History of Nursing in Pacific Canada

[Draft of letter from Ethel Johns to O.T. Leeman and 'Democritus to the reader'] Johns, Ethel 1966

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 ISXX      I have  jiist finished a careful first reading of "Deraocritus to the Header1!
and found it a Ixtoxaxtaslx    I owe you a great deal for making
—XMSXlXxiiix most    ewarding experience    tkatxtesxxsaxxmyxxap^ This
amazing      not only a but is a distillation of      it possible,
discourse f&xsxx&Ksx    provides the guiding thread to the latsxx labyrinth of thelater
: It is indeed a aatExptssa minor
voliimes^v^tetelxxxfeaixxatjrxixBkisBLxxx tact is a masterpiece  in itself j
"Camerado,  this is no book,
Who touches this, touches a man." (Page Walt Whitman)
Yes, axi efcxioxiEai man whasosould have felt perfectly at home in the twentieth century
mightn't      approve of it of
ev n    if he ±h&&&± jttee  it any more than he did his own*       The
After four hundred years*
3gjbBx his   education and    social
Sftx comments on the influence of environment x:
by every professor of sociology and are as ixxx heeded now as they were then* He
are being echoed
even has something shrewd to say about traffic problems and suburban sprawl that
ourmodern and
might be quite useful to town planners nMTSiyragXjfWffiyXKffiig  He has the right idea
about old age pensions, too#
WhW[xy^x«gggitx^KXlfi¥g?s^T¥^yy  I am sorry that he should so despise women but
msxsx those
I should have liked to hear him preach one of lutxxaasxi incendiary sermors*xx2*tit£xx
full  of
aifcxxafc invective, savge humour and irony#  And yet ssbe&bst compassionate after his
fashion* 130000000^^
I am very much intrigued the philosophic study of nursing that you mention and ..
should very much like to get a look at the book that Sister Clemence has written*
An existentialist approach might qxi*xxjsoxxS*iy lead to (pits valid conclusions
that would cause a flittering in the dovecotes at Teachers' College and elsewhere*
Strange things are happening these days with regard to the granting (or witholding)
of the Imprimatur* And some highly intelligent thinking is going on behind the shelter
of the convent walls* Nuns enjoy swam  freedoms xtiii denied to those of us who are
T5^xnTnsx^K,raiiXTgXiBX^iKMXXe  fcxxad Itj  the petty conventionalities  of the outside world*
I MXlI^lXHXIXlXMglKJIIHpXo sound as though I were becoming "project" minded so I
no more will be said* Your doctor has given you excellent advice in that connection
and I'm going to borrow a bit for myself* XXX Indeed, I realize that I must do so
whether I like it or not* Best is the thing that does the trick* Would you like
to be a fSHMIXg member of Hepatitis Anonymous
. Since EJ could not lay hands on tne first volume of tne Anatomy of Melancholy, she
plunged into volumes two and three more or less at random* As it happened, she turned
first of all to "Against Sorrow for the Death of Friends" :
ftJS man dies every time he loses his dear ones •♦* yet we are never better or freer from
cares tnan when we sleep and death is but a perpetual sleep *** But he was ay most dear
and loving friend *♦• s^r sole friend *.* Wilt thou then have him crazed and sickly still,
like a tired traveller that comes weary to his? inn, begin his journey afresh or be freed
of his miseries? Riou hast more need to rejoice that he has gone*"
To EJ, it seemed strange that in a book written by a divine, there was little more than
a passing reference to the consolations traditionally offered by nis own Protestant Communion — the Church of England «— in which he had been ordained a Clerk in holy Orders
and appointed to a cure of souls* It was to the austere yet compassionate philosophy of
Plato and Socrates rather than to the mercy of Christ that the sorrowful were told to look
for pity and comfort. There was no sure and certain hope of immortality* Other sections of
the master v/ork, especially those related to religion and to women* a similar dichotomy
was in evidence* What was its nature and origin?
It was not until (thanks to OTL) EJ had been provided with the entire text, t&<^ fri)emocri-
tus to the Reader"was made available iNaAmeMMi she began to gather up threads thatf if they
could be disentangled, might serve as a guide to the general reader who* like herself*
was lost in the labyrinth*  Obviously, the first step was carefully to examine this revealing document^which SB had himself set down^and to select passages that might prove enlightening*  Here are some of them, along with brief comments from EJ, offered only for
what they may be worth*
 •     e     ,
Democritus (according to EB) was " a little wearish old man very melancholy by nature*
averse from company in his latier days;.** much given to solitariness, a famous philosopher
in his age *** wholly addicted to his studies at the last and to a private life *** wrote
many excellent books*  A great divine according to the divinity of those times, an expert
physician, knew the natures and differences of all beasts, plants* fishes and birds ***
and some say, could understand the tunes and voices of them* In a word* he was a general
sdholar, a great student* A man of an excellent wit and profound conceit*"
EJ : EB's identification of himself with Democritus is quite engaging and eminently justified* No false modesty about it* either*
Democritus travelled extensively "to confer with learned men, admired of some, despised of
others. After a wandering life, he settled down and lived at last in a garden in the sub-
&3ffi]B33aiX|c urbs wholly betaking himself to his studies and a private life* I do not presume to make any parallel.** yet this much I will say for myself .** I have lived a silent*
sedentary, solitary private life *** in the University as long as Xenocrates at Athens ***
to learn wisdom as he did, penned up most part in m^  study*** ^or thirty years I have con-
tinued (having the use of a good library as ever he had) a scholar* and would therefore
loth to write that which should be in any way dishonorable to such a royal and ample
■ Something I have done, though by my profession a divine: I had a great desire to have
some smattering in all .** not to be a slave to one science or dwell on the subject but to
taste of every dish and sup of every cup*
" I have read many books but to little purpose for want of good method* *** I am not poor,
I am not rich.** I have little, I want nothing* *## I live a collegiate student and lead
a monastic life sequestered from the tumults and troubles of the world* *** I have no wife
nor children, good or bad, to provide for* *.* As I have lived* so I now continue, left
to a solitary life, saving that sometimes I didffor w^  recreation^now and then walk abroad*
and could not choose but make some little observation *** not to scoff or laugh at but
with a mixed passion.  (EJ italics)
111 wrote of XSXSg melancholy, by being busy to avoid melancholy* There is no greater
cause of melancholy than idleness, no better cure than business. **• When I £fcs± first
took this task in hand this I aimed at, to ease my  mine by writing, for I had a kind of
imposthume in xrxy  head which I v/as very desirous to be unladen of and could imagine no
Sftttsx evacuation than this. To what purpose? ♦♦* to news here, tnat which I have is
stolen from others. **♦ A dwarf, standing on the shoulders of a giant may see further
than the giant himself*
So that as a river runs sometimes precipitate and swift; now muddy and then clear, now
broad and then narrow; doth my style flow* now serious, then light, now comical* then
satirical; now more elaborate, then remiss* as the present subject required*or as at that
time I was affected* *** I shall lead thee *** through variety of objects, that ?/hich
thou shalt like and surely dislike*"    (EJ's italics)
Although B£ was as good as his word, he did try to forestall criticism oy  making his
own position clear* He well knew that exception would be taken to the fact that "I beiing
a divine, have meddled in physic. .** Ifaat have I to do with physic? ***Why should I meddle with this tract? . .* There are many other subjects fit to be treated of *** but at
this time I was fatally driven upon the rock of melancholy and carried away by the stream*
... ^ot tnat I prefer physic before divinity*but that in divinity bMIMMIISMISIMI^fL
I JIM no such need. ... A good divine is, or ought to be a good physician, a spiritual
physician, at least*"  *** " I am by my profession a divine and by my inclination a
physician*"    EJ :  ( Here is another dichotomy! )
IP EB was hundreds of years before his time in the field of psychiatry* he was efen more
advanced in matters pertaining to health* good government, education* town planning* (See
his ideas about his own Utopia).
The death of a friend is certainly an event of a very grievous and
afflicting nature; but ought we, in a life so transistory and full
of perils, to fix our affections so firmly even on deserving objects,
as to render our sorrows for th€fcr loss so poignant as to injure health
and to destroy our future happiness? One of the chief benefits of
virtue is a contempt of death, an advantage which accomodates human
life with a soft and easy tranquility, and gives us a pure and amiable
taste of it, without which every other pleasure is extinct. Death is
inevitable, like the rock of Tantalus, it hangs continually over our
The death of a good and virtuous man ought to be contemplated as the
termination of trouble; a kind release from a troubled world: but since
all who live must die, we cannot contemplate its approach without alarm
and apprehension for ourselves, and the severest sorrow and lamentations
for our friends.
The death of Eteoneus, a noble young Greek, being lamented by his friends
with excessive sorrow, Pindarus the poet thus addressed them.
"Quiet your minds, ye weeping friends; fdlr the fate of this lamented
youth is not so miserable as ye seem to apprehend. He is not condemned
either to the Styx or to Acheron, but, "gloriosus et senii expers heros,"
lives immortal in the Elysian fields, enjoying that happiness which the
greatest kings so earnestly seek, and wearing a garland of felicity which
we all so anxiously hope to obtain.


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