So How Was Our Trip to California?

Dante and Virgil Ferried Across The River Styx, Canto VIII, Dante’s Divine Comedy
Gustave Doré, c. 1857

So How Was Our Trip to California?

By now, we’ve been home from California for a week.  But what an odd five days we had there!  I’ll give you the condensed version.

For once, there were no missed connections between flights. Neither going nor coming home.  Besides that, we found a phenomenon that we’d not witnessed earlier: a gentle courtesy between the passengers, at the Gates and other collection points.  

It put me in mind of the scene in Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities, his novel of the French Revolution.  Charles Darnay has been put in the prison of La Force, where doomed aristocrats await their summons to the Guillotine.  He marvels at how, in that vestibule between our world and the next, the prisoners extend to each other all the exquisite politeness of the ancient regime.  In our present travel situation, the extreme contagiousness of the Omicron variant may be bringing out a similar degree of ceremoniously reciprocal considerateness.

I’ve mentioned that we fly to California periodically because the neuropathy clinic at the Loma Linda Hospital is the only place I’ve found able to lessen neuropathy’s grip on my physical system.  My local acupuncturist has worked previously as a physical therapist, and believes that I walk upwards of 65% better than I did before starting my neuropathy treatments at Loma Linda.  But I’ve been going there for about six years, so this improvement isn’t sudden or miraculous.  It proceeds inch by inch.

So why did we decide to make this trip now?  Travel sets us down amid crowds of strangers at what — since the pandemic began — may be the worst time yet even to step out of one’s own front door!  What’s our hurry?

The neuropathy regime has required very unwelcome dietary restrictions. In hopes of getting round these restrictions, I’d just completed a difficult course of treatments with my acupuncturist, using a system that, in his experience, has overcome food allergies of many kinds.  Now I was eager to find out whether the team at Loma Linda could confirm that these allergies had been overcome.

Well, had it worked?  Alas, crushingly, no.  That is, while the inflammatory response to prohibited foods was found to be about 75-85% improved, in practical terms (I won’t go into the symptoms) my body still refused to deal with glutens and dairy.

All right.  One has a duty to live as effectively on one’s timeline — which means as healthily — as one can.  When push comes to shove, I’m a grownup.

I guess.

A reluctant one, assuredly, but not a complete fool.

While this defeat was being absorbed, something else was going on, which I hesitate to discuss.  The Marriott supplies The Book of Mormon and the Gideon Bible as reading matter in one’s guest room.  Understand this as you will, and I’m reluctant to put any reader to the test, reading the gospel of Matthew, I was flooded with the sense that I understood Jesus.  Understood him closely.  Without the barrier of The Great Rift between Christian and Jew.

Don’t get me wrong.  It has nothing to do with becoming a Christian.  In the history of that genre, Jews who’ve decided to call themselves Christian converts have a very bad track record: leading hostile authorities to hidden Torah scrolls so that they can be burned, instigating staged public “debates” with rules favoring Christians and Jewish representatives coerced into participating.  And so on.  It’s a dishonorable history, a history of betrayals, carried out by insiders with turncoat expertise.

That being the history, I’ll say no more about my experience.  Except to note that it was real, personal, and very striking.

Meanwhile, the neuropathy treatments made a more noticeable difference than they had done up till now.  Also, this time my home exercises did more than prevent regression: I began the treatment week with measurable gains already delivered.

I approach most doctors with instinctive wariness.  In my experience, most have not been free of the muffled sadism that goes with their view of the human (and the female) body: as a mechanism composed of small parts that, like machine parts, are passive or inert.  I can speak from experience since I’ve been treated for cancer at three reputable New York City hospitals: the first under Protestant auspices, the second Catholic, and the third one Jewish.  Which is to say that I’ve been humiliated in three theologically distinct ways: the Protestant, the Catholic, and the Jewish way of humiliation.

If I were a sociologist, or a psychologist specializing in the psychology of humiliation, maybe I could get an article out of it.

Mark Bussell’s treatment protocol at Loma Linda is courageous, truthful, and absolutely devoid of implicit sadism.  I like and trust him, and look forward to our conversations during the treatment hours.  

That said, our strenuous efforts to get from the Philadelphia airport to The Marriott hotel in Riverside, California, and thence to Loma Linda Hospital’s neuropathy clinic, were one-fifth undercut by Mark’s having to cancel the last day of treatment.  He’d come down with a cold, which nowadays has to be regarded as a reason for self-quarantine, pending the test for covid.  Happily, as we learned once back in Pennsylvania, the test proved negative.

One rolls with

the blessings of life,

and with the punches too.

About Abigail

Abigail Rosenthal is Professor Emerita of Philosophy, Brooklyn College of CUNY. She is the author of A Good Look at Evil, a Pulitzer Prize nominee, now available in an expanded, revised second edition and as an audiobook. Its thesis is that good people try to live out their stories while evil people aim to mess up good people’s stories. Her next book, Confessions of a Young Philosopher, forthcoming and illustrated, provides multiple illustrations from her own life. She writes a weekly column for her blog, “Dear Abbie: The Non-Advice Column” (www.dearabbie-nonadvice.com) where she explains why women's lives are highly interesting. She’s the editor of the posthumously published Consolations of Philosophy: Hobbes’s Secret; Spinoza’s Way by her father, Henry M. Rosenthal. Some of her articles can be accessed at https://brooklyn-cuny.academia.edu/AbigailMartin . She is married to Jerry L. Martin, also a philosopher. They live in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
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