I am embarking on a project to explore what really matters in our lives, personal and social. As I start this journey, I find myself looking at seemingly disjointed ideas at times that can then be connected in a holistic sense into how to be a good citizen or loving person. I think that six vital elements are crucial to this process – truth, trust, science, civility, diversity and faith – in no order of importance.
Let’s take trust for example. I contend that trust is an essential component of defining what really matters. Pete Buttigieg writes in his book TRUST: AMERICA’S BEST CHANCE extensively about trust as a currency that ties so many relationships together—intimate, family, social, military, political, interethnic, and governmental. These relationships only proceed forward in a positive way when trust is the underpinning of the actions of both sides of an interaction. Indeed, loss of trust or, worse yet, distrust (an active attempt to sow loss of trust) can only be overcome when trust is rebuilt in a lasting way. More often than not, trust that persists is grounded in truth.
A more spiritual take on trust can be seen in the writings of Bishop Michael Curry (LOVE IS THE WAY: HOLDING ON TO HOPE IN TROUBLING TIMES). Trust is based in love. When love is actively exhibited, trust is the inevitable action in relationships. I find his discussion of the opposite of love insightful to this discussion. He posits that the opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is selfishness, and selfishness is “a life completely centered on the self.” He further notes that “life becomes a living lie…[and that] selfishness is the most destructive force in all the cosmos, and hate is its only symptom.” He later equates faith as another word for trust. I cannot argue with his sentiment but for purposes of my what really matters construct I have separated them.
So, trust and faith are separated by me but add in love and it can become even more confusing. They are all intertwined and not easily separable, and I don’t want anyone to confuse my understanding of these powerful concepts. Rather, I am choosing to use my construct of what really matters (truth, trust, science, civility, diversity and faith) to provide a scaffold or framework to pursue what really matters and lead a life worthy of any faith or even a worthy life for those of no faith. I contend that those of “no faith” who are actually leading a faithful life to others by following what really matters are indeed faithful to the tenets of the multiple and diverse faiths of God and indeed exhibiting love.
The discriminating reader will wonder what credentials a pediatrician and medical geneticist brings to this discussion and why I appear to have wandered so far afield. The practice of medicine has been a profession for my career, but I have also found it to be a calling. To my estimation, a calling is more than a job that is performed during specified work hours. It is a devotion to the work. In the case of medicine and specifically pediatrics, it was and is a commitment to be “never-ending and unceasing” in the advocacy of children and families; to do everything in my power to heal or comfort; to be willing to devote that extra time and energy needed for those who are most vulnerable; to be selfless enough to realize that our common humanity requires sincerity in our interactions; and to be humble in dealing with situations that require a great amount of patience.
I’d like to think that my life’s work has placed me in a position of reasonable reflection that might provide some helpful observations to others. In this circumstance, I think the intersection of trust, faith and love is very much a part of the practice of medicine and reasonably shared by an elder in his community. I relish the opportunity to continue to witness this intersection and similar ones and to record them for my family and others. I am so looking forward to this project – its main route and side roads along the way.