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The Dispossessed (Book Review)

Ursula K. Le Guin has a powerful imagination, keen insights into the complexities of individual life in society, and a fluid writing style. The Dispossessed, set in the Hainish universe, is the first I’ve read of any of her books. It was recommended to me (and everyone else too via Instagram) by Jim Kast-Keat. Had he not commented on it so glowingly I likely would never have picked it up on my own, as there are many other books out there, and the description for this one didn’t particularly intrigue me.

In this book we follow the story of theoretical physicist Shevek, a man who grew up on a dusty world that served as an anarchist colony, as he seeks to complete his most important theory and get word of it out among the known worlds. To do so, he travels to the nearby world Urras, the place from which his people originally had come. While Anarres was a nearly barren world, it’s companion in a double-planet system was a blue and green paradise. 

The Odonian separatists who settled Anarres were looking for freedom from the oligarchic, plutocratic system of Urras. What they achieved was a society in which hardship was common, but brotherhood was simply assumed for the most part. They managed to create a system without centralized governments or currency, and their family structures reflected the egalitarian views they held dear.

This was, for me, a long and meditative read. A reflection on human nature and history, set in a science fiction format. It was an enjoyable, though-provoking book, though not standard fare for this genre of literature. Don’t expect interstellar battles or strange alien species, and you won’t be disappointed.

On My Recent Hospital Stay

Last night I was released from the hospital. I had been admitted the Thursday night before through the emergency room, suffering from excruciating abdominal pain. 24 hours and 4 tests later, I was going in for surgery to remove my gall bladder. The surgeons intended to do a laparoscopic procedure, from which recovery is quicker, but when they got me open they found the gall bladder in shreds. It had ruptured, perhaps days before. It took a much larger incision and an hour and a half to do, but they got the offending organ out. Here are my scattered thoughts on my first surgery and first extended hospital stay.

First, I had never before faced a serious medical issue as a non-theist. It turns out, it was actually easier to manage psychologically as an ‘unbeliever.’ I wasn’t wasting time or energy trying to understand what larger purpose my pain might have been serving. Instead, I thought about how much I wanted to live, and how grateful I was for the life I’d had so far, despite many setbacks and disappointments. I asked ‘why’ only in attempting to see if there was anything I had done in terms of diet or lifestyle that had brought this about, not puzzling over any offense I may have caused to the transcendent divine.

Second, hospitals are not very restful places. Although I was in an excellent hospital, and essential part of care is routine checking of vitals, IVs, and other practical aspects of patient care. As such, every couple of hours someone on staff was coming to see me. Blood was drawn, injections were made, questions were asked, and so on. This went on 24 hours, meaning that I never got a solid 8 hours of sleep.

Third, it was great that only my children and their mother came to visit me. Tired an in pain, I would not have enjoyed the company of even close friends. Instead, I received emails and Facebook messages from well-wishers, which I found very encouraging.

Fourth, someone in leadership (Tuli) at the Unitarian Church in Summit picked up on what was happening and messaged me Saturday morning. Rev. Boggis was also in touch via email, as I’d let her know prior to the surgery what was happening and asked her to be there to talk to my son if things did not go well through the surgery. Tuli, Rev. Boggis, and others from UCS have been so gracious and kind in reaching out to me during this time, even though my son and I have only been in attendance for about 8 months.

Fifth, I am so grateful for modern medical science and those who devote their lives to its practice. It requires a great deal of study and acquired skill, and it literally saves lives. One of my great uncles, Swede Smith, died in the mid-20th century of complications from the same thing I had. I’m alive because people researched how to respond in this situation, and other people learned how to do it. My thanks to them all.

Romênia (Vídeo)

Desde a adolescência eu tenho interesse no Leste Europeu. Na verdade, estava sempre mais interessado na Lituânia, pais onde morava (e continua morando) um amigo por correspondência. Ainda quero conhecer aquele pais, mas acho difícil aprender a linguá. Nos últimos anos eu me interessei mais na Romênia, um pais com uma linguá baseada em Latim. De fato, estou agora aprendendo a língua romena para poder começar a fazer visitas ao pais. Existe uma associação humanista lá, e também igrejas unitaristas (porem de etnia e linguá

húngara).