Healthcare: A Modest Proposal

We all want good quality healthcare available to everyone, right? One problem is that, as medical science advances, more and more expensive treatments become mainstream, so that we start to expect, for example, an MRI of every sprained ankle, even though your typical sprained ankle will heal all by itself in a couple weeks 99% of the time if you just stay off it for a bit.

No, I think what we all want, when we’ve calmed down and the Tylenol has kicked in (leave that ankle in the ice a little longer – trust me on this) is reasonable healthcare for everybody, not expensive procedures done in a panic or on a whim. I’ve got this idea that, while it won’t solve the whole healthcare problem, would make a nice symbolic start and make most of us fee better:

How about a 300% tax on all non-reconstructive cosmetic surgery?  Money goes straight into the kitty of a local clinic in the poorer part of town.

You want a 5 grand eyebrow job? OK, but be prepared to toss another $15k into the pot. One of those $100K jobs that look like they grab the back of your scalp, pull, pull, puuuuuull until they can tie a knot in it? That’s now a 400 grand exercise. Clinics in the poor corners of L.A. would be opening new Demi Moore wings right and left!

Crazy, you say? OK, how about a 500% tax? 1,000%?

Think about it: highly skilled medical professionals with years of expensive medical training tie up state-of-the-art medical facilities in order to make perfectly healthy people, sometimes even attractive people, look more like Barbi or Ken, except with way less personality. And that’s if it goes *well*. Sometimes, it doesn’t.

We could also make it a law that a doctor has to spend 1,000 hours doing real medicine for every hour spent nipping and tucking. I think they owe it to the rest of us on several levels.

Anyway, just a thought, to get the ball rolling.

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Music at Mass Review: 06/05/2011

For something completely different, we attended mass at a local non-territorial parish run by the Society of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest.  High Mass in Latin in the Ordinary Form. The Society has only run this parish for a few years, so things will undoubtedly change, but as of now:

– the Mass was well-attended, with the church about 70% full;

– only about 20% or so of the congregation were, as they say, cramming for the final exam (old). At least half the congregation were large, young families. Babies, toddlers, preteens, teenagers everywhere, usually in packs of at least 5 or 6 to the family.  Two babies were baptized;

– With the baptisms, High Mass, feast day (Ascension Thursday Sunday), Mass was 1:45 long. Nobody left early that I saw;

– there were at least a dozen acolytes, ranging in age from very young (8?) to teenagers. Lots of incense, candle-marching and general processing to keep ’em all busy;

– the *next* Mass was the Extraordinary Form Latin High Mass – I can only imagine the mix/crowd there, but I imagine the same sort of things as described above, only more so.

So, first observation: non-judgmental demographics dictates that this is the future. Statistically, vocations disproportionately come from large families – and there were plenty of those here, far more than I’d ever seen in a “normal” parish. So, assuming the kids pick up a devotion to this type of liturgy from their parents, this is going to get bigger fast over the next couple generations.

Now for the music:

Before I say anything else:  Hurray! Actual real music got sung, with actual non-heretical lyrics! WooHoo! And a real choir! Weee!

Now to nit-pick the actual music: it was OK. I am very grateful that I didn’t have to listen to insipid lyrics and sappy music, and the chant – there was plenty of chant – was nice, but, being a jerk here; what’s with the non-stop organ? Can’t we sing ‘Amen’ without ranks of organ to support us in the form of drowning us out? How about an a capella Pater Noster? Nope – it’s organ all the way down. I know this is the style, these are French priests after all, but – wish they wouldn’t.

The choir is young and competing, I suppose, with the Extraordinary Form Choir for members (unless the singers are the kind of commandos who would do both – 3+ hours of singing, 5 hours of hanging out at church. Could be.) but it was just OK. The Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus were from some rather goofy (to my ears) Mass that sounded like a simplified 19th century post-Romantic piece. How about we go with the real masters, and ditch the organ? Maybe eventually.

Here’s hoping that a few more years with which to recruit and train some more singers, the good fathers will really be able to rock the joint. To the greater glory of God, of course.

Stray Thoughts on an Incident in College

For no clear reasons I can see, a little snippet from my freshman year in college springs unbidden to mind:

In my first few weeks of school, went to visit somebody in another dorm. When we stepped in the door, there we saw, in bed together, a freshman girl and an older (not freshman) student  guy.  This was the first time in my 18 years of life up to that point where it became undeniably and viscerally clear to me that unmarried people did in fact have sex with each other.

The entire scene lasted a couple seconds before we retreated. The only other things I noticed was the expressions on the couple’s faces – she looked so happy, glowing, one might say. He looked not unpleased, but not joyful they way she looked.

A couple of things, observed over time: The guy was a good-looking, charming fellow. This particular young woman had a delightfully curvy body but was not noticeably pretty otherwise. This was a brief fling – the young lady eventually transferred out, the guy was gone after that year (might have graduated, I never got to know him).

But I remember the smile, the look on her face. The guy’s look was appropriate, given his understanding – he was slightly, maybe, embarrassed but mostly proud of his conquest. She, on the other hand, seemed far more enraptured than merely getting some sex could explain.

So, what was her understanding? What had just happened, from her perspective? She’s 18 years old, she’s away at college, a handsome man has said things to and about her that resulted in an intimate encounter – did she see this, in her heart as well as in her mind, as the meaningless fling it almost certainly was to the guy? How did her life go from there? His life?

This two people passed from my life 35 years ago.  But I still think of them, from time to time.

Getting Back to the Cathedral in LA…

Post Modern architectural criticism reads like arguments with toddlers, except one does not seem to be able to read post modern critics a story or tickle them to get them off their gain-saying. Examples from the ‘architecture’ tab on the Cathedral website:

By its design, the nave encourages the full and active participation of all people in the Liturgy. No pillars block vision because nine steel trusses and the chapel structures on each side support the soaring, cedar wood ceiling. The dynamic effect results from Moneo’s design that avoids right angles and symmetry.

Here, we have a couple assertions presented as if they are so obvious only a ignorant dolt could fail to see their truth: that a nave without pillars “encourages full and active participation of all the people in the Liturgy”, and that avoiding symmetry and right angles creates a dynamic effect.

Let’s stand that on its head: pillars in a nave discourage full and active participation of all the people in the Liturgy. Is this true? I suppose in a very limited sense, if the church is so packed that some people are stuck behind a pillar, those people might not be able to see everything that’s going on – if ‘seeing everything that’s going on’ is a critical part of full and active participation, then we have a real, if not all that common, point (huge churches like the LA Cathedral are typically packed to the gills only a few times a year – Christmas, Easter). Balance that against the beauty achieved in the thousands of pillared naves around the world – this is a serious issue? Serious enough to make a point of it on the website?

The question is always: full and active participation in what, exactly? St. Patrick’s in New York (the writers on the LA web site invite comparison of their Cathedral to it, with a charming unconscious  lack of irony), pillars and all, invites all present to full and active participation in a transcendent, eternal, humbling Reality greater than anything we can create or do. The architecture of St Patrick’s, building on centuries of tradition, points to something beyond and greater than itself – THAT’s what any Catholic should want to participate fully and actively in.

Anyway, I dispute the claim that not having pillars contributes to full and active participation in any real way outside the minds of the Cathedral Design Team. That argument is grasping at straws.

Next, we have the claim that a dynamic effect results from the avoidance of symmetry and right angles.  Suuuure – avoid them enough, and the building stands a good chance of dynamically falling down. Again, as above – this is a ‘beautiful plumage, the Norwegian Blue’ moment – pointing out the lack of symmetry and right angles as if this is a big positive just means you’ve run out of relevant things to say.

Here’s the irony of ironies: the people, especially the new bishop (who, I imagine, will be putting in kneelers and looking into replacing the tabernacle as soon as possible – probably take a few years, as he needs to get his team in place) will find a way to make this place holy. The presence of the Holy Spirit, if given half a chance, will triumph over the architecture. Slowly, the people will add a little this, take out a little that, until the building, within its 500 year life expectancy, will become more and more holy. Then, once the fix it or replace it decision point is reached, where the fix it cost is a significant percentage of the replacement cost, the good people of Los Angeles, if it hasn’t fallen into the sea by then, will get a new cathedral – maybe, this time, with some meaningful attention paid to the feelings and taste of the actual church going Catholics.

One can always hope.

A Bad Corporate Neighbor

True confession time: I am a bad corporate neighbor. No, I don’t dump toxic waste in a baby-duck-infested pond or manipulate markets so that working stiffs loose their jobs and houses while I get rich – I mean, not *usually*. No, I’m far worse.

I pick the good stuff out of the corporate-supplied Gucci trail mix in the break room.

It’s corporate heaven where I work, in many ways: hands-off bosses, great bennies, lots of vacation time – and a fully-stocked break room. I never eat breakfast at home, since we keep everything from instant oatmeal to fresh fruit on hand.

So, am I grateful and humbled by all this largess? No. Instead, I crack into these large bags of high-end trail mix and – I am shamed! – pick out the good stuff.

What evil marketing droid decided that raisins and peanuts belonged in the same trail mix with dried pineapple, walnut halves, almonds and other yummy dried fruit? I mean, really. So, I just pick out the good stuff, leaving my co-workers to deal with bags of mostly peanuts and raisins by the time I’m through.

No one has caught me at it yet. No one has complained.

I suspect I should feel way worse about this that I do.