Via Basel: Essays and Anniversaries
A favorite pastime of mine is reading short insightful articles and essays in addition to books of fiction and nonfiction. They stimulate my imagination, inform and inspire me, at times all in one sitting. The New York Times stands out as one of my main sources. It is well known for political and current events, both nationally and globally. But there is so much more in its varied sections, from arts to business, from cooking to health and wellness. However, that was not why I started reading it nearly thirty years ago.
My late son Chris was in his mid-teens and had developed an interest in literature and writing. I always had a secret desire to be a writer but felt unprepared and inadequate in that domain and expressed to Chris my frustrations. He recommended I read the New York Times daily since he considered it the best for literary style, grammar, and form, and that would help me become a better writer. He wasn’t even referring to its quality as a newsworthy newspaper, which it is, just as a well-written one linguistically. Well, I followed his advice, and it has been my morning staple for nearly three decades.
Because I had recently written about “Contradictions of the Mind” in a previous blog post, an essay by Mary Pipher in the opinion section in the New York Times in late June regarding “the possibility of balancing despair with joy” attracted my attention. It was compact, coherent, and cogent with nuggets of wisdom from different sources—a grandmother (tradition), psychology (science), and a sage who introduced mindfulness practices to the West (the late Thich Nhat Hanh). All these resonated with me, since I value tradition, am trained in the scientific method as a physician, and practice as well as lecture on mindfulness. You, the reader, may be attracted to one or the other. No one method or way can remedy the “deep troubles of our days,” but to be able to put these two feelings together in the same sentence, in the same mind, at the same time is reassuring, encouraging, and hopeful, without which we cannot move forward.
Chris, I remember you daily as I start reading the New York Times. I especially celebrate you in this month of July, which holds the 43rd anniversary of your birth and 12th anniversary of your escape. I hold both the joy and the sadness together in my mind, heart, and soul. Your gifts are many and keep flowing. It is my job to pass them on to others.
Basel Al-Aswad, father of EIL founder Christopher Al-Aswad, is a yogi trapped in an Orthopedic Surgeon’s body. His loves in life include reading, writing, hiking, enjoying nature, meditation, and spending time with his large Iraqi family, and now, semi-retired, he is exploring new avenues in medicine, education, public speaking, and social engagement.