidden by rocks. We collapsed, stunned, and slept for hours without moving from that spot.
Suddenly I was awakened by a scream. Ramona had opened her eyes to find an ape staring down at her, and now he was unsuccessfully trying to cover her mouth with his hand. I jumped up, grabbed the creature, and wrestled him to the ground. In the midst of the struggle, the ape grunted ape grunts to me. At first I did not understand. It had been so long since I had heard or spoken my native tongue. But, after some repetition, I realized what he was saying, and I stopped fighting. We both stopped, stared at each other, and then. Was it true? Yes! We threw our arms around each other with tears of joy. It was my cousin, Grog. It had been so long.
Grog had been with me when I was captured in Africa. It had been the four of us, Ooga, Googoo, Grog, and I taking a stroll in the jungle, when the hunters threw a net over us. Now, Franz, I must tell you something that I have never disclosed to you before. I have also not told Ramona. It is very complicated. I was romantically involved with Ooga. In fact she is my mate, and Googoo is her son, or I should say, our son. Apes do not have formal marriages like humans do, but for apes that suffices.
The complication is that Ramona and I, during our acquaintance and all the adventures which we have shared, have become more and more fond of each other. How cruel fate is, that just as I am halfway on my irreversible journey back to apehood, we realize our love. Ramona is willing to accept me as an ape, despite the impossibility of the situation, and my willpower has its limits. I was ready to give in, despite my better judgment, and might have forgotten my old love Ooga and our child, Googoo, or at least could have regarded them as a dim memory, like a dream long past.
But now seeing Grog jarred me back to reality, the reality of being an ape, from an ape background, with an ape family. That is where my commitment is. Anyway, Ramona carrying her principles of complete equality to the extreme was able to, in fact was driven to choosing an ape as her love, but I am afraid the knowledge of having to share with a female ape and her ape child would be too much, too primitive, even for Ramona.
Grog speaks only ape language, and Ramona speaks only English. So, I would translate, eliminating whichever part I did not want one or the other to know. Grog led us to a nearby cave where we spent the next day.
Grog told me that after I was transformed into a human and separated from the others, Professor Schnutz sold Ooga and Googoo to a representative of an American zoo and kept Grog as a control ape for future experiments. That is why he is still a full ape. It seems the professor had been quite dissatisfied with me because he had made me too human and therefore rebellious. So in his subsequent experiments, he perfected the apemen. They looked something like humans and had human dexterity, but they lacked full powers of reason and were slavishly dedicated to Schnutz. He had brought them to the island to breed them and train them into a powerful army which would form the nucleus of a new empire with Schnutz as emperor. This would be an empire dedicated to reason, that is reason Schnutz style. That means agreeing with anything Schnutz says as long as it sounds scientific.
I transmitted all this information to Ramona, except the part about Ooga and Googoo. I told Grog about all that had happened to me since I had left Africa and why Ramona and I had come to the island to get Schnutz's secret. Grog explained that it would be no easy task. Schnutz was living in a bamboo fortress surrounded by a high wall guarded by many apemen. Even if we could reach him, he would not want to divulge the information. There was also the matter of whether I truly wanted to complete my re-transformation. Ramona had been kind enough to accompany me on this adventure, but actually she opposed my further change for fear of losing me altogether, preferring half a man to no man at all. As I have already said, by this time my own resolve was weakening. But no, I had to go on. Seeing Grog and hearing of Ooga and Googoo put things in their proper perspective.
That day we formulated a plan of attack. The enemy had a fortress. They outnumbered us greatly. They were better armed than we, namely they had numerous rifles and machine guns plus one cannon, while we had no formal weapons at all. So how could we possibly make a plan? Well, they had their advantages and so did we. We had two true apes, expert at swinging from tree to tree, although I must admit that I had to brush up a bit. The apemen had all lost that ability. Schnutz had stupidly placed his fort in the thickest jungle with tree limbs hanging over the walls, thinking that would afford extra protection. He was not a military strategist, even though he considered himself an expert in all matters. Machine guns were stationed all around on platforms inside the fence, but the cannon being too heavy for a platform was positioned behind the one gate ready to blast an enemy who might somehow manage to break through. Behind the cannon was a path leading directly to the shed where the ammunition was stored. Schnutz reasoned that direct access was necessary to provide an unimpeded flow of shells to the cannon.
So our plan was this. Using the element of surprise, Grog and I would swing from the trees over the wall to the cannon, overpower the cannoneers, and open the gate to let Ramona in. Then the three of us would turn the cannon around and fire at the ammunition shed causing an explosion that would cause panic among the apemen. Then in the confusion, we would run into Schnutz's palace (the biggest of the bamboo houses) which we reasoned would not be destroyed by the explosion because of its distance from the ammunition shed. We would then capture Schnutz and force him to give us the papers with the secret information.
Actually, everything went as planned up to a point. We did actually swing over the wall, overpower the cannoneers, open the gate for Ramona, turn the cannon around, and blow up the ammunition shed. Unfortunately, we underestimated the intensity of the blast. We were lucky to have ourselves received only minor bruises when a burst of hot air blew the three of us and the cannon out the gate just ahead of an enlarging ball of fire that did not quite reach us but which quickly consumed the entire bamboo fortress and the surrounding trees.
We picked ourselves up and stared at the inferno. We could never enter to find Schnutz, and there was probably no longer any Schnutz left to find. Then, because the forest around us was burning up, it was necessary to run away ahead of the flames to the beach. The beach guards, having seen the explosion and fire, were running about in confusion. There was a row of small boats lying on the beach. We took one and set out into the water. Despite our urging, the guards, who no longer cared about bothering us, refused to follow. They could not leave their Schnutz. After a few hours, we were picked up by a patrol boat that had been attracted by the fire and were taken back to Kingstown where we made a full report to the authorities. We were lucky to be alive but saddened by the loss of life that had occurred. It has been a sobering and exhausting experience.
I will never be able to complete my transformation, but I do not mind that. In fact, the question was never completely resolved in my mind. Now events have relieved me of the burden of having to make the decision.
Enough of my own problems. Franz, I was very sorry to hear of your recent illness. I worry about your neglect of your health. You must not keep such late hours. You must eat enough nutritious food. You must drink hot milk.
Your concerned friend,
from: G. Affe
San Diego, California
to: Mrs. Rebecca Rabinowitz
Chicago, Illinois
August 20, 1924
Dear Rebecca:
So much has happened since I left Chicago that I hardly know where to begin. First of all, I must extend my condolence to you on the untimely death of your dear cousin Franz. Your grief is equal to, in fact surpassed, only by my own because Franz was truly a good friend, a great friend, my first friend and benefactor in my life as a human. His death has left a void in my life which you might fill through frequent correspondence.
Also, I wish to congratulate you on your recent marriage to Dr. Rabinowitz. I hope for both of you the greatest happiness because you have been true friends to me. I must admit that some months ago I would have considered it most unlikely, you forsaking communism and atheism to become a middle class religious Jewish housewife. But after all, nothing is obvious and anything can change. Anyway, you and the doctor love each other in a way that you never could have loved an ape. Oh, perhaps in thought but certainly not in deed, and deeds are what matter.
Things have gone well for me. As you know, Grog and I came here to be voluntary residents at the San Diego zoo when I learned that Ooga and Googoo are here. I must
again apologize for waiting to tell you about my mate and child until so late in our
acquaintance. I understand your anger at that and my subsequent departure. It must have been a shock, and I can not forgive myself for that cruelty. But your later letter to me after time and reflection displayed great understanding, kindness, and a proper perspective. For us it was, of course, impossible.
So now I am quite happy with my family. Ooga is as beautiful as ever, that is in an ape's eyes. Googoo has grown so since our separation. He is so smart. He has learned many tricks and is the favorite of the children who visit the zoo. I have developed a good relationship with the zoo director and have become a translator and mediator between the apes in the zoo and the administration. In this way, I have settled many grievances and misunderstandings. I even plan to travel to other zoos from time to time to advise on ape affairs. Some time if I have business in Chicago, we will see each other again and reminisce about old times.
Your special friend,

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Music or Drums

Be it music or drums,
Take life as it comes
Unless you can change it,
Of course for the better,
At least a little bit
If not to the letter.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Baboo Gagoo

Let's form a ring
To dance and sing
At the shrine of Baboo Gagoo.
We'll give our lives
With guns and knives
For the shrine of Baboo Gagoo,
And in the end
Who will mend
The souls of Baboo Gagoo?
May its metal rust,
Its stone to dust,
The curse of Baboo Gagoo.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Road Runner
Road Runner runs across the lawn
Over patio, past the pool,
Safe from coyotes, but not cats,
Safe from the natural desert
Beyond the civilized frontier,
Safe from the freedom of the wild.
How our world has changed, my small friend.
We face it together, you, I.
For natural is what it is,
Not a dream of what it once was.

The Chain of Life
I see my father in my grandson’s face,
And my mother in my granddaughter’s eyes.
I see in them a mirror of myself.
I see unknown ancestors from the past
Who endured the worst to bring us the best.
I see cousins whom I never chanced to meet
Who perished in Europe’s immoral storm.
I see my descendants whom I will not greet
Who will carry on the great chain of life.

God Treads Lightly
God treads lightly,
And loves to laugh.
Who cares?
Don’t step on toes.
Live life happy.
That’s what He wants.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Grandpa's Advice

To my grandchildren,
Both here and on the way,
Listen carefully to what I have to say.
I know you listen.
I know you really do.
No matter what you're told,
One plus one is two.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Of All the Sperm

Of all the sperm and all the eggs
And all the combinations thereof,
Thank you, thank you,
Thank you God
For having chosen me.
It is my honor and my privilege
In this existence just to be.
And in the end a place is set
For me or maybe not. You see,
Either way it's been a ride,
A wonderful wonderful ride with Thee.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Why and How I Believe in God

Why and How I Believe in God

Do I believe in God? Many people do not ask the question (at least not publicly although they may think it to themselves privately), either because they accept God's existence and all that their particular religion says about Him without reservation or because they reject God's existence, also without any reservation. It seems to me that there is no universal definition of God. Therefore, if one wishes to believe in God, one can define God in such a way that He falls within the confines of what one actually believes. Conversely, if one wishes to be an atheist, one can define God in such a way that He falls outside the confines of what one believes. So whether or not you believe in God depends on which team you belong, by birth, by choice, or by any other circumstance.
At this point I would like to tell you that I believe in God, but before I go further, let me reveal my background because that will shed some light on my point of view. I am a Jew. I grew up in a family that was associated with the Conservative Movement in Judaism and have continued this association into adult life. Conservative Judaism is unlike Orthodox Judaism and similar to Reform Judaism in being non-fundamentalist, i.e. not everything written in the Bible and Talmud is necessarily the word of God and therefore not necessarily absolute fact. Nonetheless, it retains most of the ceremonial traditions of Orthodoxy. Interestingly, during my religious education in Hebrew School, I was never made aware of this non-fundamentalism. I first learned about it in a course on comparative religion in college. This was probably because in Judaism, what you do (ceremonially as well as daily life) matters more than what you think. In my parents home, we celebrated the major Jewish holidays and, if asked, professed belief in God. There were Jewish books on the book shelves. I was sent to Hebrew School, but making good grades in Public School was more important than in Hebrew School. Public School was the key to making a living (the material). Hebrew School represented the beauty or condiment of life (the abstract). Jewish education was important and not to be neglected, but first one had to make a living. Later I became a physician, specializing in Dermatology. This required an emphasis on the study of science in college, medical school, post-graduate training, and continuing education to this day. The scientific method means to ask a question, make observations with one's own senses, and then apply logic to these observations to arrive at the best possible answer to the question, realizing that one is not arriving at the absolute truth but simply at the best possible approach to the truth. In reality, we do not observe everything personally but rely on observations made by people who came before us, hoping that those observations are for the most part correct, but realizing that some day someone may find them to be not correct. All of this has affected my point of view.
So, what is my point of view? I said that there can be various definitions of God and that one can define God to fall inside or outside of ones own definition. I choose to believe in God, and so I must define Him in a way that is consistent with what I actually believe. To define or approach God, I would propose two observations as starting points. One is that people for thousands of years going back to pre-historic times have worshipped deities. Some civilizations were separated from others for so long that one might guess that they came up with the idea independently rather than inheriting it from one original thinker at the dawn of human existence. The other observation is that I (and I assume everyone else unless all of you are just a figment of my imagination) have a consciousness. This consciousness is something that I sense. If it did not exist, I would not sense anything, and this discussion would not be occurring.
The first observation relates to why one should believe in God. If there is no reason, then the question is irrelevant. So why have people in various civilizations worshipped deities? They have done so because with the ability to reason, humans began to think about the transitiveness of life. How can it be that I live for a short time, and then there is nothing? What is the purpose of it all? So people came up with the idea that the universe or all of existence is ruled by one or more gods who are immortal and that people, although mortal on this earth go on after death to another existence. Often there is a good place like Heaven for people who live a righteous life here and a bad place like Hell for bad people. Years ago this evolved in many cultures into a belief in one God who relates to all of existence. So, there is a universal concern about our mortality which religion has addressed whether or not one is satisfied with the answers that the various religions have proposed. Therefore I believe that the question of God's existence is not irrelevant.
The second observation is that I have a consciousness. Although some people value their body parts over everything else, for me (and I think for most of us) my consciousness (or in other words my mind) constitutes me. If I lost a leg or an arm, I would miss it, but I would still exist. If I became blind or deaf, it would certainly be a disaster, but I would still exist. In the field of health care, we talk about preserving or saving life, but is it not consciousness that we are really aiming to save? We now talk about brain death. A brain dead person is a person whose heart and lungs are functioning, but whose mind is gone. This person is unconscious, and the electroencephalogram tells us that there is no hope of that consciousness ever coming back again. Sometimes the organs of such a person are harvested for transplantation into a person whose consciousness we can save. We consider the brain dead person dead and the organ recipient alive and salvageable. So ultimately the driving force is not the chemical life of cells that we are saving, but the function of consciousness. It happens that with the present state of medical science, we can only save that consciousness by saving certain living brain cells in the cerebral cortex upon which that consciousness depends.
Let us now take this concept of consciousness forward one more step to the concept of the soul. Is the soul synonymous with the mind? For me, the soul is the mind plus all of its abstract extensions, creations, and ramifications. If one writes a thought on paper, that is now part of one's soul. The person can physically die, but the thought lives on the paper and can be transferred to anyone who reads that thought. The same can be said about any thought that is transmitted or preserved in writing, verbally, electronically, in art, in music, by teaching, by raising children, or in any other way. In computer terminology, we talk about hardware and software. Our brains are hardware. Our souls are software, not just including our minds because our minds are mortal and can only exist inside our brains, but our souls are immortal and can go anywhere, intertwining with other souls in a great network of abstract existence.
So then, who is God? I choose to define God as all of abstract existence, that is all souls and thoughts that exist, have existed in the past , might exist in the future, and all potential ones that never have existed or never will exist as we conceive existence. Why do I choose this definition? I do not pretend that this is some absolute truth that everyone must believe, but it is the best I can come up with to address my concerns about the transitiveness of life and those of my ancestors going back to pre-historic times, without contradicting reason as I perceive it. I am doing the same as the pre-historic man who, contemplating the same problem, worshipped the sun. As I have, he took the knowledge at his disposal and came up with what he considered to be the most reasonable answer. He could see that the sun was up there in the sky, unreachable. It gave him warmth. It had something to do with making the plants grow which in turn gave him food. It was too bright to look at directly. It had no rival. What else was he to believe?
Why do I use the soul as an approach to perceiving God? Because I can perceive my soul. My consciousness is at the center of it. Only then can I extrapolate God who includes all of our souls. I believe ancient people did this many years ago, considering that the Bible says that man was created in the image of God. Some people would say that man created God rather than God created man. My answer to that is that using man as a vehicle to perceive God does not mean creating God, just as when a biochemist discovers some previously undiscovered enzyme, he is not creating that enzyme.
When God is defined as all past, present, future, and potential souls, and the soul is defined as all the thoughts of an individual person, then God is defined as all thoughts or in other words all abstraction. One could then say that there are two existences, the material existence and the abstract existence. So, God is defined as all of abstract existence. One might then ask, between the material world which is defined as other than God and the abstract world which is defined as God, which created and/or dominates which. The Bible states that God created the world (which one could define as the material existence) and implies that He manages it as well. On the material (or atheistic) side one could point out that consciousness is dependent on the existence of material life and seems to cease when material life ceases. Even the definition of God as simply all abstract thought just delays the ultimate tragedy because eventually the sun will burn out, mankind will end, and even the written and electronic records of our thoughts will eventually crumble into non-existence. On the abstract (or believing in God) side, one could say that if all consciousness ceases with the end of material life and eventually there are no souls anywhere to perceive material existence (and therefore no abstraction, or in other words no God), then material existence would be irrelevant, and in a sense would no longer exist. Looking at it that way, God did create the universe because God is necessary to discover material existence. There is at least an interdependence between the two. So, how did the ancient authors of the Bible arrive at this conclusion that God created the universe? A fundamentalist would say that God told them. I am more comfortable with the idea that they took the information that was available to them at the time and came to a conclusion that seemed reasonable, just as scientists and philosophers do today.
Let us now go forward one more step. In science, nothing is ever the undisputable truth. Even the most certain scientific laws sometimes come into question and may eventually be disproved. At any point in time, some concepts are more secure in their acceptance as the truth, and others are considered more or less hypothetical. So far, I feel fairly secure in what I have said because I have only taken what I really believe to be true and extrapolated it. In so doing, we have a God who is a concept, a way of looking at things, but is He a personal God? Is He the creator and manager of all of existence, including material existence in more than just an abstract sense? Did He really make us in His image? In other words, does His big consciousness have an independent existence similar to but so much greater than our little ones? I can't say with certainty, but maybe it does. This is only a hypothesis, but I would like to think so. Well, why not? Hypotheses are acceptable in science and are an important step in the scientific method, so why should they not be acceptable in religion as long as one acknowledges that a hypothesis is not more than a hypothesis.
So that is my belief in God. This concept seems to satisfy me more than any other. I am not promoting it for anyone else. It is probably not unique, and I suspect other people at some time or other must have come up with similar conclusions.