Best Guess

On the left is what’s left to do. On the right, all that has been done as of April 14, 2013.

The punch line of a bad joke that we all know so well is: “That’s why they call it practicing medicine.” The listeners politely yuck it up as they fill their empty glasses with another Goose and Tonic. From my corner of the party, I think that doctors, for the most part, get a bad rap for what people often think of as just guessing.

I recently met with the three physicians to whom I’ve entrusted my life for lo these many years: the Oncologist, the Neurologist, and my Primary Care Provider. We all sat around a conference table to discuss my ongoing options, the projected out-comes, and also longevity. (No one seemed anxious to wade too deeply into that last one.) When it was over, however, I was quite pleased with what was decided for the short run.

Still, the longevity question wandered aimlessly through my imagination, dragging filthy rags and heavy chains behind it. A prognosis of ten weeks or ten years wasn’t really enough to sink my teeth into. Should I have my grave opened? Or should I be making plans for the next noisy infestation of the seventeen-year cicada? For that moment it seemed like too much guessing, even for me.

But then I started to think about other learned professions that also seem like they operate on a one to ten scale of guessing, making guessing some kind of actual glue in the universe. Rocket Science, for example: I can still remember the expensive failure of the Hubble Telescope. In other fields a few of us may roll our eyes at the mention of the Toyota recall. Then there’s Enron. Even the Bernie Madoff scandal might come to mind. Granted, not all of these are good examples of guessing, but they are good examples of things that zigged when they should have zagged. Certainly some of these may be examples of necessary risk, bad guessing, and maybe even greed on someone’s part. Who can say? If I were a betting man, my money would be on the knowledge of Chris Rock. At least he makes a living as a comedian.

Most of you who’ve followed these narratives will know that this conversation is going to end up somewhere between the pages of the Bible – no guessing there. If you will allow me to say that “guessing” is my theme, then you must allow me to suggest that I’ve come across parts of the Bible that have caused me to “say,” speculate. It is not a matter of true or false. Even a lie can be trapezoidal. It doesn’t have to be deliberate, or malicious. It can even be I. A friend shared with me that her grown daughter, with wisdom that is often so unexpected from our children, said to her, “Always assume that people have the best of intentions.”

Do we always have to lay blame, even if it is malicious? Is money as a remedy for injury always as satisfying as we think it will be? The Bible doesn’t get such high marks from me when it comes to that topic. Nevertheless, this I do know. The Bible has plenty of food for valuable thought. Risk takers should feel free to leap off into the clear air of whatever faith they may have, knowing that they may never land. It’s really all about the endless falling anyway.

Though I’ve completed writing in every little nook and cranny of the 1611 King James Bible, I can’t say that I’ve come across any actual facts. I’m not convinced that that should be the point. My best guess, along with some empirical evidence, is that a rejuvenating elixir is mysteriously brewed in the blending of those difficult words and my unanswered questions. I do believe that the spiritual liveliness, and the daunting challenges it presents has kept the most important part of me completely energized. Even my doctors whole- heartedly agree that this spiritual energizing is a necessary component of my treatment. So maybe I’ll take the risk and have that beer that my daughter left in the refrigerator. What can it hurt? My guess: it may turn out to actually do me some good.