Re-examining attitudes towards addiction

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“Addicts are the lepers of the 21st Century.”  So said Dr. Garrett O’Connor in his keynote address at the September California Society of Addiction Medicine conference in Anaheim, California.

They are difficult. They break the law. They can be violent and dishonest. Their conduct affects everyone around them. It destroys families and relationships. Society shuns and incarcerates them. But the fact is that close to 50 years after the War on Drugs was declared, drugs are winning. We’re doing something wrong.

Dr. O’Connor’s address was entitled Recovery and Spirituality. As our nation has become more secular we have become in many ways less logical. The default response to these issues by civil society has been incarceration; the most expensive option, rather than compassion and treatment, the most sensible.

Once addiction takes hold of an individual most are helpless without spirituality and faith. Over 1,200 medical professionals listened to Dr. O’Connor’s address but the medical profession is in general skeptical of the spiritual.

However, the empirical evidence of the effect of spirituality in the treatment of illnesses including addiction is incontrovertible. Dr. Harold Koenig and others have done extensive work on understanding how stress affects the body and how many people with faith achieve significantly superior outcomes to illnesses than those without strong faith. In a study of 100 medical research papers in 2001 conducted by Dr. Koenig, 79% of those papers reported a significant positive association between religious involvement and improved well being. Dr John Graham has also written extensively on the subject.

In addiction medicine Alcoholics Anonymous and the Salvation Army’s programs are recognized as the most successful alcohol abuse treatment programs. Both recognize that the addict cannot kick their addiction on their own. It takes a higher power, which most of us call God, to  grant the strength and will and fight the pain and anxiety. And yet as a society we refuse to recognize the importance of spirituality in recovery.

Last March, Saddleback Church and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange sponsored the Gathering on Mental Health, a call to the Church to provide effective and compassionate support to those faced with the challenges of mental illness and addiction. The first person many families turn to when faced with this trauma  is often their pastor or other spiritual guide.

And yet in the high complex environment of dual or multiple diagnoses and  the spectrum of addiction and mental illnesses, education is sadly lacking. Dealing with mental illness is difficult and with addiction even more so.

The stigma isolates the individual when they most need help. This stigma must be removed if we are to successfully address these deeply complex issues.Recovery is a long term process that never ends. So why is it that if we know Joe or Sally is in recovery that we cannot have compassion when they fall?

“There are five words that are part of every addict’s vernacular.Five words that come from the darkest place imaginable. To call it defeat would oversimplify the absolute loss of humanity. This is it; the disintegration of the soul.The point at which the body has no fight left. When helpless becomes hopeless and hopeless becomes despair.This is the moment in the game when there are no more plays. No more outs. No more options. This is the place every addict eventually gets to. The thought of living our lives without addiction is unthinkable. Even worse than the thought of living our lives with it. So when we say these five words it doesn’t come from a place of fear. It doesn’t come from a place of sadness.It comes from the core of our soul, the burning hot center that has begun to go cold.The place where nothing lives but the truth. These five words are so simple. Five little words. “I wish I was dead.”

The Cleaner

The essence of the Catholic Sacrament of Reconciliation is the confession of sins and absolution. Both psychologically and spiritually, the penitent is given a second chance. It is that absolution and the spirit of compassion and forgiveness that allows even the greatest sinners to go forth and sin no more.

Addiction is a crisis of the soul and the mind as well as physiological and biochemical. The whole human must be healed. Medication, therapy, treatment and counseling are all parts of the solution and must be recognized as such.

The addict is perhaps the most difficult to treat. They are not sympathetic in many cases. But neither were lepers up until the last century.

So if we know empirically that spirituality works why is it not given a greater role in recovery? At that point where the addict wishes they were dead isn’t that the time for the greatest compassion? We have to go with what works.

Maxwell Chorak – Rest in Peace

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Sunday November 2, 2014

Today is All Soul’s Day, the Dia de Los Muertos. It is an especially painful day for our family this year.

On June 10th I was called out of an early evening meeting and told that my step-son, Maxwell, had committed suicide. He had jumped from a 5 story sky bridge at UC Irvine a few hours earlier that was known as a site for suicides. The parking structure had suicide prevention tiles with hot line numbers cemented into the walls from the third floor upwards.It was the culmination of every parent’s worst nightmare.

But it had been a long time coming. Susan, my wife, and I had been living in fear of “the call” for years. She thought that it might be drugs but had never thought of suicide. We are still deeply grieving. What we do know is that the system let him down badly.

Max - 6

How does one deal with the sudden, traumatic death of a child? There are no guidebooks. It is the worst sort of emotional blow. His sister and brother are distraught. We were all deeply concerned for him but the cold reality of such a violent death at a young age is searing. But somehow we must go on and help change a broken system.

Maxwell exhibited his first signs of mental illness at the age of ten. He would act out. He raged. He sometimes became violent. When the Sheriff’s deputies got to the house they did not know what to do. At the time, my wife as a single mother was on her own trying to chart new territory. There was no place in the county to which a ten year old child could be taken to be treated for mental illness. There still isn’t.

She eventually found a psychiatrist who tried to “get” him and he was treated for bipolar/schizophrenic disorder but not formally diagnosed. But Max was using street drugs to self-medicate and the doctors pulled back.

Maxwell entered high school but it didn’t last long. He was brilliant. He was bored. He was different. But he also had charisma. He was a handsome young man with a very gentle way most of the time. But by his sophomore year he was out. His erratic behavior, drug use, and inattention just were not going to get Max through a conventional education.

He was a wonderful young man. He would take his last dollar and spend it on a gift for his brother or take his 90 year old aunt out for a pedicure and manicure. He was kind. He wanted nothing more than to hang out with his family. He loved his brother and his sister devotedly. And then the voices would whisper in his ear and it would get scary.

He was too smart for his own good. He could argue the most absurd point until even a well educated person could be fooled. He could also listen to a guitar riff or even a whole song just once and play it back brilliantly. His guitar was his refuge. He could pick up a cello never before having touched one and play it better than his mother, who had studied for years.

Maxwell took the GED test without studying and passed with flying colors. He entered the local community college. He wanted to be a doctor. Shortly before he died he was discussing textbooks for the next semester.

Clonazepam is a drug used to control seizures. Usually an adolescent is given one pill and would sleep for 18 hours. They gave Maxwell five once and still had to restrain him. Marijuana has been well documented for its terrible effect on individuals with schizophrenia. The literature discusses adverse or paradoxical effects. You bet there are.

Maxwell would eventually learn to study the side effects of the various drugs prescribed for his treatment in order that he could tell the doctors that he was having them in order to avoid the drugs. The prescription drugs left him feeling lethargic and hemmed in. At least some of the illegal ones gave him a brown haze to find refuge in.

I call him Max because it was what my grandmother called me. She too suffered from mental illness. She had a nervous breakdown in the 1930’s after being thrown out on the Brooklyn streets one too many times with her 5 children after her husband had once again squandered his plumber’s salary on booze.

She ended up at a place called Creedmoor in Queens, NY for 40 years and it was only when Thomas Szasz and his accomplices in government closed the psychiatric hospitals in the 70’s that she came to live with us. Creedmoor had been her safe place. Now her life was disrupted. When she came to live with us it was a wonderful experience because of my mother’s love and compassion. She taught us to be kind and caring.

So I had a lot of empathy for Maxwell. He had no place to be safe. There was no safety net. We have since the 1970’s gutted out mental health care programs.

His condition was slowly deteriorating. It was only when he became 17 that the handbook of the American Psychiatric Association allowed him to be formally diagnosed as schizophrenic. By that point he had been in in-patient programs in Southern California and Idaho to help treat his condition.

Max - 25

By the age of 18 he had been in the local hospitals for six 5150’s, which refers to the section of the California Welfare & Institutions code which allows for an individual to be detained for up to 72 hours for psychiatric observation.

And through all of this, Max’s friends and family became isolated from him. His mom and his family visited him when he was in treatment, but the loss of human contact was deeply upsetting. We loved him, but one of the things one encounters with the mentally ill and addicted is that it is difficult to love them in a normal manner. It is sometimes impossible to be close and to be there for them. You often don’t know what to expect and a lot of what you do expect is bad.

He was arrested for petty crimes and began the cycle of being in jail and on the street. 40% of America’s jail and prison population have mental health issues. Experts here in Orange County have told me that it is more like 70% -80% in our local jail. It is a cycle that we somehow have to break.

Maxwell was homeless at times. His interactions with law enforcement bordered on the absurd. While he was in jail he was sentenced for a “failure to appear”. He spent several months at a local mental health facility which is outsourced by the county. And then he would end up back in jail for another petty offense. He began to hear voices, holding conversations with them and laughing to himself. He would end up in the psychiatric unit.

The drugs, especially those that were self prescribed, left him in a haze that was better than the suffering, but psychoactive drugs do not affect the mentally ill the way they do others.

For most of his last 18 months Max was either at one of the very few facilities for the mentally ill in California, a drab forbidding site in Riverside, or in jail. Maxwell was a prime candidate for long term care. But there is almost none available. There are 5,900 acute mental health care beds in a state of 34,000,000 people. There are almost no long term facilities. And there are an estimated 1.5 million Californians with serious mental illness.

When he was released from the facility (you really can’t call it a hospital) in Riverside he stayed with his father. He saw his brother and mom and things were looking up. He had a great day with an old friend just hanging out. He left his father’s house one night and didn’t come home.

He was found the next day in a catatonic state in a local park and taken to the emergency room. He was then transferred to UCI Medical Center, the regional acute mental health unit, where he stayed for 9 days.

When we were informed of his admission to UCI his mother immediately contacted the doctors and nurses regarding his care. Maxwell did very poorly on Haldol, the drug of choice for the zombification (aka control) of the symptoms of schizophrenia in state run facilities. We knew this from years of experience. Haldol can cause severe depression.
We knew that Risperdal was more effective for Max and told his doctors so. The nurse responsible for him told my wife “It doesn’t make any difference since they don’t stay on their meds when they leave here anyway.” They put him on a maximum dose of Haldol.

She had requested that she and Maxwell’s dad be notified before he was released. This did not happen. Max was released at @ 1:30PM on the day of his death with the clothes on his back and a bus pass given to him by the hospital. He took the bus directly to the main campus of UCI several miles away and jumped almost immediately. After his mother found out and after collapsing, she called the hospital to ask why he had been released. There was silence at the other end of the line.

To this day we don’t know if Maxwell jumped because he was disoriented on Haldol or because of other factors. We will never know. That hurts.

The system is broken. Many of the professionals are callous and uncaring. There are petty jealousies and a lack of communication. The system as designed and implemented is malevolent. Our brothers and sisters with mental health issues are warehoused in our jails and in a very limited number of beds. We read daily of misdiagnoses and maldiagnoses and even misconduct in psychiatric care.

Treating mental illness is a matter of the physical, the mental, and the spiritual. It is perhaps the most difficult of illnesses. With the mentally ill there are often no good answers. As a society, we don’t want to know. We don’t want to deal with them on a concrete level. The mentally ill are often stigmatized. And at the most basic family level it can be heart wrenching.

But Max is gone. He will be a statistic to most but he will have left a massive hole in the hearts of his family and friends. There is little understanding left except that he was deeply, fatally mentally ill in a world that does not treat those who suffer from this very well. He is at peace now.

We can honor him by doing better, as individuals and as a society.

“Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.”

Mother Teresa

© Matthew Holzmann 2014

Common Core and Common Sense – The Orange County Board of Education Hearings- Round One

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Last night the Orange County Board of Education held the first of two special meetings to discuss the concerns of parents and educators with the Common Core curriculum now being introduced around the country. A standing room only crowd attended.

This first exchange featured a panel of speakers, each given an initial 5 minutes to discuss support for the introduction of Common Core and opposition to same.

The first comment was by Trustee David Boyd, who looked something like Gregory Peck’s Captain Ahab with a bad haircut and bad attitude. He launched into a tirade against the Tea Party and called for the meeting to be suspended. The meeting then proceeded.

Next came pro and con appeals from 4  selected attendees from each side. One of them, representing an organization of charter schools, strongly supported the curriculum. Another, against, pointed out that the curriculum has not been tested or proven and that California has ranked #1 or #2 nationally in math and language skills using the proven curriculum.

A mother told the story of her straight “A” daughter now struggling with her math lessons. “There are no books, and the teachers themselves are confused.” she said.

The first panelist speaking on the “pro” side was Dr. Claire Cavallaro of Cal State Fullerton, who pointed out that 1/3 of college freshmen in California require remedial English and Math. (note: that would not seem to jibe with California’s ranking). She said that Common Core is new and misunderstood and threatening. She asked that the curriculum be allowed to roll out further and that the bugs be fixed.

The next was Celia Jaffe from the PTA. She stated the state PTA’s support of Common Core and that it represented the latest in and most up to date thinking in education. It’s focus on critical thinking is essential for our changing economy and learning becomes more robust to paraphrase.

The third pro CC panelist was Dr. Glen Thomas, who began the process of introduction of Common Core while State Secretary of Education under Arnold Schwarzenegger. His statement was  a history of the process of introduction that was foreshortened by the 5 minute time limit.

Last came Glen Warren, one Orange County’s Teachers of the Year for 2014, who spoke from a classroom perspective about empowerment and collaboration and creativity and information literacy. Powerful buzz words.

The can the prepared remarks counseling caution.

Robin Eubanks, a corporate counsel from Georgia spoke first, cautioning that the purpose of Common Core in the words of its developers is to shape the values, attitudes and perceptions of students. Underlying this are agendas far beyond simple education. Phrases such as “change of consciousness”, “positive social identity” and “identity, orientations and dispositions” are a subtext that runs through the core of Common Core. It is no longer about teaching our children how to read and write and prepare them for the next grade from Ms. Eubanks perspective, and she cited the very word’s of the curriculum’s developers to substantiate her claims.

Next came Hugh Hewitt, a constitutional law professor and nationally syndicated conservative radio show host . He was brief and to the point. He noted that when United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan tied federal funding to the implementation of Common Core it constituted the biggest power grab by the Federal government in 100 years. An issue of local and state control was federalized by fiat against the express wishes of Congress.

Dr. Gary Thompson, a clinical psychologist specializing in early childhood development and special education then spoke. He opened by recounting the series of errors committed by psychologists in experimenting on their patients and cautioned the Board of Trustees not to institute and unproven and potentially detrimental syllabus on the children of Orange County. He presented a binder with multiple peer-reviewed articles on the effects of various parts of the Common Core curriculum on children.

Last came Lydia Guiterrez, a Master Teacher and program director at UCLA, who emphasized the lack of transparency and lack of data on the success of Common Core to date. She spoke of the difficulties seen in school districts around the country that have had significant issues with implementation. She emphasized the lack of flexibility in adapting the standards to local needs because of federal requirements.

Next came questions from the Trustees themselves.  The first was from Trustee Lindholm who asked “why is the math in Common Core so hard and complex?” One of the pro-Common Core panelists stated that there is no evidence of this.

Next came Trustee Beskell, who was to the point. He asked if Common Core was pre-Obama. Yes, stated one of the panelists. “Which states have opted out so far? ” Indiana came the response.

Trustee Williams asked Ms. Eubanks about data mining. There are significant concerns about who has access to the data and how it is used and how extensive that data is in light of the NSA scandal and the efforts by companies such as Google and Microsoft in this field.

Another question by Trustee Williams was “what is the effect of the gaming used in the classroom today and of virtual reality”. Dr. Thompson expressed deep concerns and noted that several of the medical papers he had earlier submitted indicated detrimental psychological effects.

Trustee Hammond asked two very pointed questions of each panelist. “Would you enforce a law that was unconstitutional?” was the first. The second was if there is a federal law that allows control of local education. The responses were interesting. While the pro Common Core were both uncomfortable and mixed in their response, those expressing concern were unanimous in their desire to challenge the legality of such a mandate.

Lastly, Trustee Boyd lectured Mr. Hewitt specifically on the cost of such litigation. Mr. Hewitt responded by suggesting that there are law firms and attorneys that might act on a pro-bono basis and that this might be investigated. What Mr. Boyd may not have known was that the Pacific Legal Foundation participated in a press conference just prior to the hearing in which they offered to take the case at no cost to the Board of Education. Oops.

I am not an expert, but I do know that when the jargon clogs the language clarity is lost. When agendas are developed without transparency there is suspicion. When someone connects the dots on those promoting that agenda along with their financial interests and political dogmas,  those suspicions are raised further.

Editorials and polls indicate that trust in government is at an all time low regardless of one’s ideology.

Just the other day President Obama joked that he could no longer help with his children’s math homework. Anecdotal evidence of major structural problems within Common Core is building rapidly.

One thing is certain. The science is not settled.

Math meme

 

 

 

Lost in Space – Episode XXIII – Obama’s Dilemma

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Shit just got real with Russia today when their government announced that the United States would be barred from the International Space Station after 2020. In addition, they will no longer sell engines to the United States for military applications. I hope that we have a bunch of them on the shelf but somehow I doubt it.

The NK-33 (1,505 kN) and RD-180 engines (4,150 kN) are two of the key powerplants for our space program. The NK-33 is used in the first stage of the Antares rocket, which launches payloads of up to 5,000 Kg into low earth orbit; basically satellites. The RD-180 is used as the first stage of the ULA (Lockheed Martin & Boeing JV) Atlas V heavy lift rocket for satellite launches. It was also projected to be used in a new Atlas V CTS (Crew Transportation System), a heavier lift version originally scheduled to come on-line in approximately 2020.

The Thiokol Ares solid rocket booster used in the Space Shuttle at 14,000,000 N is the most powerful booster ever made. The Saturn V delivered 6,770,000 N and was the most powerful liquid fueled rocket ever built. The most powerful rocket now being built in the United States is the Aerojet RS-68 liquid rocket, which produces 2,950Kn.

The current delivery vehicle to the ISS is the Russian Soyuz, which uses 4 liquid fueled rockets developing 813 Kn each at liftoff. The Zenit engines used in Sea Launch’s vehicles develop 8,100,000 N and can deliver 30,000+ lbs into low earth orbit. The Zenits are built by the Russians as well. As I am trying to outline for liberals who may not understand science, we are screwed.Houston, we have a problem.

Every rocket system is different and there is very little mixing and matching. It is, in fact, rocket science.

We were until today looking at having another Russian technology and hardware based heavy lift capability in 2020, but are now being told rather impolitely to go screw.That the message was delivered by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin one of Putin’s closest cronies and a target of our sanctions as well as being the head of Russia’s space program, is even more to the point.

Obama’s NASA is more interested in climate change and Muslim outreach today and now we are faced with either a dispute over ownership of one of our own technology jewels or another climbdown by the Obama administration. The most popular dish in the White House Dining Room these days seems to be crow.

The is something fundamentally wrong with the administration’s ideology. It shows up in a chaotic foreign policy and a decision-making process that is almost exclusively politically driven. It now shows up in our greatest scientific endeavors where it has no place at all. It is time to face the fact that this is the most incompetent and dangerous government in our history.

 

8th Grader dies of overdose – Media silent

b6fc9d2c155111e3931722000a1fc67c_6The other day, an 8th grader at Niguel Hills Middle School in Laguna Niguel, CA died of a drug overdose. The cause of Branden Stock’s death was Vicodin, one of the most commonly prescribed drugs.

The only media report of his death was on Channel 5 News. His school and the district said nothing at all beyond their confines. He died at home alone. Imagine finding your child or your best friend cold and lifeless and there’s nothing you can do. His friends held a memorial service at Salt Creek Beach, where I spent many days in the water surfing like Branden was said to have loved to.

The death of a child is the most painful thing a parent goes through. No one should have to endure this burden. And yet his parents will carry this sadness for their entire lives. His friends will remember for a while and then more rarely and maybe a few will remember to pray for his soul sometimes over the course of their lives.

That the death barely made the news is indicative of the problem. Drug abuse begins in 6th-8th grade now. Kids are experimenting and going through new emotions and have left the cocoon of grade school. And the availability has never been greater. The taboos are gone. “Everyone is doing it.” I heard the same thing when I was a kid. And here we are 40 years later and we’re still getting it wrong.

And it’s not just public schools. It’s everywhere. Catholic schools, prep schools. If you go to the parking lot of Gelson’s in Newport Beach you can usually score within minutes. The Port Streets in Newport are considered one of the last bastions of the Ozzie & Harriet lifestyle and the drugs and alcohol usage by kids is pervasive. Laguna Niguel and every town in Orange County are the same.

Prescription drugs are the new battlefield. Vicodin, Codeine, Oxycontin, Zanax, Opana, Percocet, and Valium are all being abused at record levels. Between dirty doctors, pill shopping, and stealing from mom & dad’s medicine cabinet it is an epidemic. That people can even obtain some of these drugs like Opana, which is prescribed for very limited applications, indicates how awry the system is. And it is hitting 12 & 13 year olds, those who haven’t got a clue, the worst.

And after they can’t find the prescription drugs or can’t afford them, heroin lurks in the background ready to offer a brown haze from which there is little chance of escape. $80 for an Oxycontin or $6 for a bindle of Afghan white or black tar? This is the reality on the street here in the OC.

The Orange County Register did an article a few weeks back on heroin abuse in our high schools. The number of OC kids trying heroin has doubled since 2006. And once heroin has you it is a monkey on your back that is very difficult to remove.

And a lot of people just don’t want to know. Two girls were caught recently smoking heroin in a bathroom at Laguna Beach High School. “The girls caught smoking was an “isolated incident,” Laguna Beach High Principal Joanne Culverhouse said.”

30 years ago when I lived in Dana Point, Laguna Beach High School had one of the worst drug problems in the county. Nothing changes much, it seems. Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.

In San Clemente, the community has bonded together through CURE, which links the church, counselors, schools, parents, other stakeholders and the kids. We need such programs in every city. Every loss of a child is one too many.

Education is vital and we need to get to the heart of the matter and educate parents and children about the consequences of bad choices. We have the resources. But first we must recognize the problem honestly and without blinkers.

Drug abuse and self medication are the scourges of our times. Between addiction and mental health issues we have responded in a woeful manner. We must open our eyes and our hearts to this plague.

 

 

Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida, Sartre, Foucault, Gramsci – Getting It All Wrong

Michael Totten noted the publication of the diary of the philosopher Martin Heidegger as critiqued in the most recent issue of The Weekly Standard with proper disgust. You see, Heidegger was an early convert to Naziism and even though he lived until 1976 he never expressed any regrets.

As  the most admired philosopher of the 20th century except for his political philosophy, Heidegger questioned the very essence of Being. That which had been assumed to be obvious for 2,500 years was called into question. “Cogito ergo sum” and all of the other variations on that theme became “WTF?”

The essence of philosophy centers on Ontology, or the nature of being; Epistemology, the nature and scope of knowledge; Logic, Metaphysics (the eternal why), and Aesthetics. Heidegger’s premise was to turn the work of his predecessors on its ear and deconstruct the history and principles of Western philosophy.

Heidegger’s work was considered the epitome of 20th century philosophy. His followers included Sartre, Derrida, and Foucault, the architects of modern existentialism, deconstructionism, and relativism and revisionism. His reputation was built on the work of Friedrich Nietzsche. Heidegger felt that Nietzsche was the culmination of Western metaphysics.

Nietzsche built his theories on Kierkegaard’s work and the dynamic of the aesthetic versus the ethical.  Nietzsche  attempted to synthesize Kierkegaard’s deeply held sense of the religious and of commitment and personal responsibility to strive for a higher level of being into the core principles of existentialism as outlined in “Man & Superman” which became the basis for Hitler’s Aryanism and perversely for Stalin’s New Soviet Man as well.

But it must be pointed out that Nietzsche was the Jim Morrison of 19th Century philosophy. He lived the lifestyle and threw philosophical bombs regularly. His arguments were contradictory, but the complexity and sheer scale of his eruptions of thought were overwhelming in the Victorian Age when all began to be questioned. He campaigned against morality and God Himself. He attacked the dichotomy of good and evil and his central expression of nihilism was the  greatest assault upon the nature of good and evil in history. He railed against Socrates and Aristotle and called for the death of metaphysics in favor of a transfigurative collapse and rebirth of the superman, separated from the masses through intellect and force of will.

This is the foundation of modern philosophy. The triumph of the Id over the Ego and Superego.

Existentialism fit the times. As all of the old order in Europe was collapsing in the midst of World War I the old ways were under extreme pressure. Religion, so deeply identified with the state in Europe, became another casualty of war. Faith was challenged by the carnage. The absurdity of war bred the absurdity of surrealism. Expressionism became another outlet for the authenticity demanded of existentialism.

Existentialists argues that authentic existence involves the idea that one has to “create oneself” and then live in accordance with this self. And yet Kierkegaard was explicit in his faith in an authentically Christian life well led. Nietzsche preferred the romanticism and role of the natural man outlined by Rousseau and this help synthesize his own ideal.

Marx and Engels developed the theories of dialectical materialism and class struggle that entranced those disillusioned by the economic divides of the Industrial Age. The romance of Nietzsche and of Rousseau was transformed into the new, atheist city on a hill offered by Marxism. In Germany Nietzsche’s social Darwinism drove National Socialism. the failure of both systems was both practically and philosophically inevitable in retrospect.

This was proven starkly by the fall of first the Nazi, and then the Soviet Empires. The moral and ethical underpinnings of each were rotten. Sartre defended Marxism, arguing that it had been applied incorrectly. We are still waiting on the workers paradise.

Foucault and Derrida pushed existential thought even further, into deconstructionism and revisionism. Gramsci’s contribution was historicism. Ideas simply cannot be understood outside of their historical or social contexts.  If all philosophies are simply alternative narratives how can one be held to be better than another? And if one can disassemble and then reassemble the facts into a new narrative that supports ones views, how can any narrative be true? There is, then, no objective truth according to these theories.

And yet this flies in the face of logic. Of course, both logic and metaphysics posit the existence of a higher force, God, who does not exist because His existence cannot be empirically proven according to the new rules.

But, as C.S. Lewis points out, the Tao exists across philosophies and cultures.

“The Tao, which others may call Natural Law or Traditional Morality or the First Principles of Practical Reason or the First Platitudes, is not one among a series of possible systems of value. It is the sole source of all value judgments. If it is rejected, all value is rejected. If any value is retained, it is retained. The effort to refute it and raise a new system of value in its place is self-contradictory. There has never been, and never will be, a radically new judgment of value in the history of the world. What purport to be new systems or…ideologies…all consist of fragments from the Tao itself, arbitrarily wrenched from their context in the whole and then swollen to madness in their isolation, yet still owing to the Tao and to it alone such validity as they posses.”

This set of principles has been arrived at completely separately in many cultures; In Greece; by the Jews; in India; in China. Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and many other traditions all reflect similar values on the basic levels.

These were not formulated as the tools for domination or the social constructs rationalizing ruling classes as deconstructionists or Marxists believe, but rather as social compacts derived from divine sources.

The histories of civilizations were best prepared by scholars to accurately depict the events of the times under study. Perhaps certain biases seep into narratives, but overall these histories are confirmed by multiple sources; scientific, mathematical, and historical. In each tradition accountability was demanded by a shared responsibility to future generations. You may not like some of history, but you are not allowed to choose that history. It can be critiqued, but it cannot be changed.

So if the foundations for modern philosophy can be so easily discredited why have our intelligentsia chosen not to do so?

Rationalism demands logic and order. Facts must be confirmed. The greater the theory, the more demanding the criticism of that theory must be in order to confirm or deny it. And yet if rationalism and logic are denied, how can we ascertain the essential truth.

Marxist dialectics emphasizes the primacy of the material way of life over all forms of social consciousness and the secondary, dependent character of the “ideal.”Thus as with Nietzsche’s theory God does not exist.

As St. Thomas Aquinas argued for the existence of God, there are 5 principles:

Motion -Some things undoubtedly move, though cannot cause their own motion. Since there can be no infinite chain of causes of motion, there must be a First Mover not moved by anything else, and this is what everyone understands by God.

Causation- As in the case of motion, nothing can cause itself, and an infinite chain of causation is impossible, so there must be a First Cause, called God.

Existence of necessary and the unnecessary- Our experience includes things certainly existing but apparently unnecessary. Not everything can be unnecessary, for then once there was nothing and there would still be nothing. Therefore, we are compelled to suppose something that exists necessarily, having this necessity only from itself; in fact itself the cause for other things to exist.

Gradation- If we can notice a gradation in things in the sense that some things are more hot, good, etc., there must be a superlative that is the truest and noblest thing, and so most fully existing. This then, we call God.

 

Ordered tendencies of nature- A direction of actions to an end is noticed in all bodies following natural laws. Anything without awareness tends to a goal under the guidance of one who is aware. This we call God.

The alternative is that Sh*t just happened. Which is more logical?

Today the vestiges of Nietzsche, Marx, Derrida, Sartre, and Foucault live on in a world of wishful thinking. Our intelligentisia see the world as the want or demand it to be rather than as it is. The destruction of logic and of critical thinking is leading to a new dark age, not in a physical sense but rather as one of illogic and superstition.

As we are finding out the hard way with dictators and national interests, reality is conflicting with the received wisdom. Despite 2,500 years of dialectics, we are being coerced into beliefs which defy logic.

Orwell, Huxley, Bradbury and others wrote of the dangers of modern irrationalism. Hofer’s True Believer was based upon the zealots of Naziism and Communism. Book burnings did happen. Races and those who disagreed were exterminated. The Jews, the kulaks in Ukraine, 50,000,000 victims of the cultural revolution and 3,000,000 more in Cambodia were all sacrificed within living memory on the altar of atheistic idealism.

Even in the face of the evidence the intelligentsia still hold many of those same beliefs in historicism and relativism and failed ideologies.

And yet the alternative is so simple that it has been obfuscated in a hurricane of sophism. All God has ever asked is to be believed. It’s called faith. Nietzsche is long dead. God isn’t.

To be continued…..

 

A Great Disturbance in the Force – The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church

An incredible thing happened the other day and I am still digesting it. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange and Saddleback Church held “The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church“. This is a first certainly for California and perhaps for the world. From all over Southern California and the country, 3,500 people gathered at Saddleback Church and thousands more participated on-line in a frank discussion of how faith-based organizations can contribute more to ameliorate a problem that is growing out of control.

We live in an increasingly secular world today that is overwhelming us both emotionally and physically. New technology is bringing us closer together than ever before and yet isolating us even further. Old boundaries are crumbling and as a culture we are becoming ever more dysfunctional. The effects of our physical and psychological world are taking a toll on our souls that is sometimes unbearable. The widespread availability of drugs both legal and illegal has turned us into a self medicating nation.

According to the experts at the Gathering, 26% of adult Americans will be diagnosed with some form of mental illness this year. 7-8% of our population suffers from addiction. from depression to bipolar disorder to schizophrenia to personality disorders were are facing a crisis.

These are issues that hide in the back of our collective closets. Individuals feel stigmatized and marginalized and our societal bias against the mentally ill and addicted is deep and pervading. Families are tortured and damaged and the mentally ill are reduced to hopelessness by a system that is deeply fractured and nonresponsive.

There is a War on Drugs that costs over $50 Billion/year. Mental health treatment costs our nation over $170 Billion/year. Incarceration costs our country over $40 Billion/year. And there are significant overlaps. And what is ever more clear is that we are doing it wrong.

Government is the large hammer. Our medical system is designed to prescribe medicine and perform surgery. Even psychiatry has been increasingly defined as the adjustment and prescription of medications.

The etymology of the words psychology and psychiatry is the Greek word ψυχή, or soul. And yet in our modern, rationalist, scientistic world the soul is the last thing that is considered in the treatment of mental illness. Holistic treatment of mental illness is secondary to biochemical investigation and treatment. And this is where faith based organizations are increasingly seeing the need and the gap.

Pastor Rick Warren and Bishop Kevin Vann assembled a stellar array of health care professionals, psychiatrists, neurologists, and mental health experts from a wide range of specialties in order to examine and propose how faith based organizations can deliver effective care to those with mental health problems.

Saddleback Church has taken mental health on as one of their core ministries. Church is one of the first stops for many people with mental health issues and their families. Faith helps individuals and families cope and hope.

But there is a wall between faith and the rest of the world today that must be broken down if we are serve our brothers and sisters effectively. I am not neutral in this. I have skin in the game. We lose two young people per week to overdoses just in Orange County and mental health issues have affected my own family.

In studying what works in addiction treatment, 12 step programs stand out as the most effective tool. What is even more evident is that compassionate faith based recovery and treatment increase the likelihood of a successful outcome. Almost every study confirms these results. Compassion and empathy are critical.

Working with those with addictions and mental illness is among the most challenging of callings. Addicts are often not nice people. Certain mental illnesses can be especially difficult to cope with on a daily basis. I know.

But it is often that engagement that is at the heart of the matter. Depression may not be logical but to know that someone cares and is listening can be a lifeline.Borderline Personality Disorder is a license for drama and conflict but can be managed. Dual diagnoses such as Bipolar Disorder/Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder/Addiction require fortitude and compassion as well.

And yet our society is doing its best to remove faith from our national dialog. We warehouse the addicted and mentally ill in our prisons and an emaciated psychiatric treatment system. The VA is very good at dispensing pills but is not so good at counseling and longer term treatment of problems such as PTSD. Government is the large hammer and a scalpel is often required in mental health treatment.

Modern humanism has become a cult of its own using deconstruction, revisionism, and disproven cultural models such as Marxism to support an ever growing disassociation from reality. Perhaps this may contribute to the psychological dissonance of the mentally ill and addicted. They are adrift in a culture that makes little logical sense.

Faith is the ultimate expression of reason. It is only through logic and metaphysics that we can make sense of the world around us. It is imperative that we as a society use all of the available tools at our disposal to re-think mental health care and treatment.

Stigmatization has done terrible damage to the mentally ill and everyone around them. The first step is to remove this stigmatization. The Church is one of the most effective tools for doing so.

The Church, as was made obvious time and again during the Gathering on Mental Health, can also take a lead position in working with specialists in providing a support network and counseling of the mentally ill and their families. As Pastor Rick Warren and Bishop Vann said time and again, the Church can also take a lead role in counseling and providing resources to those with mental health issues. The Church is one of the first stops, regardless.

Mental health issues are some of the most delicate and complex to face those involved in them. Proper training, empathy, and the right personalities are critical to successful outcomes. It is not for the faint of heart. Compassion and competence must go hand in hand. It is not just a job. It is a calling.

Who better to make this critical contribution but the Church? We have been on the front lines of health care, both physical and mental, since the beginning. The Byzantine Church was the first to set up hospitals in the form quite recognizable now. Today we are being called to re-think and to commit to a new ministry, the healing of minds and souls.

The Gathering was a call to arms for Christians. To open our hearts and our eyes and our minds to the treatment of mental illness. Movements, like chemical reactions start with catalysts. I believe this was one of them.  The Force has been disturbed in a great and wondrous way.