“When a man is a wanderer and stranger, he should not be gruff nor overbearing. He has no large circle of acquaintances, therefore he should not give himself airs. He must be cautious and reserved; in this way he protects himself from evil. If he is obliging toward others, he wins success.
“A wanderer has no fixed abode; his home is the road. Therefore he must take care to remain upright and steadfast, so that he sojourns only in the proper places, associating only with good people. Then he has good fortune and can go his way unmolested.”
–Book of Changes, Wilhelm / Baynes edition, Princeton University Press
1. My sense of comfort and security–defined succinctly by the word “home”–has been replaced by the necessity to get well and be productive. Hence:”A wanderer has no fixed abode; his home is the road.”
2. The sense of urgency that I leave State College and become a wanderer in search of relief can be dated to early October–shortly before my 67th birthday.
3. The urgency comes from intense pain in the L-4 and L-5 region of my spine–where I sit.
4. The pain is one of a number of negative consequences (such as paraplegia) of radiation treatment for Hodgkin’s disease, treatment which saved me from dying before I reached my 30th birthday.
5. Thirty-nine years ago, the machine that saved my life was relatively primitive by today’s standards. Damage to the spine and elsewhere has led to the creation of a new branch of medicine for people like me who have survived cancer for decades and whose side effects can be alleviated from state-of-the-art treatment such as spinal stimulators.
6. Two weeks ago, I met in New York with Dr. Christopher J. Winfree, the surgeon who will insert a spinal stimulator which holds the promise of substantially reducing the pain.
7. As I write, I am waiting to return to New York for relief from pain, monitoring to reduce or prevent toxic results of cancer treatment, and the possibility that I may walk again.
8. These hoped for developments not available locally mean that locally is no longer home.
9. As I wait here in State College eager for relief elsewhere, I feel a stranger in my home town. a home town that has treated me well for the past 12 years.
10. My trips to New York [and Newark (the special relevance of Newark to be discussed elsewhere)], my birthplace and former home emphasize the necessity of understanding that I am a wanderer requiring appropriate behavior.
11. Ever since I was a teenager perplexed by events I often did not understand, the teachings of Confucius comforted me. This has especially been the case when I understood that I could not trust my instincts. “When a man is a wanderer and stranger, …[he] must be cautious and reserved; in this way he protects himself from evil.”
12. Right now, it is only realistic to assume I will continue to be a wanderer for a while and my plans for relief will not come quickly. The relief I seek may not come at all. Certainly, as the expression goes, nothing succeeds like success. Preparing for success is a lot easier than preparing for delay and even failure. What are the spiritual requirements of preparing for failure?
13. Today’s motto on correct behavior when one is a stranger (most helpful to me is the sense I am a stranger in my own land) comes from the Book of Changes. Authorship of The Book of Changes, commonly known as the I Ching, is attributed to the unlikely combination of Confucius, Lao Tzu, and King Wu.
14. In 1984, shortly before my first daughter Joanna was born, my Chinese hosts took me to visit the castle attributed to the mythical King Wu (a figure much like King Arthur who if he existed at all never sang in a Broadway musical). The plum trees surrounding the castle were in bloom. I remember my delight at the odor and the scorn my Chinese hosts had for the I Ching, a book of wisdom they classified as the foolishness of the elderly who had nothing better to do with their time than consult the Book of Changes for divination.
15. August requires more than one motto. [Psalm 23 is likely to appear at any time.] The above spans this month comprehensively because my sense of myself as a wanderer requires rules of behavior on proper conduct.