Welcome to another edition of Digestable, the short, weekly email where we explore the curious and wrestle with great questions. This edition was emailed to subscribers on October 24, 2021.
Here’s where my curiosity led me this week:
“Savior of Mothers, Father of Infection Control”: 1 in 6 women died of “childbed fever” when they gave birth at the Vienna General Hospital 200 years ago. Ignaz Semmelweiss found the life-saving cure, but it was rejected by the medical establishment. Not only that, he was fired from his position at the hospital and forcibly checked into an asylum where he died an outcast. Though he died a failure in the eyes of his peers, now there are hospitals and universities named after Ignaz Semmelweis: the “Savior of Mothers” and “The Father of Infection Control.”
Ignaz discovered through experimentation that washing hands and hospital instruments virtually eliminated the death of mothers during childbirth (it worked better than a priest ringing a bell in the maternity ward, which is one of the other experiments he ran). What was the problem? Louis Pasteur’s germ theory did not yet exist, and Semmelweis could not provide a scientific explanation behind his solution. Despite of the stunning success of his disinfecting protocols, this irrefutable data clashed with the story the physicians believed. The physicians considered themselves “a class of gentlemen,” clean, and incapable of being disease carriers. It’s a poignant example of how our stories soundly trump the data. Like Galileo’s, the story of Ignaz Semmelweis is important to keep alive.
Sale Ends Today! ICETRAX V3 Traction Aids: These slip-on ice spikes aren’t substantial enough to propel you up waterfall ice, but they are indispensable for safe rucking in the icy river valley or exploring the ice bubbles at Abraham Lake this winter. They are currently on sale at Costco for $19. If you miss the sale, don’t stress, the regular price is only $22! Put a spare set in your vehicle because I promise you’ll forget these at home when you need them the most. P.S. Winter is coming.
The World of Podcasting: The ability to eavesdrop on high-quality conversations with interesting people while driving or working out is irresistible! It is a medium practically without constraints and allows for long-form, nuanced, and meandering conversations. It allows us to not just “stay on top of things,” but better yet, “get to the bottom of things.” My son Judah and I have been enjoying this 3-hour deep dive into the world of podcasting with one of the world’s podcasting legends, Tim Ferriss. It covers everything from microphone choice to the art of asking good questions. Is it too late to start your own podcast? If you are curious about monetization, Tim Ferriss believes these are still the early days of podcasting. If you don’t care about the commercial prospects, today is always a good day to record a good conversation and utilize technology to share it.
Do you have any friends who speak other languages? Judah’s podcast Cafe Lingo focuses on language learning, and he is looking for new guests to continue developing his podcast skills. Please reach out to him on his website, and hit me up with your best podcast suggestions!
Quote I’m Pondering: “We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.” —C.S. Lewis in The Abolition of Man (#7 on National Review’s “100 Best Nonfiction Books of the Twentieth Century)
This quote is usually taken out of context. “Men without chests” is not a dig at emasculated men, nor is it even about men. It would be better understood today as “people without a heart trained to mediate our mind and emotions”. Lewis is contrasting three areas of our person: 1. The head (intellect, reason), 2. the belly (appetites, lusts, and passions), and 3. the chest, where healthy sentiment and character can reside if properly developed. Without a strong “chest,” we are ruled by cold, efficient rationality and/or unbridled whims and appetites.
“The head rules the belly through the chest — the seat . . . of emotions organized by trained habit into stable sentiments . . . these are the indispensable liaison officers between cerebral man and visceral man. It may even be said that it is by this middle element that man is man: for by his intellect he is mere spirit and by his appetite mere animal.”
Society is most vulnerable to propaganda when we raise a generation with weak chests, Lewis ominously warns in “The Abolition of Man.” Thinking about our behavior this week, what were we governed by? What could we do this week to develop our chest?
Where did your curiosity lead you this week? I’d love to hear from you!
Thanks again for following along. I’m having a riot putting these together, so if you are enjoying this newsletter I’d love it if you shared it with a friend or two and we can keep the great conversations growing.
P.S. A 20 second glimpse of homeschool gym class this week (developing the physical chest!):