I know now that I have lived almost all of my life not knowing who I really am.
Certainly it is completely true that I am a physician specializing in internal medicine and sub-specializing in medical nutrition in Albany, Georgia, and have been for over twenty years. I am married to a lovely, loving woman, Jean, and I have two fantastic children, Brian and Jennifer. While these things are true, they don’t really get to the heart of the question. In fact, depending on your pre-conceptions about these roles, they may even mislead you. My understanding of myself has evolved quite a bit over time. If you are interested in this process and how it led to the creation of this blog, let me go into some more of the details of my life and what has motivated me.
I spent the early part of my life being what was called, back then, a “juvenile delinquent.” I was rebellious to the extreme, sometimes in a destructive sort of way. I managed to stay out of jail only by being very devious and crafty. Luckily, I never actually hurt anyone. But we sure did a lot of things I am not proud of.
I pretty much gave up this kind of behavior when I reached high school and discovered how much I could excel in academics, particularly math and science. It all came quite naturally to me. I loved learning for learning’s sake, but I also saw in it the potential for a fulfilling, successful life. I did things like teach myself calculus in the eighth grade so I could ace math competitions and I built myself a chemistry lab to make all sorts of explosives and rockets and other sorts of dramatic devices that made me feel less insignificant and reassure myself that I could turn theoretical knowledge into real action. (In case I am making you nervous, all I did with the explosives and rockets was blow up trees in the woods and knock boards out of the side of our barn, except for one notable miscue where I blew up not only a good portion of our basement, but also all of my lab equipment and very nearly myself in the process. That’s when I gave it up this destructive stuff completely.)
I am sure it won’t surprise you to hear that this mixture of intellectual ability and rebelliousness made my life into a challenge and made it extremely difficult to accomplish any long term, worthwhile goals. To make matters even worse, my academic honors and even my successes with my destructive hobbies lured me into becoming quite arrogant, yet another profound obstacle to any meaningful success.
Here is an example. When I was able to add becoming a National Merit Scholarship semi-finalist to my academic honors, offers from universities all over the country poured in and further inflated my exaggerated opinion of myself. Some were even offers of full academic scholarships, but I threw them all in the trash. My ego was such that I had decided that only M.I.T. was on a level that matched my academic prowess and I knew that M.I.T. would certainly see that and accept me. It was the only application I even asked for.
It wasn’t until the end of the summer after my senior year of high school that I heard the final word from M.I.T. It was just two weeks before most schools start their fall term and it began: “We regret to inform you…..” For the first time in the whole process of applying to college, I was a bit shaken, but I clearly remembered the name of one of the schools that had offered me a full scholarship earlier in the year: Michigan State University. I called them up and arranged to enroll and move to campus In East Lansing.
I had neglected to ask if the scholarship offer was still available, though, and I found out during orientation that it wasn’t. Financing my college education suddenly loomed as a huge problem. My father was an ironworker who was frequently unemployed. Standing in food lines at the local fire hall was part of my childhood memories. My family couldn’t afford any financial help.
I scraped by through loans, working as an ironworker during vacations, and skipping a meal here and there when cash was too limited. It was my rebelliousness and arrogance, though, that undercut me again and finally put an end to my first attempt at a college degree. I felt no need to actually go to class even though I took the toughest classes in math and physics I could find, and I always packed my class schedule to the brim. I played bridge with friends most evenings, usually into the wee hours of the morning, and slept most of the day while others with good sense were in class. I usually first opened my books a day or two before tests and would read voraciously, telling myself I was catching up.
This actually worked for a while because of my excellent high school preparation. While I got As and Bs my first quarter, by the end of the first year I was close to failing just about every class. It finally dawned on me that I would actually have to go to class as I started my second year, but it I had missed too many essential fundamentals to succeed with advanced differential calculus and the intricacies of nuclear physics.
I dropped out during the fall quarter of my second year to help a girlfriend having serious trouble with her family, but then I faced another problem I hadn’t stopped to think about. When I dropped out of school, I lost my draft deferment. This was in 1968. When I found out I was about to be drafted into the army and would soon be fighting in the jungles of Vietnam, I joined the U.S. Air Force. I was trained in civil engineering and a couple years later I found myself in Vietnam anyway, assigned to Than Son Nhut airbase in Saigon
Towards the end of my twelve months tour of duty in Vietnam, my life took another dramatic turn. Several weeks before my tour of duty was to end, while on temporary duty in Da Nang, a North Vietnamese sapper’s plastic explosives blew me across our recreation compound as we watched a movie (I just now realized how ironic this is as I am writing this: a kid who messed with explosives for most of his childhood years nearly gets blown to bits by someone else’s bomb). I was recuperating fairly well from this, back in Saigon, when I collapsed into a coma with an extremely high fever (probably due to some form of meningitis, but it was not recognized and treated at the time).
I remember waking up for only a few minutes aboard a medical evacuation jet flying me from Saigon to Wright Patterson AFB in Ohio. I had spent a year doing on the job training in the civil engineering squadron there at Wright Patt, before getting my orders to Vietnam. This time I was to be a patient in the base hospital where the doctors and staff were charged with keeping me alive and bringing me back from a near coma (so I was told, later).
Probably the absolute lowest point in my life was about two months into that stay in the hospital. I had recuperated to the point where I could talk and finally walk around on my own power, although I remember walking in front of a mirror and thinking how I looked like some sort of robot that had a bunch of broken gears moving its rigid limbs. Zombies in the movies looked classy in comparison. On this day, my doctor pronounced that I had to face the fact that I would never again be gainfully employed and I could look forward to the rest of my life in some sort of institution or other.
Since I couldn’t comb my own hair or fasten my own pants, this wasn’t all that hard to believe. He said I would just have to make the best of it, but I said to myself: “No way! It just isn’t worth it.” I was probably pretty depressed at this point, although looking back, it is hard to separate depression from the effects of two severe brain injuries. Lord knows, I was deeply discouraged and I accepted his predictions as truth.
I couldn’t live like this any longer. I just wanted to die, although I knew I didn’t have the courage to take my own life. I said a fervent prayer as I lay in bed that night, unable to sleep as usual, and with my heart aching like I never imagined possible. Although I had rejected my religious upbringing many years earlier, I had never lost my faith in a loving God. I asked Him to please, please take my life as I slept so I wouldn’t have to face even one more day.
My faith was such and my emotional pain was so severe that I was absolutely sure God would answer my prayer. For the first time in many weeks, this confidence let me relax a bit and I drifted off to sleep. When I awoke in the morning, instead of disappointment that my prayer was not answered, I felt something that I had nearly forgotten: the tiniest hint of enthusiasm. I also heard a soft, pleasant voice that seemed to be speaking just to me in my mind. I heard it say: “Prove them all wrong, you can do it. And stop taking the medicines they are giving you. They mean well, and their medicines helped, but you don’t need them any longer.” I began to spit my pills in the trash when no one was looking.
Within two weeks I was so much improved that I was elected president of the hospital’s “Patient’s Council,” a group of the most functional patients who volunteered to work with the hospital staff to help make things on the wards as livable as possible. As you might expect, the road back was a long one, especially so since for quite a few years after I left the hospital, I had what we now call a post traumatic stress syndrome. I had dreams of ammunition dumps just about to blow up or finding myself in a prisoner of war camp almost every night, I had tremendous difficulty in concentrating, and I was unable to take any seat in a room without a wall being directly behind me. Things like that.
Despite these ongoing difficulties, I was able to go back to MSU and retake all the classes I had failed so they would be wiped off my academic record. That is when I met Jean. Together we put together a plan for me to enroll at Drexel University in Philadelphia, so I could get a degree in Nutrition Science and complete the courses I needed to try to get into medical school. Jean and I married and off we went to Philadelphia.
By this point, of course, I was much more mature and I got straight As at Drexel. But when I met with the advisors at Drexel who helped prospective medical students with their applications, what I heard was quite discouraging. They were unanimous in proclaiming that my plans for medical school were totally unrealistic – I had no chance what-so-ever of success. It was here that my rebellious nature served me well once again, just like it did back in the hospital in Ohio.
I ignored their advice and applied anyway. In my admissions interview at one school, I found out why my advisors had been so sure I would not succeed. One of my interviewers raised his eyebrows as he read my past history and said: “My, my! You certainly have a colorful background,” — in the most condescending tone of voice imaginable. I soon learned these were sort of code words that really meant: “You can’t be serious; you are just wasting my time trying to get into our medical school.”
Ironically, after being rejected by every other school I applied to, about a week before classes were to start, I was accepted at the University of Pennsylvania, by far the most prestigious and most difficult school to get into I applied to. Despite my on-going post traumatic stress disorder, I did quite well in my medical school training at Penn and then finished three grueling years as a medical resident in Pittsburgh. Eventually, I ended up in Albany, Georgia to fulfill the obligations of a National Health Service Corps scholarship.
It was about two years after arriving in Albany that my life took another of its convoluted turns. I was driving north on Highway 19 one day on my way to work in Leesburg, Georgia, when I happened to hear an interview on my car radio that hit me like a bolt of lightning out of the blue. The story I was hearing instantly took me back to another conversation from over twenty years earlier. I remembered it as vividly as if it were just yesterday.
I remembered back then sitting alone with a co-worker in the civil engineering office during my on the job training year at WPAFB. My good friend, Mary, a sweet little lady who was about to retire, started telling me a story she said she had never told anyone else, and that she never would tell to anyone else. She added that she had no idea why she was feeling so compelled to relate it to me. She confided that during surgery to replace her left hip a few years earlier, while still under anesthesia, she suddenly found herself floating up and out of her body as her surgeon was screaming obscenities and a nurse was pounding on her chest. She then floated away from this chaotic scene down a dark, warm, incredibly peaceful tunnel toward a bright light. A man, who she was sure was Jesus, took her by the hand as she emerged from the tunnel and asked her to go back to her body in the operating room. When she agreed, she woke up in an intensive care unit where she had been transported after her surgery. I had no idea why she felt so compelled to tell me that story, and it made no sense to me since it conflicted so completely with my scientific training, so I had just filed it away in back of my mind as a curious mystery.
Back to twenty years later when the radio interview had first started, I was so transfixed by what the lady being interviewed was saying that I pulled off the road to listen to every detail. It was Betty Jean Eadie discussing her recently published book, Embraced by the Light,about how she had also “floated out of” her body when she had hemorrhaged after surgery, while alone in a recovery room. I had never heard of “near death experiences” before, but what she was saying was almost word for word what my little old lady friend had told me over twenty years earlier! This was well before any talk of anything like NDEs was in the news or written about in books. Sweet little Mary had secretly confided in me an almost identical story to what Betty was reporting.
Prior to this second near death report, I had been completely locked in to a materialistic scientific cosmology. Now here was a set of experiences that violated many of the most fundamental and most firmly accepted assumptions of science. But the absolutely undeniable fact was that my friend’s experience and Betty’s reports were far, far too close to being identical to be explained by anything other than some non-physical source of information or a spiritual realm of being. To explain the incredible similarity of these two stories as a mere coincidence would be like rolling a set of dice one hundred times and having the dice come up two sixes every time. How many of us have ever seen “box cars” on dice even three times in a row? There was just no physical mechanism that could account for these incredible similarities. There had to be something totally non-physical operating here. The incredible odds against these two stories being so nearly the same by chance alone turned my beliefs completely upside down and inside out and ushered me into a whole new way of looking at the world.
As I considered the radical implications of these two stories, I reasoned that if Betty and Mary’s experiences did indeed show evidence of an important unseen reality, there must be other evidence I had overlooked in the past. This conclusion launched me on a path of exploration that has been a source of fascination for more than the two decades. My view of the world and our place in it is being continually reshaped. This is what I was referring to at the start of this article when I said I have lived most of my life not knowing who I really am. Perhaps most interesting of all, as these new insights continue to emerge for me, life has become more and more satisfying and fun.
This site is about sharing some of these personal discoveries, but more importantly, it is also about helping readers connect to others who are also asking important questions we all share. With this site, I see myself like a sort of fishing guide on some large, rustic, uncharted lake. Just like most fishing guides are passionate about helping others find fish, I am passionate about helping others find their own indisputable evidence of an unseen reality that lies beneath our physical world and explains a lot about what is happening within it. Little discoveries about this unseen reality are a little bit like finding fish. You find insights here and there, usually little bits at a time.
But none of what is really important here is about me; it is about who we all are in our deepest and most fundamental essence. We are discovering that our minds are much more powerful than we have ever considered possible. We are also finding that our universe is much more tightly organized and much more benevolently intended then we have ever dared to realize. To me the evidence in support of these contentions is both compelling and incredibly important to all of us. There is a whole lot of truth being constantly uncovered that we can share with each other.
I hope this site fulfills even a little of the promise that I believe it may hold for its readers. My efforts will be richly rewarded if you find something here that even helps a little in transforming your life for the better.
Much love and my best wishes and appreciation for all who read this,