Thursday, July 28, 2011

Reading Calvin, Part 3: The Address to the King of France

The Reformers were bold.  They had no choice. They were standing against a great tide, a massive power.  They probably took to heart Jesus’ words, “And the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (the rock upon which the church was built, or the church itself” and many probably saw the Roman Catholic Church as the gates of hell. 

This address is a defense of the evangelicals in France who were being persecuted by those who blamed them for, among other things, the incident of the Placards on October 18, 1534, when “copies of a handbill containing crude attacks on the mass were in the night attached to public buildings” (from the notes to the translation I am reading and referenced earlier).  To be a Protestant was to be a seditionist, the charge went.  How far we’ve come!  Separation of church and state today means that Christians of all stripes can be attacked publicly with no concern for the government being part of the bargain.  Since Muslims do not have a “church,” they get special treatment.  If a church is burned, it is arson, and a local crime.  Is a mosque is burned, it’s a hate crime and a federal issue!

Calvin’s original plan was simply to write a Bible study; but it has now had to morph into something else.  Calvin knows what his fellow countryman have been accused of, but “accusation is not proof of guilt.”  Calvin tells the king that the king has only heard the half of what is being said of the Protestants, and if that half were the truth, one would think Protestants existed for no other purposes than treason and overthrowing the government of France.  Calvin isn’t just writing this so he can come back to France.  He’d like to but it’s better he didn’t, all things considered.  Calvin appeals to the King’s role as minister of God on earth.  He counters the Machiavellian ideal of power as the only goal and everything else subsumed to its pursuit.  “A king who does not govern to God’s glory is a pirate (brigand, bandit),” Calvin says.  “On the other hand, we recognize ourselves as lowly sinners, as does the Bible.”  We do not say we are morally sinless, Calvin argues, only that we are not guilty of the treason we are being accused of. 

In fact, Calvin goes on, we depend totally on Christ because we acknowledge ourselves total sinners.  We are called arrogant for having total trust.  Essentially, we are oppressed for trusting God and the Bible.  In our accusers’ eyes nothing is wrong except speaking against the Pope and the church and its doctrines of purgatory, pilgrimages, mass—things for which there is no Biblical proof.  And they live high while others go poor. 

As a good rhetorician, he addresses their arguments against the Protestants, and these are arguments that have some strength.
  1.  The doctrine of the Reformers is new.  Yes, it is new because it hasn’t been heard—for a while.  It’s what Paul taught, not new.  It’s been buried for centuries, yes, but that’s man’s fault.
  2. The doctrine of the Reformers is uncertain and doubtful.  But the Reformers are willing to die for their doctrines.  Will the adversaries die for theirs?
  3. The Reformers have no miracles.  But, Calvin says, we have the New and Old Testament ones; miracles can have Satanic origin; miracles confirm the gospel already given and accepted, but do not prove it or validate it (I’m not so sure of this one, since Pentecost came before the inpouring of believers into the church).
  4. The church fathers disagree with Calvin and Luther, etc.  The opponents here pick and choose which fathers they want to follow; the church fathers themselves disagreed among themselves.  Calvin’s knowledge of the church fathers is massive, so no one is going to win this argument.
  5. The Protestants go against custom.  Who cares, Calvin says, if custom is wrong?  This is the fallacy of appeal to the majority.
  6. The church must be a visible, institutional, building-based entity with a pope and ceremonies and power and numbers.  Where did they get that idea, since in the first 300 years it was the minority, not the majority, and powerless.  Calvin, of course, equates Israel with the true church, a Reformed error.   He minces no words, and takes for granted the Roman Catholic Church is full of Pharisees at best and adulterers, thieves, gluttons, drunks, etc. at worst.
After addressing the issue that the Reformers’ accusers, who had run the French Protestants out of France to Switzerland and the Netherlands and other points, do not understand the nature of the church, Calvin goes on to the seventh section to defend against the charge that the Reformers have caused tumults.
Historically, Calvin cannot deny this.  The European world has been turned upside down.  So he attacks the causes.  Satan has been aroused from his apathetic slumber to cause the problems, doing two things:  he has worked by direct persecution, and he has worked through causing divisions and contentions with groups such as the Anabaptists, whom he calls rascals and refers to as catabaptists.  Further, we have Old and New Testament examples of the same kind of reaction to the preaching of God’s word, so this is nothing new.  Christ himself is a rock of offense.
In the final section, Calvin appeals, in good Ciceronian manner, to the King not to listen to accuser witout real evidence, and the evidence shows that Protestants were never seditious in action or word.  He reminds the king there are laws to convict those commit specific crimes, but that does not mean everyone who has some connection to them should be punished also.

Communication Principles in Proverbs

Before I get into the lesson, a few notes about reading the Proverbs.  You will notice they are in couplets for the most part:  these are two-sentence units.  Some are punctuated with “and” and some with “but.”  However, in Hebrew, the same word is used for both words in English (I think it is “em”) and the translators have to make the call on which is right by the context.  So in the couplets you have a second statement that intensifies or a second statement that contrasts. 

Not all the Proverbs are Solomon’s, and the text is clear about that.  He compiled many proverbs and Songs, as the book of I Chronicles tells us.  They were edited and arranged as well by Jewish scholars after the Babylonian exile.  As we have seen, after that episode in Jewish history, the attraction to paganism was never really a problem again.  Being too insular may have been, but not letting pagan elements into their culture and religious practice. 

It is probably best for us to study them thematically then to try to discover a logic to them; however, it is also important to study them in context both of the verses around them and the whole purpose and genre of the book.  Don’t take them as iron-clad promises that no trouble will befall you, but principles for living that will lead to a God-honoring life.  Studying what the proverbs say about communication is very helpful.

We saw last week that we must “guard, keep, fortress, protect” our heart with all diligence (make it a priority, Pr 4:23) because out of it issues all of life.  We protect by what comes in (keep your eyes forward, don’t get distracted, avoid foolishness) and by what we let stay in (bitterness, anger, anxiety, envy, discord, self-deception).  If we don’t guard our hearts, the result will be hurt relationships and community and deceptive living, which could be words and actions.

That is the core of studying communication principles in Proverbs.  In secular communication study, if you were to take a course in how to communicate more effectively with family, spouses, co-workers, etc., you might start with self-esteem or self-concept.  The idea is that you can’t communicate in a healthy way if you don’t have a healthy relationship with yourself.

Do I buy that?  Some.  We could do an interesting exercise now.  I won’t do it because it takes some time and may be too personal, but do this in your own study:

List at least twenty words to complete the sentence:  I am _____. (not your name, though)
You will either put in nouns or pronouns.  I am a X, or I am happy, talented, etc.

Then go through and put a plus or minus about how you feel or evaluate each one of those.  The list of words is your self-concept or identity; the pluses and minuses indicate your self-esteem.  There should be more positives than negatives, of course.

If your self-concept is low, you will be unhappy or discontent and probably that will show in your dealings with others.  You might be anxious, insecure, or closed to others and their ideas.  The big question, though, is where does self-concept come from.  It must come from our trust in Christ’s finished work, love, grace, acceptance, humility, gratitude, and reality, not appearance, accomplishments, status, awards, or relationships with others.

As the documentary “Waiting for Superman” has popularized, our young people have the lowest scores in math among 27 countries, but they have the highest confidence in their math ability.  That is not reality based! 

Women battle self-esteem because of the lies we tell ourselves and the lies we let in, so Proverbs 4:23 and its context is very much worth meditation.  A Mighty Fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing.  A shelter He among the tides of mortal ills prevailing. 
The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous run into it, and they are saved. 

The Bible opposite of healthy self-esteem is pride.  Pride is thinking about yourself a lot.  Humility is not thinking about yourself a lot  because you’ve got other subjects to think about!  But humility is not thinking you are nothing, you are garbage.  Last week the pastor pointed out the three loves, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  I would take that as “according to the amount of love you have for yourself, honestly--” (and many people would disclaim love for self but I don’t see them missing a meal or wearing rags) “to that same level love your neighbor.”  So loving self is not bad.  It’s normal. 

Principle 1:  Speech is what ties a community together.  This was a time in history (as was most of history) when there is almost no mediated communication.  Other than writing, and most people couldn’t read, all communication was face-to-face.  There was no independent verification.  If one’s words are not truthful, if a person bears false witness, society falters; if more than one does, society falls.  Therefore,

Principle 2:  Truthfulness is the most important characteristic of speech.  I have a friend who said once, “I only have three spiritual problems, and one of them is exaggeration.”  This is quite funny when you think about it.    All of us knowingly alter reality when we talk about it.  Better to say nothing than to do so, which leads to

Principle 3:  “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your moth and remove all doubt.”  That quote is a paraphrase of several proverbs.  Basically, the fool runs off at the mouth.  With 24/7 TV on literally hundreds, maybe thousands, of channels and stations, we know that is true.  Yet a person who is slow to speak we tend to think is just plain slow.  We would be wise not to jump to that conclusion.  However, we conclude that to some extent because of the next principle,

Principle 4:  Speech is powerful.  Notice that the adulterous woman in Pr. 7 is using words.  She looks good, but it’s what she says that seals the deal (or would if the na├»ve man succumbs).  “My husband is out of town; sex all night (fill of love when love has nothing to do with it). I’ve been to church and kept up my religious duties, so no one will suspect me of cheating.” 

The other day in the paper I saw I photo that both embarrassed me and disgusted me.  Apparently the firefighters in Chattanooga, that is the young, good-looking ones, had a fashion show for women.  By that I mean the firefighters dressed up in tuxes and strutted their stuff, and then they wore their gear but had it pulled down so the chests showed and I think a little more.  The photo was of middle-aged women putting dollars in the firefighters’ pants, as if they were strippers.  YUCH.  I even saw one of a little girl doing it, so I guess these women were trying to get her started early.  Anyway, I hope these women were single because I doubt their husbands would have thought this was funny.  Women, I suppose, have now earned the right to act inappropriately even in a town as conservative as Chattanooga.  I wonder how many of them now wish their picture hadn’t appeared in the paper!

The principle that speech is powerful is repeated over and over again in the Proverbs.  When it is fitly spoken, it’s “apples of gold in pictures of silver” beautiful and constructive.  When it is motivated by sin, it is a destroyer. 

When we think about wisdom, we usually think “discretion” and it has a connotation of deterring ourselves from actions we should not do.  This is not what the book of Proverbs says.  Read the 8th chapter:  “By wisdom God created . . . “  Wisdom is a creative force, not a negative force.  Speech driven by wisdom is therefore very creative and edifying, both spiritually and intellectually.  Speech not driven by wisdom is the opposite.

Examples of powerful negative speech:

Sowing discord, which is often motivated by envy.  I used to have a terrible problem with envy.  I learned the stupidity of it for three reasons:  we envy others for what they have, not for what they don’t have, and we never have the whole picture on that.  Second, some people actually work harder, or make certain things in their lives a priority, so they have certain things;  the third reason is just plain lack of gratitude.  For example, I envy women with nicer houses, but my house is nice, just incredibly messy, mainly because it’s not the priority for me it should be.  I would rather be published, and teach, and read, etc.

However, envy is a “rottenness in the bones.”  That is a vivid metaphor, especially for me because a family member has cancer that has gone into her bones (not because of envy, though).  Envy makes us sow discord, which is mentioned over and over in Proverbs.  Discord can’t be allowed in a close-knit community where everyone must depend on each other.    

Flattering lips.  Being fake, in other words. 

Principle 5:  Openness to the counsel of many wise persons characterizes a wise person.  “In a multitude of counselors there is safety” is repeated three times.  This ideal is contrasted with someone who thinks he/she is right all the time.  As the old saying goes, “Frequently mistaken but never wrong.”  Openness equals listening, which again means less talk.   “We have two ears and one mouth …..” as the saying goes.

Principle 6:  A soft answer turns away wrath.  Now, where do we go with that.  Soft:  Kind.  Empathy.  Not loud.  If accused, don’t accuse back.  Believe, for the moment, that the person is telling you the truth as they see it, at least.  Allow the other (wrathful) person to talk; they will vent and realize they have gone too far as they hear their own words.  If you interrupt, they won’t hear themselves and will just want to keep going, feeling that their right to vent has been denied.  When you speak, ask questions.  Mirror what they say, but be very careful to avoid snarkiness (snide sarcasm—I love that word).  It’s likely to the wrathful person is a fool anyway, and one thing that characterizes a wise person is to discern the foolishness in the foolish talk of a fool. 

This just scratches the surface of communication principles in the book of Proverbs.  But it can get you started in a study.  I think the best thing is to categorize them under headings.  The Proverbs are still relevant today. I will end with one that hit me this week:  12:25:  Anxiety leads to depression.  What is anxiety?  Wrong fear.  Of course, some depression is chemical, but even if you are getting meds for it, you need counsel.  If you are down, see if anxiety isn’t to blame, and see what God says about anxiety—cast it all on the LORD.

Apostle Paul; Important Reading

"The Paul of the New Testament, therefore, is not anti-Jewish. He was faithful both to the Scriptures and to his Jewish heritage. He preached Jesus as the promised Messiah of Israel, but was insistent that salvation in Christ was not limited to ethnic Jews. According to his gospel, all Jews needed to receive Jesus as Messiah, and all followers of Jesus—Jewish and non-Jewish—needed to embrace one another as siblings in God's global family in Christ." 

In response, check out this long but important article from the Ligonier people:

John Stott

Saddened to hear of the death of John Stott, but not for him.  From all accounts, he is enjoying perfect fellowship with his Lord now.  I was privileged to hear him speak at a missions conference at First Presbyterian of Chattanooga about the turn of the millenium; he would have been about 80 at the time!  His message was simple--commitment to missions.  I was impressed with how unimpressive he was--not remotely flashy or self-importants.  Based on the obituary posted above, that was him.

"Here then are two instructions, 'love your neighbor' and 'go and make disciples.' What is the relation between the two? Some of us behave as if we thought them identical, so that if we have shared the gospel with somebody, we consider we have completed our responsibility to love him. But no. The Great Commission neither explains, nor exhausts, nor supersedes the Great Commandment. What it does is to add to the command of neighbor-love and neighbor-service a new and urgent Christian dimension. If we truly love our neighbor, we shall without doubt tell him the Good News of Jesus. But equally, if we truly love our neighbor, we shall not stop there."

At First Prez I also got to hear Timothy George of Beeson Divinity School, a former editor of CT, whom I approached and told him thank you for CT because it preserved my faith at a time when I thought nowhere in the world was there a thinking Christian.  I also heard Steve Brown, but he didn't impress me much.  I also got to hear Ben Haden every week, a joy. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Kallman's Syndrome: The Secret Best Kept

I went to my cardiologist yesterday.  Every year I have to wear a Holter monitor for a day because of a heart ablation I had in 2007.  If you don’t know what a Holter monitor is, it’s a 24-hour mobile, wires-hanging-off-your-body EKG. 

The nurse practitioner saw me, (not the doctor, which is ok because his voice puts me to sleep).  She was very sweet.  She asked me if I was still taking Estradiol and Progesterin.  “No,” I said. “I’ve totally gone off those.  I was on them for a very long time and I wanted to be sure to stop.”
What I didn’t tell her is how long I actually had taken those hormones.  37 years.  I started with HRT when I was 17 because I have Kallman’s Syndrome. 

You may never meet a person who has this condition.  It only affects 1 in 10,000 people (or 1 in 86,000, according to one source) so that’s quite a range and far more males have it than females (as do most negative things).  So, being female, I am quite an oddity, one in 100,000 maybe.  And even if you do meet one, you might not suspect it and he or she will probably never mention it to you.  You will think it strange that the person says he or she has no sense of smell, and the person may look younger than his/her age.

Earlier on this blog I got after people using the term “coming out of the closet” because they do not know the origin of that phrase.  It comes from a time when gay men were assumed to wear women’s clothes—they were hiding in the closet trying on those clothes.    But I am coming out of the closet and admitting that I have Kallman’s Syndrome.

How do I know?  My gynecologist, who was also an infertility specialist, told me 30 years ago.  He asked me if I could smell, and I said no, I had almost no concept of what smell is even like.  He knew because he took me off my hormones for a while and tested my LH and FSH levels.  They were about as low as they could be, less than one-tenth the normal  level.  I think the normal level on the FSH was supposed to be 25 and mine was 2.5.  I was glad to get back on my hormones, though.  They were a lifeline to some sort of normalcy.  Being in your twenties and having menopausal symptoms is no fun.  Neither is being in your fifties.

Essentially, I never went through puberty.  I was 17, so my mother took me to a doctor back home in Maryland who put me on hormones, Premarin and Provera, which I took for years.  I left for college shortly after that, having my first cycle 600 miles away from home.  Slowly over the years I started to look more like a woman, except I was usually taken to be ten years younger than my age (not a bad thing).  I lived my life pretty normally except that I knew I would probably not have a child. 

In the last few years, in an attempt to write my memoirs, I have started to research Kallman’s more.  My main concern before now was that my son would get it, since it is caused by a recessive gene.  He did not; he’s quite normal.  I also used to fear he would be autistic because it and related conditions seem to run in my family.  He isn’t, nor does he have the mood swings and addictions in my husband’s family.  He is very blessed considering the genetic cocktail he’s been force-fed.  My other concern was HRT’s connection to cancer and heart disease.  I have had more mammograms than most women my age; so far, so good.

In researching Kallman’s, I found the following: 

“The features of Kallmann syndrome vary, even among affected people in the same family. Additional signs and symptoms can include a failure of one kidney to develop (unilateral renal agenesis), a cleft lip with or without an opening in the roof of the mouth (a cleft palate), abnormal eye movements, hearing loss, and abnormalities of tooth development. Some affected individuals have a condition called bimanual synkinesis, in which the movements of one hand are mirrored by the other hand. Bimanual synkinesis can make it difficult to do tasks that require the hands to move separately, such as playing a musical instrument.”

So that’s why I could never get the hang of playing the piano, despite lessons!  I simply can’t get my right hand to do something different from my right.  (Then how come I can type?)  I do have a weirdly shaped mouth and crooked teeth (that piece of skin under the nose and behind the lip is very long).  However, my hearing is very acute, my kidneys are super, and while I am very nearsighted, I don’t think my eyes move abnormally.  I’m really quite healthy, except for the normal old age stuff. 

Sorry—I got a little snarky there.  I am so used to all those things, even the lack of smell, that I don’t mourn the loss of them.  I consider myself so incredibly blessed—mostly because I did have a child—that all those other quasi-symptoms seems small (although I have to admit a non-functioning kidney would not be a quasi-symptom, nor would a cleft palate). 
Now, in terms of the child, it went like this:  I took Perganol injections.  It makes a woman produce lots of eggs, something I could never do naturally.  This is how we get Octomoms.  Except that I had a very wise doctor who wanted to avoid multiple pregnancies and law suits, so he made sure eight eggs would not be fertilized.  He wasn’t even crazy about twins, although I thought, at the time, that twins would be cool and would save money—two for the price of one. 
I had Perganol injections in Fall of 1987, and they didn’t work; I had them in March of 1988 and they did, and I had my son in December, four days before my own thirty-third birthday.   When he was two and two-and-a-half, I went through the procedure again, but neither time was it successful.   My dream of a sibling for my son never materialized, and that is one of the regrets of my life.  I would have been willing to adopt, and actually would adopt a baby tomorrow if someone handed me one, but we had too many personal problems back then to get past the home study. 

By the way, if anyone is wondering:
I like sex and I don’t know if my experience of it is any different than anyone else’s.  I think knowing I couldn’t get pregnant helped, rather than hurt. This would lead into a discussion of sexual experience in general and my faith.  We are not bodies; we are not souls imprisoned in bodies; we are souls who get to live in bodies.  To treat the bodily experience as evil is to deny the rightness and validity and value of the incarnation of Christ.   Sex is important and pleasurable, but it is not a need like food or drink or shelter.  It must be within marriage.  These ideas are so foreign to most today that I might as well be writing it in Mandarin Chinese.  However, don’t take this to mean that I have put sex on the shelf because of this severe hormonal deficiency I live with.  Even now, totally off my hormones, sex is a good thing. Just not as often, but that’s another story.

Second, about the lack of smelling ability.  We Kallmanners don’t have olfactory bulbs; something about the pituitary gland not sending signals to other parts in utero is involved.  I do not pretend to understand the genetic end of it.  I really, really have a poor educational background there.  My parents have a sense of smell; my son does.  I do not know of anyone else in the family who has or had this condition, and I come from an incredibly large family.  My maternal grandmother had eighteen grandchildren.  My paternal grandmother had twelve children.  There are a lot of us Grahams and Fraleys and Roses running around.
I’ll be the first to say the lack of smell is just a plain nuisance.  I could never smell my son’s poopy diaper; I had to look—or feel.  I can’t smell farts, B.O., bad breath, stinky feet.  It’s all the same to me.  If the car or the house has some odor of fatal gas or chemical, I would be dead before I knew it.   And cooking:  Oh, my.  How many arguments have my husband and I had over that.  If it’s burning, how would I know?  A few years ago a friend brought banana nut muffins to work and I was enjoying them.  “So this is what banana nut muffins are supposed to taste like.”  She looked at me quizzically.  “I think I always burn them,” I explained.  “I can’t smell them.”  My sense of taste is not acute, but I don’t think I suffer too much from the lack of smell.  I depend a lot on the texture of food; trust me, I enjoy food too much, as my extra 25 pounds will attest.  Last week my husband ordered a dish from a Chinese restaurant.  This establishment cooked it with lots of squid.  I couldn’t smell the squid, but I surely had a nauseous reaction to it (ate it in Italy; fishy, rubbery baloney was my impression).

Obviously, some social problems can come from not being able to smell.  I am always fearful that I just plain stink.  I take care not to, but it still happens.  All smell is vicarious, surrogate.  I worry that my writing will lack an authenticity because of this deficiency.  Close family members have no trouble telling me if I do.  My mother used to tell me my hair smelled like a dog’s, that is, when I was growing up she would say that.  My husband lets me know that I have on too much perfume.  My son is quick to notice smells; his taste and smell are even more acute than his 
father’s.  At least I can enjoy the dogs whether they have a stench or not. 

But the real question is that of sexual identity.  Do I feel like a woman?  Of course I do.  I have all the working parts; they just didn’t have any gasoline.  I like most things women do:  a clean house (which is rarely achieved); clothes (very much—one of the reasons I love old movies is the beautiful outfits of the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s); children and being motherly.  But I don’t like fru-fru, don’t see the need for 50 pairs of shoes, can take or leave a girl’s night out (although lunch with friends is one of the joys of living).  I despise romance novels, finger- and toe-nail polish, the thought of plastic surgery for other than medical purposes; and I am indifferent all the celebrities I am supposed to love (Brad Pitt down to Oprah and on to The View ladies.) 

What defines womanhood anyway?  I really don’t know.  I do not feel now that I am any less of a woman, but in the past I did.  And don’t women have more freedom to be androgynous than men do?  A man who knits is berated; a woman who likes to shoot guns is “cool.”  A man who wants to be an elementary school teacher has to fight for respect from many (until he becomes the principal); a woman who wants to be a doctor is respected already.  This is not to say discrimination does not exist; it does.  I work in academia and despite their propensity for left-wing causes, academic men can sometimes be dreadful chauvinists.  A woman who knows what’s she’s doing and isn’t afraid to speak her mind with tactful firmness surprises men and some women, and she will have to work hard to convince people she is well-meaning even if self-confident. 

In looking through Kallman’s related websites, I came across the term “Intersex.”  Apparently some folks are equating Kallman’s with some sort of hermaphroditism.   I definitely don’t see that; in fact, I think that just makes any self-esteem problems worse.   And intersex person would either have indicators of two types of sex organs; or, he/she has neither.  As I said, Kallman’s sufferers have the working parts of their gender, they just lack the hormonal fuel to get it going.  And sometimes this condition can be idiopathic, in that it is not genetically traceable.  Along with the intersex “accusation” is that Kallman’s should be considered in a similar category with LGBT people.  Now, anyone who knows me well would know my feelings on that one.  Would we now have LGBTIK activitists?

I did not let Kallman’s hold me back; well, maybe I did.   Career-wise I have done well enough:  two graduate degrees, 33 years of teaching, three novels published, two textbooks, scholarly articles, loads of administrative roles, ministry credits, two blogs, technical writing credits, many friends, a well-raised son, in good standing with everyone, financially solvent, married for almost thirty years (that’s probably the biggest accomplishment), a teaching award, healthy, nice garden, incredibly, incredibly blessed.

I think I was held back more by my fundamentalist expectations of womanhood than by the Kallman’s.  However, I did carry a sense of shame because of it.  I didn’t want anyone to know.  I never told people.  I knew they wouldn’t understand, and it was just too complicated to say I had a hypogonadotrophic hypogonadistic disorder.  So I have gotten into a habit of listening to people more than talking about myself.  Most people, trust me, love to talk about themselves.  Especially men.  So they think me quite intelligent and charming because I listen.  What they don’t know is that I am doing research for one of my future novels whenever I listen.  I listen for phrases, for idiosyncratic ways of speaking, for tidbits of knowledge, for story elements.  And I just prefer to listen than to talk about myself, because I think I’m boring.  A colleague told me once, though, and he was right, that in being a listener who does not reveal much about myself, I am saying I do not trust the other person and in a way putting myself above them.    Aloofness becomes a way of life.   I think a combination of factors—the fundamentalism, working class background, family alcoholism, Kallman’s, self-consciousness about my looks—work together to create a desire to hide some of myself to everyone.  Maybe that’s why I blog.

Now, many people would wonder about the psychological and social effects of such a condition.  And that of course is where most of the literature focuses, since fixing the hormonal side of it isn’t all that difficult.  Websites and FAQ pages will say things like “Individuals with Kallman’s Syndrome might be shy and socially awkward. “  Looking back, I would say yes, I was.  Embarrassingly so.  What others seemed to know, I had to learn by watching and reading about it.  I can be blunt, and I can avoid other people.  Being alone is fine.  I never dated in college, and when guys don’t show an interest in a girl, she is going to suffer from poor self-esteem.  So I developed an attitude that I was not going to be inferior to men.  I had three brothers; men are no mystery to me, and neither are they a group I pander to to get what I want, or submit myself to just because they are male.  Odd words from a Southern Baptist; I hope the SBC is changing. 

One interesting side note:  Because I didn’t go through puberty until I was I my late teens, my brain did not “change.”  I hit a brick wall in my math learning; trigonometry made no sense to me in the tenth grade (I was in the advanced group), but I took two foreign languages in high school.  Children lose the ability to learn languages easily after puberty, but I didn’t go through puberty, so language learning was easy.  I still know Spanish very well, although I don’t “hear” it nearly as well as I read and speak it. 

Kallman’s  has always been with me; now I am middle-aged and past a time when the condition would make any difference in my decisions or opportunities.   It is in the past, so to speak, but it defined who I was and therefore still has an influence on me.

If you have read this and have Kallman’s, I am sorry but it’s not a death sentence and medical science has treatments if not cures.  If your child has been diagnosed with it, he or she will need lots of encouragement.  Be patient with him or her; your child is facing some things that are very hard to understand.  I realize I have written all this from a female’s point of view.  There are fewer of us, and all the websites I have seen focus on males.  Feel free to write me through this blog if you have questions or want to talk about it.

Public Speaking Online, Part IV

During the Web Speech             One of the helpful suggestions from the business writers used for this appendix ...