My Berlin


A wall I stumbled on in former East Berlin

I was in my 40’s, after I finished my residency and fellowship and was working as an ophthalmologist, when I first got a passport and took my first trip abroad.

My travels are usually connected with medical or scientific research or meetings. I have spoken at such meetings on every continent except Antarctica.I have friends and colleagues around the world.

I have a longstanding research collaboration in Paris that has allowed me to visit a dozen times and get to know the city, once having the honor of being one of the few Americans to have spoken at the French Academy of Ophthalmology (to an audience of 3500 doctors form around the French-speaking world).

Having a long-standing interest in art and art history, I have visited many of the worlds great art museums, gazed at Michelangelo’s paintings in the Sistine Chapel, climbed Brunelleschi’s dome in Florence, entered pyramids, temples and tombs in Egypt (including a couple normally closed to the public), admired Zen temples in Kyoto, had a special entry to see Tang dynasty paintings in Xian, and climbed pyramids in Mexico.

I have been to a party in a foreign embassy, seen Iguazu Falls in South America and snorkeled at the great barrier reef. These are just a sample of what  immediately comes to mind when I think of the trips I have packed in over the last 18 years.

I have gotten around, and would have crossed off a lot of things on my bucket list if I believed in and had a bucket list (I don’t like that idea in the least bit. Dumb and pointless).

Nice enough, I don’t mean to be ungrateful, but for the most part, all of this has had only a modest impact on my life (except for the friends).

Really. When I am struggling in this or that  dark night of the soul from time to time, I promise you these memories mean little. They don’t even come up.


Water color sketch of Adam of the Sistine Chapel

But the trip that made a difference, the one that taught me something that mattered because I was actually there and so taught me what travel could be about, was my trip to Berlin for the World Ophthalmology Congress in 2010. Continue reading

Mind Breathes Fire


Nyogen Roshi sent me an article from the New York Times he thought I would like: “A Black Hole Mystery Wrapped in a Firewall Paradox” (Dennis Overbye, 8/12/13). There were comments in the article by a theoretical physicist and educator whose work I enjoy, Leonard Susskind. There were also references to the nearly iconic physicist and intellectual provocateur Stephen Hawking, and in particular to a debate on the nature of black holes these two contemporary towering figures of physics had that lasted years and was finally settled in Leonard Susskind’s favor. Continue reading