I recently accompanied my husband on an international visit to Costa Rica. Dental tourism was our purpose, and we chose for our first few nights’ lodging a posada, housing only 25 persons at full capacity. This former grand-villa-transformed-into-B&B lent itself to a unique experience. The public living quarters, open-air courtyard, well-groomed gardens, romantic, Spanish architecture set the stage for meaningful human interaction unlike anything we had experienced when staying in larger hotels with hundreds of guests.
Daily conversations with travelers from every corner of the world were commonplace. Soon I noticed a theme emerge from the interpersonal connections, a golden thread crossing the vast range of age, culture and continents: a yearning for the transcendentals of life. [ In classic, philosophical terms, transcendentals refer to the true (verum), the good (bonum), and the beautiful (pulchrum), often described as unseen realities which are discovered from what is seen.]
The first day, an elegant octogenarian speaking English with a charming French accent announced to me that she had decided to extend her two week vacation an additional month. Her adult children back home in Canada would need to “stop fussing.” “I found a paradise I don’t want to leave!” she exclaimed sipping a glass of Argentinian wine while listening to classical music played from her travel-sized SOUNDBOT. She summarized, “This place feeds my soul and gives me peace.”
I mused: transcendentals!
The following day, a gentleman of 40 years chatted with me pool-side about his adventuresome travel from Africa to London and then the final twenty hours journey to the posada. He was eager for a listening ear to unload his travel story and his burdened heart. “Me Dad’s had a stroke, and work is HARD! I needed to renew. The beauty here is magical, no?” he gestured toward the horizon of palm trees and purple-hued, volcanic hills rejuvenating his spirit. Ahh, transcendentals!
Even the innkeeper shared his personal story of meeting his wife in France, starting a family in his native Norway before coming to Costa Rica. “I worked two jobs and long hours before realizing I had no patience for the very things most precious to me – my wife and children!” So, he restructured his life to provide for his family in a way that he never left “home” to go to work. Seeking the deeper meaning in life is also a quest for transcendentals!
Bernard Nathanson, M.D. had a similar encounter moving from what is seen to what is unseen after an ultrasound image of a 16-week-old baby girl in the womb allowed him to glimpse not simply MATTER (as in cells and human tissue), but what mattered, the hidden VALUE intrinsic to something.
It’s not unusual for an obstetrician/gynecologist today to see 3D, even 4D images via ultrasound. But, in 1973, when Dr. Nathanson first experienced what he called “a window into the womb”, real-time ultrasound was a new invention. The inventors demonstrated the remarkable abilities of the equipment to Nathanson because of his prominence as Chief of Obstetrics at St. Luke’s Hospital in New York City.
What happened within a few moments changed Dr. Nathanson’s life. When he saw the child via ultrasound, what came to his mind was not faulty political rhetoric he fed to legislators, medical doctors and judges. His mind presented to him the horrors of the holocaust of World War II, and how those Nazis responsible for the mass-murder of the innocent, first stripped away the personhood of the Jewish people to justify the slaughter of the many. Nathanson then saw himself as the perpetrator of an equal injustice towards the child in the womb.
Once Dr. Nathanson saw what was unseen, that is, the value intrinsic to the human child, he changed his position on legalizing abortion on demand, a legislative prerogative he and Lawrence Lader as co-founders of NARAL (National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, now known as NARAL Pro-Choice America) conceptualized and brought to birth in the United States in under five short years (1967 – 1973). Many do not know this dramatic reversal of Nathanson’s position as father of the industry of abortion happened just months past the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
In his letter to the Colossians, St. Paul directs his audience to, “Set your minds on things above, rather than on things that are of earth,” [Col 3:2] looking for the True the Good and the Beautiful, beyond what is seen with the naked eye to what is unseen. Yet, “unseen” does not translate to unreal or intangible as anyone who loves or hates or hopes or breaths can attest.
If our nation more readily acknowledged the hidden, yet intrinsic value of each child nestled in his or her mother’s womb and embraced these transcendental realities, legislative protection under the law for every child born or unborn would be non-negotiable.
Clare Ruff currently serves as
Director of Events and Outreach for
the Hosea Initiative, an educational,
prolife, non-profit, and writes from her
home in southeastern Minnesota.