Interviewsand Articles


Editor's Introduction, Newsletter #32: A Return to Healing

by Richard Whittaker, Jul 31, 2014



One of the benefits of producing our online newsletter [and a print magazine, as well] is that new things are always crossing my path that, otherwise, I’d never encounter. For instance, lately, I find myself meeting doctors directly and indirectly. And not just any doctors, but doctors who not only have visions of an improved health care system, but who are trying to do something about it.
     A few weeks ago contributing editor, Mary Stein, told me about a wonderful book, God’s Hotel. She had an impulse to contact the author and ask for an interview. I was hopeful it could be arranged, and here it is. Dr. Sweet talks about some of the benefits, not only of earlier ways of serving patients, but of an earlier form of hospital architecture and how those benefits have been needlessly lost.
     I was recently given a copy of Dr. Len Saputo’s book A Return to Healing and found it a compelling, if disturbing, read. Dr. Saputo has spent the last ten years of his life developing alternatives to some of the dysfunctional realities in health care as we find it today in this country. Is there any possibility that medical practice could find its way back to its foundations as a service. Most doctors, in all likelihood, enter the healing professions on the basis of wanting to serve. It doesn’t begin as a business proposition. And yet the entire health care system has been transformed into a business proposition, it seems. What kind of meaning can flow from a system in which the highest value is measured in dollars? I talked with Dr. Saputo about these questions.
     Although what Tom Mahon has to say is not directly related to our health care system, it’s not hard to see a relationship. The first time I heard someone speak about how we are shaped unconsciously, even in our thinking, by our tools, was in the year 2000 during a symposium in Oakland, California. A mathematician talked about how, before Alan Touring famously asked the question—Can a machine be intelligent?—this question could not have been imagined. It could not have been because no tools of the sort Turing was envisioning—that is, machines capable of performing calculations on a new order—existed to serve as a model for such a thought. Our tools, once they have been created, begin to create us. This was the mathematician’s point. I think you’ll find Mahon’s video talk well worth the time.
     The remaining two features take us into quite another terrain. “A Lost Mariposa Garden” is my own account of a haunting experience I had some years back. The title might seem merely descriptive. The story is based on a garden being demolished in the little town of Mariposa, CA. In Spanish, mariposa means butterfly, so “a lost butterfly garden,” is another way of reading the title. And what is a lost garden? My hope is that the resonance of that phrase echoes into some deep places perhaps as far away as paradise. For me, this is a story of great poignance with many overtones.
     And finally, we have the extraordinary testimony of a remarkable life of search and finally of deep transformation. I met Penny Dinsmore several years ago and used one of her paintings on the cover of issue #18 of works & conversations. It’s a beautiful and powerful image. This is Penny’s mariposa story in real life. 

About the Author

Richard Whittaker is the founding editor of works & conersations and West Coast editor of Parabola magazine


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