Wuppertal, June 11, 1993
Today is the Day of the Lord.
I feel much better today. So much to praise God for. My blood sugar level must have started going down. I have some movement in three fingers of my left hand, and also in the left ankle. The left shoulder and left elbow had improved already yesterday. Today I look forward to more intensified physiotherapy and exercises.
The fundamental question I have always asked becomes a bit more complicated. How do I move my left hand, any time, including when I am well? I have been told that the basic framework for all animal movement is the bone-muscle-nerve collaboration, controlled by electric or electronic impulses generated in the brain and transmitted by the neural system. I have never been told how a thought in the mind/will (the separation of mind and will as two entities is a western philosophical malady), that is, how mind-induced and therefore supposedly non-physical and non-chemical impulse can generate that chemical change in some part of the brain tissue which is then supposed to transmit a message through neural tissue to the appropriate muscles. Psychic energy is a form of energy the laws of which modern science has not yet formulated with anywhere near the precision required. In my case the psychic energy itself seems to be fairly in tact; the brain is in good health. Is it the capacity of that psychic energy to induce chemical change that is inhibited, or is it only that the impulse generated cannot be transmitted because of neural incapacity? I must find out… That is, if somebody really knows!
Supplement, 4th of July Sunday three weeks later.
I must have been too optimistic, when I wrote that three weeks ago. The pace of progress has certainly slowed down, though there is still progress every day. The blood sugar had not come under control, and is still somewhat unstable, with 28 units in the morning and 14 in the evening. I have been so weak and so without energy, that I have not been able to undergo the full programme of physio-therapy they have here. They have very generously deputed three people to do physiotherapy for me: Matina, Tanja and schaeffer. Matina in her thirties, seems quite competent, speaks fair English, stutters badly when excited. On the last day of treatment i.e., day before yesterday, she explained to me, when she came to say Good-bye, why we had clashed in our personalities earlier.
Matina says that in most cases of cerebral stroke, the brain itself cannot create any impulses to be passed on to the muscles. The muscles, she says have to be forced into action, and the brain will catch on and follow. This may well be true. Anyway she took me to be in the same situation and instead of asking me to do things with my left side, just tried to take over my body, and to make muscles do things by force, and I must admit she has great physical strength. I objected to that forcing of my body, and had to tell her that she was doing the wrong thing, and that I was a human being and not a thing to be manipulated by her. It was rather rough speaking on my part; she was doing what she thought was right. She wanted my muscles to act first, and then wanted the muscles to transmit information to the brain to say that that was what was required. But by the grace of God my brain was in perfect shape, as was shown in the CAT (Computer Analysed Tomography) some days later. My brain could make demands on the muscles, but the neural tissue that mediates between the brain and the muscles was not functioning properly. Matina slowly changed her ways and began giving me verbal instructions, but could not withhold herself from still trying to control my muscles and joints. Out of sheer habit, I should think.
Tomorrow I am supposed to go to the Kurklinik in Bad Laasphe. Last night I tried to do things which I had not been able to do before, for example going to bed without help. I was very tired yesterday, after all the mental effort to pack and get ready to leave. Kunhumon (Thomas) and Sunny were helping me, and there cropped up the problem of working with people whose minds are slower than mine. By 7 pm they were gone, packing 90% done, and I was totally exhausted, just telling two wellmeaning people what to do. I went to bed with some minimal help, and rested for about two hours sleeping off and on. At 9.30 pm I wanted to get up, and rang for the night duty nurse, who turned out to be one of these maladroit German girls. The only help I need now to get up, is a little push on my top body as it rises from the bed. She handled it so badly that I almost fell. I was angry with her and told her to go away from before me. She said to me in German she only wanted to help, and I shouted again, rather unkindly: “just go away.” I got off from the bed by myself as I have been doing these days, went to the bathroom, came back and settled in my chair for a game of SCRABBLE. The game went unusually well, and B scored 1490 points against A’s 486 or so, which was pretty good. It was 11.15 when I started the second game, which did not go so well and I decided to try to get back to bed without calling the nurse. I had been given a foot-stool, rather a foot-bench (in German, fuessbank), because of the aedema and inflammation in my left leg. I managed to push the foot-bench near enough to my bed, put my feet on it, lifting the left leg with my right hand, and fell into bed. I was a bit anxious, but it worked.
Today is Sunday, and I have a few remarkable feats to my credit. I managed with slight help from the morning duty nurse, to get up. She is also rather maladroit, and careless, perhaps also uncaring. Again I asked her to leave the room, did my ablutions, took off my night clothes myself, went into the bathroom to give myself a good sponge – bath (I would have taken a shower if Thomas had been there to help a little with the towelling). After washing and drying I sat on the toilet seat and tried to put on my underpants myself. I was not sure I could do it; but I did it, though not without a lot of ingenious and strenuous effort. I was rather triumphant, and came back and sat on my chair, determined to put on my white pants myself. Again with some effort I managed both my pants and the new yellow Chinese silk cardigan. Only then I rang for the nurse, and fortunately it was the senior polish nurse whom I like and who is very gentle and thoughtful always. She helped me to get into my new shirt, after I had taken off the yellow cardigan. She teased me about what was the feiertag (dressing up for the special celebration) all about with new clothes and all that.
By 8 am Thomas came, gave me my insulin and breakfast, helped me, though somewhat clumsily, to get into my white cassock, and wheeled me off to the hospital chapel on the ground floor, for the Catholic Mass which I find very congenial. It was that senior priest of the order of the Holy Cross (Dutch) who always bows his head before me and asks for a blessing and who is very devout, though he looks like a bulldog. After the mass he came again to my room and asked for another blessing. I made the sign of the cross three times with my thumb on his forehead and blessed him.
I feel very good now sitting here at the desk. The Lord has spoken to me today, with great love and compassion. The first thing he tells me is that God should not be taken too lightly as I am nowadays prone to do. He reminds me that “our God is a consuming fire”, and I should not forget all the instances in which people have been punished for approaching the presence of God without due reverence. I must take that word a bit seriously, because I often behave heedlessly towards Him whom my heart adores, but my mind forgets to fear and stand in awe of.
The second thing he has told me very clearly is that without holiness no one comes to the Lord, and a little root of evil springing up in the soul is sufficient to alienate me from God. The last few weeks have been difficult without any physical exercise whatsoever. The body becomes indolent and the mind unalert I have never had this many physical contacts with female bodies in my total life before as I am having in this hospital, from morning to evening. And so much variety. All of them handling my half inert body. I must learn to control my thoughts and desires, and root out all forms of evil from my heart. A pure heart too is a gift from God and I must pray more fervently for it.
The third thing, all three being from the last chapters of the Epistle to the Hebrews, is that the Lord chastises those whom he loves. I must not complain about my slight suffering. It is very light punishment for some heavy sinfulness on my part. He is a loving Father, and He not only has the right to punish me, but He is doing it for my own good. His name be praised for ever!
In the German Mass this morning, I could follow the service itself, but not the homily. Since the Old priest’s basic attitude is all right, the sermon did not grate on me as it often does. While he was preaching, I went on reflecting with a bowed head.
Is there a Crisis in the Christian Church? Is it confined to the Western Church, both Catholic and Protestant? Are the Orthodox churches basically better off, at least at the point where this crisis hits the Church?
Maybe there is a difference; maybe it is just a matter of degree. But let us look at the nature of the crisis itself, so that we can understand the difference if any.
I have a hunch. Maybe I am mistaken; but this is moreof a crisis in Western civilisation than in the western civilisation than in the Western church as such. I think I hit the bull’s eye, writing my book on Enlightenment – East and west, several years ago, sitting in that not too pleasant room at the Rashtrapati Nivas, Princes Extension in Shimla. This present western civilisation which passes for a global one, was created by Europe out of its own religious and secular cultural history and that strange 18th century process which has come to be called the European Enlightenment. It is basically a godless civilisation, in which western man, out of sheer avarice and greed, has presumptuously committed parricide, killed God the Father and have taken over the running of the world, co-opting a few from other races to run the show for the white Man and primarily for his (and her) benefit above every other consideration! western woman is a full participant in this parricide and in taking over the world. The feminist movement, which has some concerns which are compellingly legitimate, also helps to camouflage western woman’s full participation in world domination and exploitation, by pretending that the whole problem of the world is that of men exploiting women.
The western church took its present shape in the culture created by the European Enlightenment, and it is that shape which is now in crisis.
Tuesday, 6th July 1993.
The two and a half hour (not one hour as I wrongly judged from the map) trip from wuppertal to Bad Laasphe went reasonably well. Korah Varghese Achen (he is a careful and experienced driver) was driving, and Thomas (Kunhumon) was accompanying. I decided to travel in the back seat since there was more room there for all the pillows I needed. None of us, including my two fellow travellers, had even heard about a place called Bad Laasphe two weeks before. It certainly is not a well known Kurort, and by no means my first choice. But being choosy about a proper Rehaklinik is what delayed my discharge from hospital. So I had to accept what was first available, if only to get out of my imprisonment at the Krankenhaus Sankt Josef which had already lasted five weeks.
Well, the place is not so bad. it is not a luxury place like the others I had looked for, nor does it cost even one-third as much. The others were in the range of DM 600 to 1000 per day. This one, if I am not mistaken, is certainly economy class, and should be more like DM 200 per day. That is a lot of saving of the German churches’ money, with which they have not been too ungenerous or very reluctant to part with. If I had known that this is all it costs, I would do not have bothered Konrad Reiser, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches with a request for financial help through the German churches.
The area is beautifully wooded, and the town is charming with most of the roofs in slanting blue-grey slate, except the big modern buildings (including Kurklinik Bad Laasphe, where I am lodged) which are characteristically ugly and an insult to the landscape as far as architecture goes. But the view out of my window and balcony is superb. Rolling green hills, flocks of birds showing off with all kinds of group aerobatics like the Indian Air Force on Republic Day, and when I say, “magnificent”! to myself, gladly obliging me with more than one repeat performance.The sky was clear blue when I arrived yesterday, but right now it has become grey and wet. Even under a grey sky, the blue-grey gables of the houses fit necely with the myriad shades of luscious green.
The section of the building in which I am housed is brand new. In fact the scaffolding is not yet taken off, as there is still finishing work going on the outside of the building. Some construction noise (sawing, drving nails in) going on, but the noise is bearable. When it ceases in the evening, the place is astoundingly peaceful and silent. My room is 440, corner room on the top, normally a double room, given to me as a special case for single occupancy. I am told that I am the very first occupant of not only my room, but of the whole fourth floor of the new section which is otherwise unoccupied and therefore very tranquil; of course it takes a long time for nursing assistance to arrive when summoned.
They are very friendly here to me, even more friendly than the Wuppertal people. They are all Germans, whereas in Wuppertal I had a more intema-tional crowd to took after me – Turks, poles, Bosnians and so on. The chief physician is Dr. Donau (Danube), a German (Jew?) born and brought up in Romania, near Russian border, an internist trained in Germany. He speaks no English, but good Romanian and a little French. But he speaks his German very clearly and distinctly, and I seem to understand more than 90% of what he says. To me he is exceptionally kind and considerate, and comes to see me in my room three times a day enquiring also about my personal needs and plans.
I was rash enough to order a small TV in my room, and that became my favourite distraction for the rest of the day. German TV is just about as boring as Doordarshan, at least in this hill tract of Germany, without cable TV. My German will improve very quickly, I console myself.
Wednesday, July 7th.
Dr. Donau has come twice today already. His colleague, the orthopaedist, also German from the Black forest area near Freibourg, speaks excellent English, having served in South Africa and Kenya in the Eighties. He came for a friendly visit and I know now that there is one person here who speaks good English. Dr. Donau sent him to me to reassure me.
Today I showed Bundespresident Richard Weizsaecker’s letter to Dr. Donau, and he was impressed beyond words, and took the letter with him to show it to his colleagues. …………
Saturday, July 10, 1993 Bad Laasphe, Germany
This is the end of my first week in Bad Laasphe. My health is better. The last two days I did a considerable amount of walking. On Thursday I even went out shopping with Dr. Lore Rittmayer, my collegemate in Goshen forty or more years ago. Yesterday and the day before the Krankengymnasium attendant took me out for walks in the corridors of this building, and yesterday I walked most of the distance without my stick, and even went out to the street in front, walking 20 or more steps down the sloping street and back.
This is the second time Lore is driving up from Konstanz (five hours or more) to see me, the first visit being in Wuppertal. She helped me buy some Bermuda shorts and T-Shirts for use while I am convalescing. She has just retired after thirty or more years as a Gymnasium teacher in Konstanz, and she showed me the full column encomium published by the Konstanz paper on her retirement. She wants desperately to nurse me and help me during this period of disability and convalescence for me; she wants to do it out of genuine love for me and also for the purpose of doing something useful for somebody.
I have known her for 43 years now, ever since we were at Goshen together in 1950. She is full of goodness and always willing to help those in need. But I must manage to do without too much of her help. In the first place she can be very insensitive even while trying to help. In the second place, though there are moments when our conversation can be scintillating (especially when she is at the listening end!), generally speaking, she bores me and distracts me from reading or writing. But she is really good and kind.
The main advantages of Bad Laasphe over Wuppertal are:
1. quieter, more beautiful, more healthy setting; 2. fewer international phone calls and fewer invasions of privacy by visitors; 3. fewer tests and prickings for blood test, fewer injections; 4. infinitely better food; 5. a better appointed room; 6. doctors and nurses who are less problematic; and 7. about one-third of the cost at Wuppertal. And still only hopefully, better therapy. So far I have had only some carbon dioxide gas treatments and two shoulder packs which are very relaxing. The gas treatment consists in putting three quarters of one’s body (not the arms) in a plastic sack about 4.5 ft long, tying it tight and then pumping carbon dioxide gas into it with a huge pump, inflating the sack to its full size, and then leaving you there (on your bed) for 45 minutes. It warms up the legs and is supposed to promote circulation of blood and stimulate nerves and muscles. Dr. Donau things I am still not well enough to undertake heavy Krankengymnastics or Bewegungsbaden. He thinks there is plenty of time to do all those things in the next two or three weeks. On Monday more intensive therapy should begin. ……..
I must find out whether these are the final amounts. I think that Mr. Maassen, the Director of St. Josef Hospital, who had told me that they were giving me the entire treatment free, is now trying to get some of that money from the Evangelicals.
Saturday and Sunday here must be totally inactive here, except for insulin and meals. I eat about 6 times a day; they want me to do so. Breakfast at 8.00; snack at 10.30; lunch at 12.00; afternoon “coffee” (in my case without coffee) at 2.30; dinner at 6.00 and bedtime snack at 10.00 pm. This is supposed to be necessary for insulin – treated diabetes. I hope not. I can not hope to maintain such a regime in conferences and while travelling. We will see.”