Monday, November 23, 2009


Do you ever stop to think about how conditioned you are to certain stimuli?

When I was a trial lawyer, I was at a crowded theater, sitting near the front (due to the crowd), and as the plot of the movie thickened, there was a courtroom scene. As the judge entered, the bailiff called, "All rise," and I flew to my feet. Given the snickering in the theater, I betcha that if I had turned around, I would have seen a number of my fellow attorney "brethren" standing as well.

A bailiff in the courtroom in which I normally practiced used to like to amuse himself, and frustrate the attorneys, by repeatedly giving us "the knock" as he walked through the door from Chambers, calling out "All Rise." We did, and he would laugh. And sooner or later, he would do it and we wouldn't stand, and as you can guess, it would be the time the judge was behind him and we all scrambled over each other to get to our feet, papers and files flying and the judge looking bewildered.

I have been a hospital chaplain for only a year now, and already I have some of the conditioning infused in my psyche. On our last cruise, at 2 in the morning, a Code Blue was called throughout the ship. (On Carnival, a Code Blue is coded Bright Star.) And I jumped from my bed about to head to the Code when Gordon grabbed me by the pajamas and said -- "they don't need another passenger in her pajamas showing up - go back to sleep." And amazingly, I did.

As a trauma chaplain: the sound of the helicopter gets me up and ready.
As a rabbi: yesterday I walked into a room to meet Jewish parents of a brand new, beautiful baby, moments before his bris. They invited me in and we made a ceremony and celebration of it. But since I was in chaplain drag and not rabbi attire, my hand kept going to my head feeling the loss of my kippah during this sacred times.

Conditioning is not a bad thing. Conditioning, plus angels, helped that pilot land his loaded jet on the Hudson River with no injuries awhile back. Conditioning helps us act in times of emergencies without forethought.

But sometimes conditioning is not a good thing. Some of us are conditioned to eat at a certain time, whether or not we are hungry. Just ask my mastiff, Ruby. She will drag me out of bed when she thinks it is 8 a.m. (daylight savings time had me dragged out of bed for a week until she got accustomed to the time change."

I wonder what other things I am conditioned to do, and what things are to my detriment? and what things are to my benefit? And if I could change the detrimental conditioning/habits into positive things, wouldn't this be better?

just a thought............

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