An Inspiration For Living Lonely Moments In Paradise!

When the plane landed in Fort Lauderdale Florida, the pilot announced “Welcome To fishing-518775_640Paradise!”  I was excited about the pilot’s vision, which seemed at first to be mine; but, concerned about what I was running away from,  what I was losing and how empty it might feel to be without contact with everyone I had known for so long!

I had sold my practice, my home, and nearly everything I owned to move to Florida. I had given up a handful of treasured friendships, a huge number of fun acquaintances and over 12,000 patients, many of whom I knew by name and personal history for nearly 40 years.

I flashed on visions of the forest of friendships I had just willfully been transplanted away from. bamboo-142635_640For moments these thoughts made me imagine images of being a space traveler marooned on a distant, beautiful but alien unpopulated planet, perhaps Mars.

As we drove to our new home using a navigator to guide us along unfamiliar roads,  I thought that I felt for moments like the character in the story “The Martian” must have felt. Had he felt lost, lonely and wondering what tomorrow would be like as I did now? There was a big difference, of course,  from the situation of that of “The Martian” in that we were surrounded by people and a safe environment but what about my soul’s environment?   Like the Martian I had lost all that makes living life meaningful such as the relationships, trust, respect and common history. I had lost what had grown up over many years as a forest of “friendships” with different degrees of nomenclature like casual, personal or family.  More than that I had given up my relationship with my community, my practice of Holistic Eye Care, something I had invented, nurtured and grown into a giant tree.  One so strong that it had survived the financial  storms of 3 major recessions over nearly half a century.

It made me wonder what forces had created such momentum that I had been willing to leave the beautiful creation of a lifetime that had for some reason now become toxic? Something I occasionally viewed as a wasteland of destruction. oradour-sur-glane-1635802_640There was a lot to think about.  There is also no simple answer.  Some have tried such as the book “Who Stole My Cheese?”  But I was not looking for a description of change I was looking for socio-economic forces that had reshaped and redefined my world. Seven months later I think I have found it. I am a sci-fi writer because I am always searching for answers to question such as:  what is it that creates or destroys civilizations?  Why destruction and creation are so intimately intertwined? And finally does it have to be so? My own experience was now helping better define these questions and paint images of possible answers.

I think that the catalyst of the torrentuous socio-economic forces, that I had experienced so recently, might be described as the loss of responsibility and connection between the people that hand-1917895_640make up a civilization.  I thought back on 40 years ago, when I first moved to Brewster in upstate NY, where my office had been.  I recalled a farmer who had walked 3 miles to my office for his eye exam because he said, “It did not warrant starting his truck just to drive 3 miles.”  Times were different then. It was not that he walked so far so casually and so unpressured by time, that was just a description of what had changed since then. That was just a flavor of the essence of the ethos of that era that you could easily taste.  What was so different was that this farmer would soon know me by name as he did hundreds of the other people whose lives he touched every day!  Keep in mind the phrase “whose lives he touched.

40 years ago as I started my practice, I became enamored with the people  I served quite quickly. Apparently they with me too.  Six months after opening my doors to what I expected to be a weekend, part time practice, I was working full time.  I had to give up my other two part time offices. The force that made this change was the large families of  Irish and Italian heritage Americans who were soon to become my extended family.  They got to know me personally, like me and trust me. With that relationship, the whole family had to come see me and eventually most of the town.  We were all in this life together!

What changed 40 years later to make me move and give it all up for a promise of paradise but a loss of family?  In my opinion, the essential force is the loss of connection between people and the loss of responsibility for your actions or inactions.  From the viewpoint of my profession,  we saw the destruction of the doctor patient relationship created by the third party payors.  When people came to me 40 years ago, the service was thorough, affordable and easily paid for in cash.  When I left, the service was more mechanized, far less personal and no longer affordable in cash.  In fact is is the biggest disaster of American health care history.

I believe in the system of free enterprise and capitalism (with some caveats).  It has certainly worked for me for a long time. I believe that the strength of any economy is small business and entrepreneurship. Why?   Because I believe that it is the knowing of your outsource-1345109_640clients and responsibility to your community that keeps you on the straight and narrow path.  The path that for many American’s is defined on Sunday Mornings under the multicolored shafts of light falling through stained glass windows. Take away this connection and it is easy for Chinese factory owners to adulterate milk or put dangerous materials in sheet rock.  It is easy for Monsanto to create toxic herbicide that will likely soon be proven to have caused cancer in millions of people while rationalizing that they are the Horn Of Plenty that feeds civilization.  It is easy for congressmen to take millions of dollars of bribes while the Wall Street rich devour the lifeblood of America’s workers with carnivorous creations called derivatives (otherwise known as gambling).

Where there is no personal responsibility, there is no community. There is nothing to lose but the smell of fresh minted money and what temporary pleasures it might buy.  IBM, in some ways started this revolution and they became named for it.  IBM stood for “I’ve Been Moved” as in from my family, my home and my community for money’s promise.  We were willing to give up what makes life meaningful for the casino of promises that were  never fulfilled.

Somehow there has to be a way of connecting people to people and make business, its owners and its workers intimately responsible to the communities of people they serve. We must recognize that each of us holds the lives for our country’s citizens in each others hands. Not because it was so warm and fuzzy to be in the community I helped grow with me 40 years ago (though that is a good enough reason) but because otherwise the landscape of vitamins-2002561_640life becomes so toxic that the best of us will leave.  The vast majority of us do not work for money, we work for personal satisfaction, respect and a feeling of self worth, personal value. The majority of employees leave a job not because of money but because they are not treated with respect, listened to and praised for their achievement.

My experience, is that with the creation of self respect by serving a community of people we know, enough money always follows. You also get to share the wealth around if you don’t live in fear of a lack of money to cover expected personal economic crisis.  America has proven this for over 200 years.  “Too big to fail” is not an option, it is a symptom of the bribery and corruption of our government (mostly our representatives) on all levels that allows for a lack of responsibility.   It is enough to make a person run away from their home and seek a new start almost anywhere else. It is something to write about, for me.

I believe in what Walt Disney said years ago, “It is better to entertain with the hopes of educating, then educating with the hopes of entertaining.”   This is my dream and what I hope to inspire in others I get to form a community with.

Janr Ssor

Why I Am In Awe Of “Blue Lives” And My Brother Neil.

Did you ever wonder why you are alive, why you were created?  Understand what I am about to share with you and you are one step closer to the answer and to why you should be in awe of most Police Officers.

When I was a little kid, about 3 years old, I recall thinking that almost all beings of my age were insane!  I watched one day as my parent’s guest’s children hit each other, pulled toys from each other’s hands and put buggers in their mouths!  I heartily contrived a method to convince my parents to let me listen to adult conversation in the living room so that I did not have to play with “other children.”   These other children,  were kids my age. However, it was the first time we ever had other children at my home.  We had never invited other “small people” too my home before.   Because of this experience, I had my first glimpse of understanding the  reason for the values my parents were trying to teach me.  Values about what matters, at least in behaviour.  You might say it was my first child’s eye view of what appeared to me to be Sodom and Gomorrah.

Many years later, 67 to be exact, my brother Neil, suggested that I needed a gun because the the lunacy, I had learned about at age 3, had not all dissipated with the laundering of young minds in churches, synagogues and educational institutions.

It was at this time, that I retired from 44 years of doing the opposite of, what I thought those violentminneapolis_police_1959_traffic_control 3 year old had done, my practice of medicine as an eye doctor. Considering the news and corruption in our government,  I thought Neil was correct in suggesting I needed a gun!  In fact he suggested I needed a concealed carry permit too.  My wife who is the most compassionate caring person I have ever known, thought she should have a gun too, even though the thought of it frightened her.  We had just moved to Florida, from NY, and it is slightly easier to acquire and carry a gun in Florida than in NY.  I also think it is “safer” on the streets of Florida than it was in NY. Nevertheless we proceeded to purchase firearms and learn to use them under the expert training of my licensed and accredited teacher, Neil.

Was I comfortable with guns?  For 8 years, when I was a teenager, I went to Coral Gables H.S. and to the University of Miami in Florida.  Back then the Everglades was just a short ride away, on my motorcycle.  With shot guns strapped to the back of my bike, we would head out to the wilderness and hunt for birds for lunch (most frequently dining on fine Whoppers at Burger King as the birds were quicker than we were).  Despite this familiarity with weapons,  even holding a pistol 50 years later was unnerving!  My shotgun was, by contrast,  easy.  Crack it open and look to see if its two chambers were loaded or empty; the pistol was a mystery.  The safety always turned on when you loaded the shotgun. It was hard to make a mistake.  The pistol was a black box with what looked like too many possibilities to make a mistake.  Worse yet, Neil said, that If I did not keep it loaded, at home, it was of no more value than a paperweight (and of course he was right).  I was not comfortable with the pistol, though my shotgun did seem familiar.

My wife and I acquired pistols and went through books on safety, handling, responsibility and hours of time at the shooting range with Neil.  We made sure we knew how to use the mysterious and very dangerous weapons, we had acquired, in a safe and confident manner.  The “safe and confident” part is what made me understand why “blue lives” not only matter but should be held in reverence.   Owning a gun is a lot of responsibility so  Neil loaned me several books to read, written by the NRA.  Just as risk and benefits had been shared in my motorcycle safety course, the NRA’s books outlined the risks and benefits of gun ownership. They clearly and repeatedly stressed the need for hours of thought, planning and learning before ever handling a gun. Thought about what it was like to use one.  What dangers might come to others nearby, from gun usage, even in self defense.  How to plan for defensive usage to mitigate risk to others in the vicinity.  What were your responsibilities if you had a weapon and the opportunity arose for you to protect another or many others? What misery  would you feel if you had to use a weapon to save your life and yet in so doing killed your opponent?  What risks for unjust prosecution might come upon you, from the legal system, even if you did the right thing 100%.  How might your neighbors judge you, even if you were exonerated for clear self defense?

One day, I sat at home reading and re-reading the owners manual for my semi-automatic pistol.  I had his overwhelming need to understand it mechanisms.  I had to be able to picture in my mind the way the Beretta’s parts  worked.  I wanted to understand it the way I understood my car.  Finally how it worked sunk in and to prove it to myself, I gingerly picked up my loaded pistol,  removed the magazine and with some growing confidence (and much care), ejected the 7th bullet from the chamber.  I now knew the gun was unloaded.  I then reloaded the magazine,  racked the gun to load the first shell into the chamber and added one more bullet to the magazine as Neil had taught me to do.  It was again ready to fire at a moments notice. I put it away safely but easily within my reach.  I am not paranoid and never expect to have to use it; however, I feel it is my responsibility as a citizen of the USA to exercise my right to bare fire arms.  I do so even though I do not feel entirely comfortable with having one in my home or in my hands.  My forefathers knew why they wrote this law and I respect them for creating this country and its laws.

So why am I in awe of my brother Neil and the O’Briens, O’Reillys, Kennedys and O’Sullivans, who wore blue uniforms and shiny copper covered buttons when I was a kid growing up in Brooklyn?  I now understand the huge responsibility of gun ownership.  I have little doubt that every COP on the street has been down this thought path many times. To know that the policemen and women of my country go to work every day knowing they may have to use their weapons, leaves me in awe!   I thought being a doctor and making the right life saving decisions on a daily basis under pressure was a big thing. Now however, I think that what I did for 44 years, to some extent,  pales in comparison to what peace officers do every day.  Just as I am in awe of the brave men and women in uniform who defend our country and risk their lives every day, I am in awe of the men and women in blue!  Now I know what happened to the “insane” kids who grabbed toys, punched other kids and threw sand at each other in the sand box.  They took a different path to responsibility, compassion and pride. They became blue lives because we all matter to them.  I am in Awe!

….. Janr Ssor



Hey You, Jew Boy!

Steve Kogan and I were classmates who liked to play pool, when we were 12 years old.  His father was a rich man who picked me up in his big Cadillac to spend the day with Steve.  Some people who lived near me liked to call it a “Jew Canoe.”   It was of course a derogatory term.  On the way to the hotel he said something like, “You like the car, Joe?”

I said, “Yes it is pretty amazing.  I have never been in a car that felt like my mom’s living room.”  We were never allowed in the living room unless it was a special cadillacoccasion; after all the furniture was only for company.  The furniture was covered with clear plastic to protect it from the inevitable accidents kids cause.  It was good furniture,  the kind that took you years to pay off, as I understood.

Mr. Kogan said, “Life is all about making money!  That’s how you get a nice car like this and build a successful department store, as I have done.”   My dad had a different opinion so I was a bit shocked but I kept quiet.  My dad had taught me that millionaires like Mr Kogan, had stress,  heart attacks and misery.  The love of money was the root of this evil, he said,  and the helping people was much more important.  I was proud of my dad,  he had been a medic in WWII and had gone out unarmed in the battle field to help those who were critically wounded. He was a community leader who started businesses and when they made money,  left to start another.  We were not wealthy like Mr. Kogan.

Mr.Kogan said, “We are going to stop at my Department store on the way over to the hotel where you can spend the day.  I always am there just as we open to make sure all my workers are there and everything is running well.  In Puerto Rico,  running a great business was a magical trick as siestas and a laid back style of life were the common routine.  After all, the midday sun was scorching and it put me to sleep as I sat at my student desk studying for my classes.  The fan helped but only the very wealthy had the newfangled device called air conditioning.  So getting people to work all day was not very easy.

Mr. Kogan pulled the car to the curb in front of a impressive glass window filled with fashionably dressed manikins.  Big letters that appeared to be sculpted of stone floated above the chrome and glass doors.  There they  formed the words, “New York Department Stores.”  We had arrived.  Mr. Kogan opened the doors for me and Steve  and carefully led us across the street to avoid the hazards of  the cars and horse drawn wagons full of tropical fruits and vegetables. As we entered the store, which did have the magical thing called air conditioning,  the sounds of the wagon drivers calling out “Mangos, Avacados, Canepes,”… faded in the distance.

It was 1956 and we were surrounded by man made weather.  It was magical!  My whole body breathed a sigh of relief as the early morning heat and humidity vanished like steam from a shower.

In front of us was a vast room with counters that seemed made of the finest decorative materials,  which at that age I could not name,  but could appreciate.  On each counter was glass display cases filled with beautiful watches, jewelry and cosmetics.  Further in the distance you could see hanging signs alerting you to new fashionable clothing and shoes.  Behind each counter as far as the eye could see, stood an employee looking up at Mr. Kogan as we entered.  For a moment it was almost like looking at an army standing at attention as the general entered for inspection.  I was a little awestruck and a bit uncomfortable, not knowing what do do.

Mr. Kogan looked down at me, noting my discomfort and grabbed my hand with his left hand leading me forward down the long and seemingly threatening isle.   He then looked up and smiled at all his employees and began to walk slowly down the long isle calling out  good morning to each and every one of them by name.  They all smiled and greeted him  and some of the women reached over to hug him.  The long isle was no longer threatening. It was transformed into a sea of friendly faces at a party that was just about to start.  I my heart felt funny and my eyes moist but I was not quite sure why.

After a long slow walk with lots of brief and warm conversations, some in Spanish and some in English  (both of which I spoke)  we ended up in the back.  We entered a small simply furnished room with desks,  fling cabinets and a few people talking on phones.  Through the open back door we could see the loading dock where workers were unloading a truck.  Mr. Kogan showed us to some well worn leather chairs and went out back to greet the delivery men.

He came back in a few minutes and sat down across from me and Steve and said, “So Joe,  how do you like my department store?”

I thought for a moment as my head was swimming with new experiences.  I said, “I think it is very impressive!  My dad has a few optical stores and I am very proud of him, but this is huge and awesome.”

Thinking about my dad’s concern for the stress and misery that can come with money, I want to ask him a question too.

I said, “Mr. Kogan,  what is it that you like best about your business?”   He looked at me and his eyes seemed to mist over as he smiled and he said, “I would never miss a day of walking into the store as it opens!  I love all my employees and the greetings that we share every morning. There is nothing in the world worth more.  On the other hand, it is a great responsibility and at times it raises my blood pressure and keeps me from sleeping.  You see, the store not only takes care of me and my family but it clothes, houses and feeds my hundreds of workers.   I am in many ways responsible for the lives of all my workers.  If I fail,  they fail, and they may lose their homes and everything they have worked so hard to achieve.  It is a great responsibly.  As you get older you will discover that most things in life are dual edged swords.  One side helps you cut down sugar cane to sell and prosper but the other side can cut off you hand if you are not careful. ”

He smiled and again seemed to be looking a thousand miles away.  Then he looked back at us and said,  “Okay kids lets go!  You are going to have a great day at the El San Juan!”