Christianity and Life Style
Lois Beasley sent me an email in December of 2007 asking me to speak at her Sunday school Teammates Class. On 1 June 2008 I did speak at that class. What I am writing is not exactly what I said there, but my speaking there has led me to write this article.
I had not really thought that my life style had any relationship to religion, but it may be hard for a person to ascertain what motives govern his behavior. Some years ago I led the services at Cloud’s Bend Methodist and Depew’s Chapel at the request of one of my women patients. She was the wife of a Methodist minister who had those two churches. My topic was “Stewards of the Body.” It was mostly about how we should have healthy habits of eating, not smoking and not using alcohol in a harmful way. I don’t recall all that I said, but one can get the idea. Two years later a man came up to me in a grocery store and said, “Aren’t you Dr. Bales?” I admitted that I was and he asked, “Didn’t you speak at Cloud’s Bend two years ago?” I admitted that also whereupon he said, “I went home and quit smoking.”
I used a text from Corinthians that went like this, “Know ye not that your body is the Temple of God. Will you defile the Temple.” The other one was the Parable of the Talents. The talents involved were money (a gold talent was worth about $15,000). The talents I spoke about are personality assets. I interpret these verses to suggest that we should take good care of our bodies as being a temple of God and that we should make use of our talents (personal not monetary) the very best that we can. I don’t know that my view that I should always do the very best that I could in anything that I was involved with comes from this.
Of course, I feel sure that my views are shaped by the examples I saw in my family. My father was meticulous in his dress and grooming. He had been a bookkeeper before he became a Ford dealer. My mother had been a school teacher before she married (and again after my father died in 1932). She was very meticulous and systematic and wanted everything just so. All four grandparents were hard workers and extremely square. By square I mean honest and truthful. The Bales were all Baptists and the Weesners were all Methodists. My mother was a stronger Methodist than my father was a Baptist so I suppose that is why I am a Methodist.
I grew up in Centenary Methodist Church in Morristown. It was a Northern Methodist Church. Julie grew up in First Methodist Church in Memphis. It was a Southern Methodist Church. The Northern and Southern branches of the Methodist church merged in 1939. The First Church and Broad Street Church in Kingsport merged in 1969.
When we came to Kingsport in 1952 and were looking for a church, Frances Wiley, the wife of the senior pastor at Broad Street, Ned Wiley, brought us a cake. Ned’s father had been district superintendent in Morristown and knew of me and my family from that. I thought, “If the preacher’s wife brings me a cake , that’s the church for me!”
Lest anyone think that I take too much credit for my being old (86) and healthy I note that luck and heredity have a lot to do with it. One’s heredity has a “luck of the draw” about it when the chromosomes split and reconnect there is a random element about it. I was lucky not to inherit any disabling or lethal diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer or a lipid disorder. I got my build through my grandmother Weesner; she had five tall lean brothers. I am taller than any of my male ancestors and have lived more years already than any of them. Some wag said that a good way to live long is to pick out long-lived ancestors. They are not ancestors, but are relatives. My father’s older sister lived to be 98. My mother’s youngest brother still lives-he is 96. People say I look like him.
Another element that I think has helped me is that I received a lot of loving attention from my parents, my grandparents and my extended family-even by the in-laws. This has given me emotional capital that I will never be able to use up. I think this has contributed to my good health and my survival and I am very grateful for it. So many do not get the positive reenforcement and unconditional acceptance.
Events have an element about them that some would attribute to luck. For example, I was in a head on car crash in 1953. Two cars were totaled and two passengers in the other car died. I walked away from the wreck. I had a whiplash to my neck and two broken ribs-minor considering the circumstances. Another example is that I was taken into the Army in October 1942 and remained in it one way or another until June 1949. However, I was never in harm’s way.
Elements of life style include spirit, mind and body. I am not consciously that much into spiritual matters. Any religion I have is with a small “r.” However, I do attend Sunday school and church regularly and have for many years. When our son Don was a boy, he told me one day, “Daddy, I think that I will be a doctor.” “Is that so? Why is that?” “If doctors have to make rounds, they don’t have to go to church.” I changed my habits after that. Julie and I have been members of the Philosophy Class ever since our senior minister, John Rustin, started it in 1968. Pat Hogan, an Episcopalian psychiatrist, who used to attend it regularly called it, “An Intellectual Oasis.” However, it was both intellectual and sometimes religious. However, if you think about it, any human activity has or should have a religious component or relationship.
I get inspirational and religious emails from time to time. I read them, but they are not exactly on my wave length.
It has been reported that people who attend church regularly are healthier and happier than those who do not. However, church goers are just as likely to get divorced as the unchurched. Religious people are said to be more likely to have children. The white people in the U.S. are not even replacing themselves-it takes 2.1 births per female of child bearing age to do that.
Although I do not believe that the Almighty will change the rules of nature because I or others ask for it, I still pray each Sunday for ever increasing circles of people-starting with me and Julie and then our children, their spouses and our grandchildren, then proceeding on our extended families, then all the groups that I belong to-Sunday School Class, gym and swim people, KACL, my email list, Great Decisions people, all the Methodists, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Shintos and all the rest of the six billion on this planet. Then all of our armed service people, especially those in Iraq and Afghanistan, and then a group of individuals who have special and difficult problems. I include the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government-Federal, state, county and city-also the police, the firefighters and the Emergency Medical Technicians and all those who serve us. Those who know that I am praying for them may get some social and psychological benefit and it may help me to know that I am thinking and caring about others.
As to life style and the mind, I became a student at about age five when my mother got a set of books, “Journeys Through Bookland.” I took to school like a duck takes to water and it is told on me that I came home from the first grade one day and told my mother, “It’s true that your school days are the happiest days of your life!” How’s that for a statement by a six year old boy?
I am still a student and still a reader. After I retired I began taking six week courses in the spring and fall with the Kingsport Institute for Continued Learning. This was for retirees-no text books, no exams, no homework and no credit-just learning. The faculty was volunteer, but we have a wealth of knowledgeable people in this town as well as the faculty from East Tennessee State University. In the fall of 1997 right after I retired I took seven courses-two hours a week fo six weeks. We don’t take as many recently. I think I have at least a dozen loose leaf note books full of notes. Sometimes I even review them.
We have also attended the eight week Great Decisions seminar in late winter each year. This is sponsored by the Foreign Policy Association.
In 2000 I got a computer that could go online. I had one to use as word processor before that. I have written several science fiction novelettes-eight of them completed. Also three children’s stories and one western. None of them have been published and may never be, but they have been written. I have also written a memoir and am continuing it as a journal. It now has more than a thousand pages. When I told Pat Hogan I was doing this, he asked, “Who would want to read it?” I said, “Well, maybe my children or grandchildren might want to read it some day.” Then I said, “With friends like you, I don’t need any enemies.”
The computer has been a great boon to me. I thought that I might be bored or lost after I retired (not really). I really like being a doctor and I especially liked being an internist. It suited my abilities and inclinations perfectly. At 75 I was reluctant to retire, but wanted to quit while I was still at the top of my game. I still dream about doctoring, but the dreams are never that good-I can’t get the lab reports, the nurse won’t come help me, the waiting room is full of sick people and I can’t get to them quickly enough and, worst of all, the women won’t take their clothes off.
I have my own web page and have seventy-nine articles on it. Now if I want to look up something, I have access to the world of information-much quicker, more up to date and easier than a dictionary or encyclopedia. I get the headlines from the New York Times, the Washington Post daily and the titles from the New England Journal of Medicine.
About the only things medical are going to the Rodeo (Retired old doctors eating out) lunch on Mondays and sometimes to the cancer conference at Holston Valley Hospital on Fridays. This lets me keep my mind in medicine a little.
I go to the Kingsport Public Library almost daily. I especially like to get what I call “Big Books.” These are tall, wide and sometimes thick books with lots of pictures on a wide variety of subjects-animal species, bridges, canals, lakes, rivers, parks, mountains, countries. I don’t read all the text, but I do look at all the images and read the captions. Julie has really enjoyed these also.
Now to the body and life style. I was not and am not athletically talented, but I was able to make the high school football and basketball team and was on the track team. I didn’t get a letter in track. To do so one must place in a meet and I never did. The legendary Morristown coach, W.G. (Petie Siler) used to cite me to his later players for my determination and hard work. I played intramural basketball at Harvard, also in the Army in Germany on our hospital team (1947 and 1948), and early in my residency at Ford Hospital (1949, 1950). I took up golf about 1957, but was never either avid or good.
In 1962 I began doing the exercise routine of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and have continued until now. In my 50's I took up running and was in several 10 K competitions. Never was that good-did get third once for my age group men.
I took up bicycling and learned to ride with no hands at age 55. I also learned to do the butterfly (sorta) that year. Never got good at it. Now when I try it, it makes my low back hurt so I don’t do it.
After I retired I began going to the senior center gym and using the strength machines and the weights. I am not built for weight lifting, but the muscles I have are very toned. I also began swimming laps in 1997. They let us seniors swim at the Dobyns-Bennett High School pool and at the Legion pool in the summer. In 2000 at the coaxing of Joan Wilder, I began swimming competitively in the senior games. This included the district, the state and the national games.
In 2001 I went to Baton Rouge and got one Bronze for the breaststroke, in 2003 I got two Bronze for two breaststroke events at Newport News. In 2005 I got no medals at Pittsburgh. At Louisville in 2007 I got a gold , a silver, a bronze, a fourth and a fifth.
I took a course on Yoga and one on Karate. I later found a yoga program that I liked better and also found a Tai Chi program that I liked. I do both of these almost daily.
I also do pectoralis push-ups. I was up to 270, but in 2005 I had a left wrist fracture and the most that I have done since is 170. I do 350 abdominal crunches and 100 reverse crunches. I have some other exercises that I do, including pull-ups and chin-ups on a tree limb in our back yard.
At the class I demonstated quite a few of my physical activities including some high kicks.
I see a dental hygienist twice a year. I have always had a personal physician (fortunately haven’t had much need of one). I have a physical once a year and a short visit in between. I do not try to treat or diagnose myself. “The man who treats himself has a fool for his physician.”
Many years ago, maybe thirty, I had squamous cell carcinoma removed from the dorsal surface of to my left hand. After that, I began to try to avoid exposure of my skin to the sun between ten and three, especially when I went to the beach or to an outside pool. That is why I prefer to swim at an inside pool. Another reason is that the water is warmer. Ih these later years I have taken to wearing a hat. Men don’t wear hats much anymore. One Sunday Mike Boggan commented about my Pendleton hat saying, “I wouldn’t have a hat that had more character than I did.” When I told our son Don what Mike had said, “There’s no hat that could have more character than you.” Sun exposure is associated with all three common skin neoplasms: squamous cell, basal cell and, the worst of all, melanoma-and sun screen does not prevent melanoma.
My immunizations are up to date: Tetanus-diphtheria, pneumonia, and shingles. I had Hepatitis B vaccine back while I was practicing. I had Hepatitis A in 1948 so presumably am immune to it. I have an influenza shot every fall. I have had a colonoscopy. It is one of the few “preventive” procedures that really prevents. Removal of a polyp can prevent the development of a colon cancer..
After Ancel Key’s research about cholesterol back in the early 50's, I began trying to avoid foods containing cholesterol. When the information about animal fats came out, I began cutting down on animal fats. I have never smoked or used recreational illegal drugs and have never been a problem drinker. I have tried to avoid all high risk behavior I have tried to use reason to alleviate stress.
Donald W. Bales, 2 June 2008