Dec 212011
 

Perhaps trips of any type need to have a beginning and an end for us to really feel as if we have accomplished something of purpose. Milestones are there for a reason.

Not being able to leave well enough alone, I have given this idea some thought and have recognized that there may be exceptions.

One of our sister schools at ECU, the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, sponsors a lecture series called the Voyages of Discovery. These “voyages” take place in Wright Auditorium in the center of campus.

The two most recent guest lecturers have been Sir Salman Rushdie and Henry Louis Gates Jr. In the past, our own Dr. W. Randolph Chitwood Jr. has transported us on his own personal journey.

To hear these impassioned life-interpreters has been a tremendous privilege. The whole voyage experience has been so convenient, since I have not needed to travel farther than across town. This has caused me to ask questions about the meaning of “journey.”

The winter solstice will be Dec. 22 at about 12:30 a.m. That’s when Earth, due to its position in its orbit around the sun, is tilted away from the sun by about 23.5 degrees. Here in the northern hemisphere, the result is the sun makes its lowest arc across the sky, giving us the shortest period of daylight of the year. In times gone by, that led to dire predictions of continued slippage into total darkness and the end of the world.

Having grown up relatively close to the equator, the seasonal changes were hardly noticeable, and so the predictions of impending doom were clearly not as popular as has been customary in the antipodes of the world. In Jamaica, folks have no personal concept of seasonal affective disorder.

What is also very clear is that while we “up here” are experiencing less daylight, the folks living “down there” in the southern hemisphere are experiencing the longest day of light in the year. Happy, happy, happy, I am thinking! We don’t really have to go to South America, however, to appreciate all of this happiness. The journey can be accomplished right here in Greenville. And if that is not enough, remember, our day will come. Just wait until summer!

Those old doomsday stories remind me of my youth in Jamaica. My brother and I would hand-carve spinning tops and fling them to the ground on a string as hard as we could throw. The smaller the top, the faster it would spin and the more rapid would be the precession, or wobble on its axis, until it fell over, inanimate, on the ground. The more substantial the top, the slower would be the wobble and the longer it would spin.

Like those tops, the earth precesses, but it takes about 26,000 years to complete one cycle. With such a deliberate wobble, I am expecting that it will continue spinning for a very long time. Those ancient end-of-the-world predictions are little to be worried about.

For me, at this time of the year, the reality that it’s summer somewhere and one day will be summer up here is an additional reason to fearlessly celebrate and really appreciate the season of giving that we welcome perennially.

May I suggest that we take the opportunity to go on our own personal journeys during this temporary period of external darkness. In so many ways, the Brody School of Medicine has come a very long way this year, and we are only half-way there.

I am looking forward to as many worthwhile challenges as possible in the New Year. The possibilities are bright and welcoming, and I look forward to us continuing to meet the needs of our mission during the New Year.

On behalf of our family, may I wish you the best gift of all, good health!

Best,

Paul

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