Pearls, pigs, Pickles, and Zits

Pig tries his best to navigate a world that is often unfair, unfriendly, confusing and conflicting, and his friends do their best to help him muddle through. But as Stephan wrote, their efforts often fail, at least in their eyes.

If my local newspaper quit publishing comic strips I would probably still read it, but I wouldn’t enjoy it nearly as much.

Cartoons share information in a unique and effective way; in just a few words and/or pictures, the artist can convey ideas and emotions that make us laugh, cringe, seethe, evaluate, examine, and change , often without feeling diminished or threatened.

I’ve read the “funny papers” since I was a child, and if you follow me on Facebook you know I post a cartoon there weekly, a “Friday Funny”. Through the years I’ve had several favorites-Peanuts, Garfield, The Far Side, Calvin and Hobbs, Doonesbury, -some no longer in production. But I’ve found new ones that I like and read regularly.

One is Zits, by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman, a strip about Connie and Walt Duncan , parents of a teenage son Jeremy. Jeremy is a typical teenager, sometimes endearing, sometimes maddening. His parents are health care professionals, Connie a child psychologist and Walt an orthodontist. Years ago, when my husband and I still had a teen son in our home, I would almost believe the writers listened in on our conversations since some days I read my own words in the strip.

I assume the title refers to the frequency that teen boys suffer from “zits”, a slang term for the skin condition, acne. Almost all teenagers develop acne; when severe it can cause significant distress; girls have it too, and sometimes it continues into early adulthood.

Now my husband and I identify more with Brian Crane’s Pickles, a strip featuring a senior couple Earl and Opal Pickles, who are enjoying retirement and grand-parenthood. But sometimes the Pickles find the senior years not so golden; the strip portrays their coping with the inevitable losses of advancing age in a bittersweet way.

My current favorite is Pearls Before Swine, a comic strip written and illustrated by Stephan Pastis. It chronicles the daily lives of an “ensemble cast of suburban anthropomorphic animals”: Pig, Rat, Zebra, Goat, and a fraternity of crocodiles, as well as a number of supporting characters.

Before becoming a cartoonist, Stephan Pastis was a lawyer. On his blog FAQs he explains the name of his strip this way

Q) Where does the title of the strip come from?
A) Matthew 7:6: “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine.” (KJV) In the case of the strip, Rat thinks every thing he says is wise, and that it is wasted upon dumb Pig.

Pig tries his best to navigate a world that is often unfair, unfriendly, confusing and conflicting, and his friends do their best to help him muddle through. But as Stephan wrote, their efforts often fail, at least in their eyes.

“Pearls before swine”

Did you know that phrase is in the Bible? Jesus said it in the Sermon on the Mount preaching to a large group on a mountain, according to Matthew, but Luke recorded it as several shorter talks. It contains some of the most well known, often quoted, frequently preached words in the Bible and to me summarizes Jesus’ message to this world . Like cartoons, these three Bible chapters convey much information and inspiration in short, colorful phrases whose meaning is not always readily apparent.

Here is the verse in context, in modern language , the New International Version.

Judging Others

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 

You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”

Matthew 7:1-6, NIV

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

(In many Bibles, words attributed to Jesus are printed in red letters.)

specks and planks

I understand the part about the eye. As a family physician I see patients complaining of a foreign body in their eye. If you’ve ever had something in your eye, you know how distressing it can be. When I examine the eye, I usually find a tiny speck, sometimes so small I need magnification to see it. It may be a speck of dust, wood shaving, or even metal. After applying a topical anesthetic (deadening eyedrop) I can easily remove the speck. The patient usually is shocked at how small it is, because to them it felt like a “plank”.

a drawing of a human eyeball
A foreign body, speck, may get stuck on the CORNEA and feel like a plank in the eye.
pearls

A pearl is a “concretion formed around a grain of sand or other foreign body within the shell of certain mollusks.” Doesn’t sound appealing but when we display them around our necks, ears, wrists, or fingers, they are treated as fine jewelry. Thus, the word “pearl” has become synonomous with something valuable, costly, precious, desirable.

a white pearl ring with diamond highlights
Photo by Marta Branco on Pexels.com

There are also several medical terms using pearl.

  • an epithelial pearl-a rounded mass of keratin found in found in some skin cancers
  • a drug pearl- a medication dispensed as a pearl-like capsule
  • pearl disease-tuberculosis (TB) in the chest or abdomen consisting of small rounded lesions

But the medical definition that most fits the meaning of this verse is one that all doctors learn early in their training- a clinical pearl.

Clinical pearls are small bits of free standing clinically relevant information based on experience or observation

Medical Teacher

Usually clinical pearls are shared verbally, then preserved and shared as informal written notes (when I was in medical school) although now disseminated electronically. Often our professors would impart these to us during hospital rounds as we examined and discussed patients; we understood these pearls to be valuable knowledge we would not get from textbooks alone, wisdom they gained from years of study and experience.

Physicians based much of the early treatment of COVID-19 in the 2020 pandemic on clinical pearls, since as a novel disease, there were no textbooks or journal articles to use as reference. Internationally, through social media and email, doctors began sharing their experiences treating COVID patients until the information found its way into mainstream medical journals.

planks, specks, pearls, and pigs

Rather than telling you what I think these verses mean, or telling you what I think you should think they mean, I offer some questions to help you decide that they mean to you.

  1. What measure (or standard as used in the NLT version) do I use to judge (evaluate or examine) other people? Do I apply the same standard to myself, or do I want others to?
  2. What planks (logs in the NLT) are in my eye that I need to remove to see others more clearly?
  3. What specks bother me about others? Should I offer to remove them, and if so, how should I?
  4. What pearls do I “wear” that others might want or need? How do I decide to whom and when to offer pearls? How do I react when my pearls are trampled?
exploring the HEART of faith, hope, and love

I’m hope you enjoyed exploring these Bible verses with me today, and before you leave I hope you will read some of the other posts about the Sermon.

Please look for these cartoons in your newspaper, online, or in one of their books using the affiliate links above. Affiliate commissions help me continue sharing the HEART of health here and with organizations that do so around the world to those who need it the most yet lack access the most .

I would love for you to start following Watercress Words : use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Thanks so much.

                              Dr. Aletha 

Exploring the Heart of Justice

Families and businesses are making hard choices, choices in which fairness is important but may be difficult to achieve. I was listening to a podcast last week that addressed this issue as a matter of justice, which I think is an interesting way to look at it.

We’re experiencing two pandemics; the medical one causing illness, suffering and death due to a ravaging disease and the economic one causing financial hardship, food insecurity, and job loss due to a devastated economy.

Families and businesses are making hard choices, choices in which fairness is important but may be difficult to achieve. I listened to a podcast last week that addressed this issue as a matter of justice, which I found worth thinking more about.

What is justice?

In the podcast, Dr. Celine Grounder interviewed Adam Grant, a psychologist and professor. She asked him what makes for a good leader in the kind of crisis we’re experiencing now. He replied the best companies and their leaders base decisions on justice and he described 3 types of justice.

  • distributive justice- making choices that lead to fair outcomes
  • procedural justice-making decisions through a fair and unbiased process
  • interpersonal justice-making decisions in a way that treats people with respect, dignity, and compassion
What is Biblical justice?

This idea caught my attention because I made an insight recently while reading the part of the Bible known as the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew chapters 5 through 7 contains some of the most well known passages from the Bible, some you may not realize are biblical. Have you ever heard these phrases?

  • eye for an eye
  • turn the other cheek
  • go the extra mile
  • the Golden Rule
  • pearls before swine

These phrases, from the Sermon are attributed to Jesus and may not have been from a single sermon; the lessons it teaches may have been given at different times, as in the book Luke, which contains some of the same messages.

In the Sermon as in other New Testament scenes, Jesus taught his followers how they should live their lives and one word he uses several times is “righteousness”.

Righteousness sounds overtly religious, living bound by strict laws, emphasizing rule keeping, striving for perfection. As Richard Foster wrote, righteousness can consist of “control over externals, often including the manipulation of others.” (from Celebration of Discipline )

So I was surprised that one version, the New Living Translation (NLT), uses a different word for righteousness-justice.

God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.

Matthew 5:6, NLT
a ceramic cross with the Beatitudes Matthew 5:3-10

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Matthew 5:6, NIV

Several other Bible verses suggest righteousness and justice are two aspects of the same concept.

  • The Lord loves righteousness and justice;the earth is full of his unfailing love. Psalm 33:5, NIV
  • The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. Psalm 103:6, NIV
  •  But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!   Amos 5:24, NIV

Reflecting on these and other scriptures in I Am With You author Ann Spangler wrote this

“Righteousness is a Biblical word that means being in a right relationship with God, and with others. Injustice fractures and destroys relationships….righteousness is

“primarily a relationship, never an attainment; a direction, a loyalty, a commitment, a hope-and only someday an arrival” (quoting Addison Leitch)

Practicing justice

Farther in the Sermon Jesus tells the people to

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

Matthew 6:33, NLT

suggesting that living justly isn’t merely thinking about justice, but behaving in a just manner, perhaps like the interpersonal justice Mr. Grant describes in the podcast.

Reverend Erin Clifford explains both Old and New Testament Biblical justice in this short video.

social graphic from the LIGHTSTOCK.COM collection, an affiliate site

some other thoughts on the Sermon

Matthew 5:6 is from part of the Sermon known as the Beatitudes. learn more about it here

How to be blessed, happy, and healthy

And in the rest of the Sermon, Jesus goes on to describe some other criteria for living a righteous or just life. I’ll explore that further in another post.

Here is a link to the podcast if you’d like to listen to it .

EPIDEMIC- Good and Bad Bosses

“EPIDEMIC is a twice-weekly podcast on public health and the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19).  Hosted by Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist who has worked on tuberculosis and HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, and was an Ebola worker during the West African epidemic. And co-hosted by Ron Klain, the U.S. Ebola czar from 2014 to 2015.”

The COVID-19 pandemic may well be the defining moment of our times. Our lives have changed irrevocably. We need to understand the science so we can care for ourselves, our families, and our communities. And we need voices of reason to help us make sense of it all.

EPIDEMIC

In this episode, Dr. Celine Gounder talks to Adam Grant, a professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. They discuss

  • work during a pandemic and which companies are taking considerations to continue to take care of their employees, and which companies aren’t.
  • what good leadership during a crisis really looks like, and whether the COVID-19 pandemic may change the kinds of benefits that employers offer their employees.
  • how companies can improve their work-from-home culture, as well as how the pandemic may change people’s work-life/home-life balance permanently. 

exploring the HEART of justice

Thanks for joining me to explore justice from a social and Biblical perspective. I plan to share some other thoughts on this since it is so vital to working through the health and economic crisis we are facing.

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here. A special welcome to all my new followers from this past month.

I would love for you to start following Watercress Words : use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Thanks so much.

                              Dr. Aletha 

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