Wednesday, February 24, 2010

J.D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey's Fat Lady, Lent and the White House Health Reform Meeting

Since the Disease Management Care Blog has repeatedly belabored J.D. Salinger's Fat Lady, familiar readers may ask why it didn't mark the author's passing on January 27.

It was waiting for the right time. This posting is dedicated to him.

Recall the 'Fat Lady' is that piercing insight achieved by the crisis-addled Franny. Thanks to the counseling of her precocious brother Zooey, her breakthrough helps her deal with a favorite theme of J.D: the modern world's self-absorbed fakery. Franny realizes that her deepest human potential will be met so long as that poor distant woman 'sitting on a porch, listening to the radio' is served - because that Fat Lady really represents something far more wonderful.

Which leads us to the confluence of two other events, one being major and the other relatively minor. One is Lent, the other is Mr. Obama's Feb. 25 go-for-broke Blair House health reform meeting. Lent is that 40-day season before Easter when believers practice self-denial, penitence and seek insight, including thinking about all the other '40's' that are embedded in the Christian calendar. That includes the Jews' 40 years of wandering about in Sinai, as well as Jesus' fasting for 40 days in the desert while being tempted by the devil.

And what temptations they were. The DMCB's amateur interpretation is that Satan's three offers appealed to our most basic human needs: turning stones to bread means freedom from hunger, the 'on-call' availability of angels after leaping off a pinnacle means being immunized against death, and having dominion over all the world's kingdoms means absolute power.

The DMCB isn't suggesting that ashes be passed around or that scripture be read at the Feb. 25 health reform confab, but the Temptation of Christ does have something to teach about the fundamental hard wiring of the human condition. Being "human" means to live by more than bread alone, by being content with some hard facts about our mortality and to being acutely aware of the hazards of concentrated political power. Otherwise, we risk falling far short of meeting our deepest human potential. In order to achieve that, something far greater is necessary.

The DMCB has little doubt that there are honorable people on both sides of the health care debate, that there are critical policy issues at stake and that social justice is in our lifeblood. While some may wonder if the DMCB has turned into some wingnut case full of the Devil Made Me Do It, it thinks the lessons of Lent and the Fat Lady should give pause about the tempting notion of being able to practically cure any threat to our mortality if only we were willing to apply the right kind of enlightened political power.

Franny was a radio entertainer, so she knew something about audiences. When she recognized the Fat Lady was out there, she got her life in order. For the Feb 25 Health Reform meeting, our elected representatives would be well advised to remember the Lenten season and that the Fat Lady is in the audience. It can only help.

The DMCB thinks J.D. would probably approve.

*Since J.D. probably wouldn't permit an unauthorized image of him to be shown, the DMCB decided to portray the prayer (this one's in original Romanian) repeatedly uttered by Franny until Zooey's rescue

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