Atoms and Intergalactic Winds
An article in Thursday’s Guardian newspaper, must be in contention for the most dramatic opening paragraph since Genesis 1:1; “Nearly half of the atoms that make up our bodies may have formed beyond the Milky Way and travelled to the solar system on intergalactic winds driven by giant exploding stars, astronomers claim.”
The article continues in much the same vein, with descriptions of the intergalactic winds, and how we are “in some sense extragalactic visitors or immigrants in what we think of as our galaxy.” Even when reading those sentences as an Orthodox Jew with an unwavering believe in Genesis and the story of our Creation, I still see them as inspiring and dramatic. How though to view them, when they are read in light of this week’s traumatic twist in the Charlie Gard story?
Let me begin by stating the obvious, which has unfortunately been totally ignored by a lot of the Press, in particular the Right-Wing Press in the States: I am not privy to the full medical details of the case!! Like most people with an interest in the story, I have googled encephalomyopathic mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome (MDDS or RRM2B) and am now an ‘expert’ in the field! I also know about the NBT treatment offered by a ‘specialist’ in the States. However, even though I might like to think of myself as having an A.A.D. (almost a doctor) qualification, I don’t and neither do any of the journalists! So, I am not here to criticise the staff and caring doctors and professionals at GOSH or to question at all their incredibly difficult journey in what has become a very public and political campaign. My heart goes out to them as much as it does to Charlie and his parents, Connie and Chris.
What I do want to do is to look at it as a father, as a Rabbi and as a patient/parent within the medical system.
Not many people are blessed with a smooth sailing through this world, and like many others Nachi and I have had our fair share of medical ups and downs. We have been blessed with good friends, and more importantly we have been privileged to count amongst our friends, doctors whom we not only trusted but who also recognised and understood our religious values and the guidelines by which we live our lives. One time in particular we were being pressurised by an outside consultant who wanted to go down a certain path, one that was categorically against Halacha. He meant well within his world and was simply following his professional expertise. But Nachi and I were being guided by principles that went higher and beyond those, it also helped that we had the support of our doctor friends. The specific details are not for me to share, but the principle was; Belief versus Medicine. Yes, the Torah tells us to live, and we are commanded to break pretty much every law to preserve life, but even that rule comes with Halachic boundaries, and the doctor wanted to break them.
I didn’t and couldn’t just view our journey as a medical process, I had to view it as one that came from far far away. In the words of the Guardian quoted above, we were extragalactic visitors. Although rather than being particles blown here from intergalactic winds driven by giant exploding stars, we were in fact part of the Infinite Being, driven here by His breath. We were vindicated in the end, but I would like to believe that even if we hadn’t been that our belief would have survived.
I cannot and will not attempt to answer why Charlie, his parents and indeed the doctors and staff at GOSH have had to endure this terrible episode. I am not a prophet or even a medical scientist, I am but a father of two lovely daughters who wouldn’t be here without the love, care and expertise of the professional medical world, and I cannot begin to imagine what everyone involved in this story has been going through.
But I do look at that opening paragraph, the one in Genesis as opposed to the one in the Guardian and I take faith from the fact there is a Divine Creator and whilst I might at times be baffled, exasperated and even furious with how His plan plays out in this world, I do respect the fact that our origin is from beyond the here and now. Our future however, is created from the here and now. By our behaviour. By the way we treat our children and vulnerable ones. By the way we work within the Law and not beyond it. If we can squeeze one benefit, if we can seek out even the minutest silver lining from this very grey cloud, I would humbly suggest that we consider the epic journey that is our lives. We are not just atoms flung together from a far-away galaxy beyond our time, we are part of a story. A story that has a definite and thought out beginning, a middle that we write ourselves with our actions and behaviour, and an end that goes beyond the stars to a future that shines a light on what can at times be a difficult journey.
My heart cries for Charlie, and whilst I do not understand His plan I do respect it. May the Almighty watch over him, treasure him and protect him. More importantly, may he grant his parents the strength to continue and to bless them with the love that they will need to continue in life.