The Deep Places, a book by Ross Douthat, might take you deeper than you want to go. Douthat tells a painful story and he tells it in candid and rapid moving detail. He takes the reader to deep places.
Douthat is a relatively conservative columnist for the New York Times. Until six years ago his was a world of light, often the filtered light of a celebrity writer. And then the dark came with a tick bite, chronic Lyme disease, mind-altering pain, and the failure of conventional medicine to even ameliorate his symptoms.
Douthat, a practicing Catholic, is in his early 40s, happily married and the father of four children. He is perched in the highest reaches of the pundit world but, as he described, couldn’t find a safe journey home to health. And all of this is going on in the life of a husband and father whose love comes with responsibilities.
Illness has an origin. His doctors struggled to find it. What exactly was wrong and what needed to be done? We all deal with those questions off and on in our lives, but this is one of those cases that raise serious questions about institutional health care and check-the-box providers. Douthat, driven by pain and equipped with talent, takes the reader on a gripping search for answers, often to strange places and experimental remedies.
The stakes, daunting enough with chronic Lyme disease, became even more urgent when he became doubly ill with COVID 19. He wondered whether his long-haul Lyme disease would overlap with long-haul COVID.
Douthat takes the reader through normality into abnormality as he struggles to stay upright on a tilted balance beam while probing for God’s will in his crisis. It is a compelling read and suggests a plausible script when the doctor-patient relationship does not seem to work.
In a world filled with noise there is a destabilizing reality; an assumption on the part of people who report the news and interpret it that they have to become even nosier. This is a tough environment for thoughtfulness.
Thanksgiving provides an antidote—giving thanks an opportunity. My hope for Thanksgiving—an even greater understanding of the power of thankfulness. Happy Thanksgiving!
Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al writes on themes from his book, Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books.