Fred Hollows

When respect for the dignity of human beings is omitted from medical assessment, medicine ceases to become a science and is in danger of becoming a set of formulas, as arid and unhelpful as spells, curses and other hocus-pocus.

Fred Hollows, Updated Autobiography with Peter Corris

This statement struck a cord with me and I recalled another statement by Hans Eisen and Bernard Mulraney in their survey, Impediments to the Adoption of Modern Quality Management Practices (in Australian Manufacturing Industry) Monash University, 1992, “…an attitudinal change is required for success. This should begin with a reappraisal of the intrinsic worth of the individual at all levels.”

Fred’s work while identifying the urgent need for appropriate Vitamin A capsules to address deficiencies also calls for a better understanding of how people in the affected societies live.

He recalls getting into an argument with a researcher who gained a considerable reputation by showing the dramatic improvement in general health experienced by African children who were fed green, leafy vegetables.

When asked why the mothers hadn’t fed their children in this way the researcher replied that they were too ignorant to do so.

This made Fred angry. People are never, in Fred’s belief, too ignorant to guarantee their own survival. On a little reflection better answers to the question emerge, for example green, leafy vegetables may well have provoked diarrhoea and digestive disorders more threatening than the vitamin deficiency.

A deeper understanding of how people behave in systems begins with respect for the dignity and intrinsic worth of the person.


Apollo 13

The Apollo 13 space flight is renown for the words, “Houston we have a problem.” transmitted from the spacecraft to mission control.

The routine of the space flight less than a year after John Glenn had set foot on the moon was shattered by these words. The stranded flight crew, Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert fight a desperate battle to survive while the ground crew at mission control race against the time and the odds to bring them home

Another quote attributed to Lovell arises during the film when an earlier interview is replayed as part of the extensive media coverage of the stricken space flight.

In the film the role of Commander Jim Lovell is played by Tom Hanks.

The interviewer probes and invites Lovell to recall any incidents in his notable career where he was ever scared. Lovell recalls instances of flame-outs wondering whether the engine would fire up again concluding that generally things worked out.

The interviewer probes a little further asking whether there was a specific instance in an aircraft emergency where Lovell can recall fear.

Lovell responds with the story of a flight over the Sea of Japan in a banshee at night in combat conditions so there was no running lights on the aircraft carrier. His radar was jammed and the homing signal gone because someone in Japan was using the same frequency.

Looking down he can only see the big black ocean so he flips on his map light and suddenly, zap, everything shorts out, cockpits lights and instruments. He doesn’t know his altitude short out and low on fuel he contemplates ditching the plane. And in the darkness he sees this green trail, like a giant carpet laid out beneath him leading him home. It was the algae, the florescent stuff lighting up that gets churned up in the wake of a big ship.

“If my cockpit lights hadn’t shorted there’s no way I would have known.”

“You never know what events will transpire to get you home.”

The Dish

The Dish, starring Sam Neill, featured the radio telescope at Parkes, NSW.
The telescope played a major role in the Apollo 11 mission to place a man on the moon.
Cliff (Sam Neill) and Glenn (Tom Long) were out on the dish after locking on to the signal once again after loosing all the data following a power supply failure.
Cliff: Imagine stuffing it up.
Glenn: How come you’ve changed?
Cliff: My wife told me, “Failure is not quite so frightening as regret.”
Glenn: That’s good advice. I wish someone had told me that.


Jessica, an Australian TV mini-series, is based on the novel, with the same name, written by Bryce Courtney.
Jessica Bergman, played by Leeanna Watsman, had been committed to a mental asylum by her mother.
Wandering the grounds of the asylum with her barrister, Mr Runche, played by Sam Neill, who is down and out and often inebriated, Jessica explores the possibility of regaining custody of her young son. Coming to the realisation that it will be next to impossible given her circumstances she turns to Runche and looking at him she apologises, “I’ve wasted your time.” Runche replies, “You can’t waste my time. It belongs to me and if I choose to use it on your behalf I will do so.”
Runche’s pithy reply expresses the essence of the effective use of time that is available to us. Time is a gift, assume responsibility for it and use it wisely.


She had looked her duty courageously in the face and found it a friend – as duty ever is when we meet it frankly.

L.M. Montgomery
Anne of Green Gables
After a successful year of study at Queens College and the future rosy with promise Anne had returned to Green Gables only to face in quick succession the death of Matthew and Marilla’s failing eyesight and the consequent sale of Green Gables.
Duty is, a moral or legal obligation, the binding force of what is right or what is required on one and is so often seen as an onerous responsibility.
However, there is a delightful twist or insight in Montgomery’s quote. Faced openly and courageously we can discover in duty a friend that leads us rather than onerously but delightfully toward maturity, living life freely and responsibly.

The Doldrums

Professor Ryuta Kawashima M.D. in Train Your Brain: 60 Days to a Better Brain writes, At the onset of this training your brain function will improve somewhat steadily. However, you will probably hit a wall at a certain point. You may wonder why your results are not showing any improvement. But if you hang in there and continue your training a breakthrough will come and you will see your scores suddenly jump. If you are facing the doldrums, just remember that your brain is preparing for a leap.

The dictionary provides several explanations of the doldrums,
1. low spirits; a feeling of boredom or depression
2. a period of inactivity or state of stagnation
3. an equatorial ocean region of calms, sudden storms, and light  unpredictable winds.

The doldrums are often seen in a negative light, that something is wrong with us, and while the dictionary provides an explanation Kawashima’s note encourages us to see the doldrums in a different light, they are the forerunner of a breakthrough. Hang in, be patient and persist and rather than put yourself down and give up as is often the case when faced with the doldrums. See your doldrums in a positive light, rather than concern understand this period will pass, and is indicative of an imminent breakthrough.

The third explanation helps us understand the nature of the doldrums, calm, sudden storms and light unpredictable winds. Set your sail to pass through and gain the rewards of persistence.