One step forward, four steps back

by Bernard Brandt

Well, here I am of a Saturday afternoon, stuck in bed. Much of the day has been spent sleeping, and what little time I’ve spent up has been involved in attending to either end of my alimentary canal, in the kitchen or the loo. If I had the strength, I’d probably be bored. But now, I’m spending what little strength I have on the adventure of trying to recover my former strength. That’s one step back.

I’m writing this on the yellow lined notepad of the faux leather folder that my late wife Beth gave me. My computer is perhaps ten feet away from me, but it might as well be a mile away now. You see, these past six weeks, I had tried to pursue my studies, but one by one, they have fallen away: first theology, then music, then mathematics, and finally, even my language studies with Duolingo. At first, I thought it was mental exhaustion that was keeping me from my studies. But I tried an experiment, and found that the problem was a bit more fundamental than that. I found that just sitting upright at the computer for an hour left me exhausted for hours afterwards. So as of now, my studies via computer have been put on hold. That’s a second step back.

I had hoped that I would be getting better soon, but it’s been six weeks ago since my little mishap, and I’m no better now than when I left the hospital. One of my many problems with those guyz (other than their complete failure even to address my extensive internal bleeding for more than ten hours), was their equal failure to provide ANY information about post hospital self care after a massive blood loss. I had to do all of that for and by myself.

While it was easy to find diet info (Protein? Check. Iron? Check. Calcium? Check. Folic Acid, B-12 and other B complex vitamins? Check, check, and check) it was rather more difficult getting accurate or complete information for prognosis after massive blood loss. Most of the available online info was on blood loss and recovery after blood donation. The drill on that was that it takes the average human being six to eight weeks to recover from the loss of a unit (or 450 ccs) of blood. That fooled me for a while, or at least allowed me to indulge in some wishful thinking as to the matter.

It took a lot more time on ‘teh Webz’ to find a more accurate, and a much more pessimistic, model for prognosis. Basically, soldiers in WWI with 30% blood loss generally took ten to twelve weeks to recover from that loss. One should note that most of them were youths of 18 to 25. I’m at least two score years older than any of them. And so, there is no telling just how long it will take for me to recover from the present unpleasantness. A third step back.

But the cherry-red embolus on top of the shite sundae that I have been served was when I went to the website, to attempt to access some of the many wonderful e-texts of Orthodox theology, church history, patristics, and many other subjects that were once there.

Instead, I got the White Screen of Doom: ‘You do not have permission to access this webpage.’

So I tried accessing the webpage from different computers and webpages. Same result.

At first, I thought it was because they didn’t want any dirty little uniates like myself learning about Orthodox theology. But I soon found that the problem was a bit more fundamental than that. I tried to access an earlier version of the web page that had been saved on the Wayback Machine.

But whoever it is with control over the webpage appears to have erased each and every save of that information. I have checked with the FAQs of the Wayback Machine, and the only way that something like that happens is if the webpage owner specifically asks that saves of the page be deleted.

The late Bishop Alexander (Mileant-May his memory be eternal), a brilliant and superbly educated man of God, set up that website as a means of giving everyone, even us uniates, the means of learning more about the Orthodox faith. I will leave to the reader’s imagination, but otherwise unsaid, just what I think of the people who have dishonored the wishes, the work, the legacy, and the very memory of the late vladika by their actions here.

But that is the fourth step backward. And that was the unkindest cut of all. I’m going to bed.

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It’s Sunday morning now, and I’m still in bed. I won’t be going to St Andrew, my little church at the end of the world, this morning. I can count the number of times I’ve missed Sunday liturgy there in the past thirty years on the fingers of both hands. I can count the number of times I’ve missed because of illness on the fingers of one hand. So it goes.

And yet I must count my blessings as well as my infirmities. I have friends and family who love me, and who take care of me. And I have at least two friends who are worse off than I ever thought of being, and who are gamely and stoicly toddling on. One is a classics scholar, one of the five most brilliant men I have ever met, who has been diagnosed with colo-rectal cancer, and has gone through the gamut of chemo, radiation, and some rather nasty complications. The other friend is an able writer who is suffering from the progressive effects of Parkinson’s disease. If these two fine folk, who are far worse off than I, can muddle along, then certainly, so should I.

So, it’s time to man up, kick aside the self-pity, get better, and move on.

While it is true that I am exhausted, and will be for some weeks yet, I will be getting better. And while I can’t yet sit up at the computer for very long, I can still read in bed, and write from my sick bed. My studies may have stopped in one way, but I will just have to find another way.

And while it is true that is no longer available, it is also true that some months ago, I took the liberty of copying all of their e-texts in English. Thus, I can continue my studies in theology, in despite of what I consider to be the censorious and stupid actions of the web owners there. And thus, so much for that step back as well.

But finally, as a result of my disappointment in the loss of the late Bishop Alexander’s website, I have rediscovered Mischa Hooker’s superlative wiki of free online weblinks to scads of primary and secondary texts in classical languages and literature, OT and NT studies, judaica, patristics, and both mediaeval and byzantine studies. There are riches there that it would take me decades to delve.

And that, most definitely, is a step forward.