It’s about the cats.
Spring break is in session. Chicago is not doing a very good impersonation of Spring. But after having coffee with one of our favorite writers we took even more public transit out to Wilmette to see this:
Hard to beat a combination of a glorious city, the greatest of God’s furry creatures, and the Turks who care for Istanbul’s felines.
The trip started in Istanbul (I write from Izmir fka Smyrna). We saw the spectacular Aya Sophia, the former Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, and now a museum. The patron of the current building was Justinian I, the last emperor to speak Latin. Though churches were on the site from the late fourth century, the current Byzantine design was a product of builders’ efforts between 532 and 537.
One feature that stood out in the tour guide’s comments, reinforced by the architecture, was that this was a church for the emperor. He had a grand door to enter the sanctuary and he alone of the laity went into the sacred space. The empress had a view of the proceedings from the balcony. And the rest of the city’s Christians had to stand outside in the narthex.
To a citizen of the United States and a Reformed Protestant to boot, the idea of a facility like this being reserved for the worship needs of one man seems a tad excessive. I understand emperors were big kahunas and needed special care and feeding. But this?
And then I remembered a comparable dome in the United States where the father of a certain country is deified. That got me to thinking that we moderns are not that more skeptical about rank and privilege that the ancients were. And when you remember that Justinian was not depicted as a god the way that George Washington is, you wonder just how much the modern nation-state has abandoned the pieties of ancient kingdoms.
I have arrived with the better half and a contingent of Hillsdale College faculty and students in Istanbul. We will be touring Asia Minor and seeing where the early Christians lived, moved, and worshiped their maker. So far, we are still in Europe — that part of Istanbul in the West.
So far the trip has presented few complications. In fact, a stroll after dinner to a nearby park tonight disclosed a pack of cats that were as beautiful as they were feral. The biggest problem so far has been getting health insurance companies to pay for the pills that prevent Malaria. The Mrs.’s insurer ruled specifically that her plan did not cover prophylactic medications. That suggests that a more expensive plan might cover the prescription. But if my wife contracts Malaria, won’t it cost the insurance company more for her annual treatments? So a lower priced plan should actually cover the Malaria medication. By the way, my own plan, which did cover the pills, only knocked about 30 percent off the price.
Which raises the question of why we have health insurance. I’m sure many have heard the comparison that we don’t buy car insurance to pay for tune-ups and oil changes. So why do we need the insurers to monitor all of our regular physical maintenance? I get it about life-threatening medical treatments. None of us can afford the six-figure bill that might come with surgery and chemotherapy. But why should the insurance companies take a cut of the cost of ordinary health care? Why not let people like me pay for doctors appointments and regular prescriptions right out of pocket, directly to my physician or pharmacist, the way we do with auto mechanics and auto supply companies?
Mind you, this is no brief for national health insurance. If the private companies have already mucked up medicine I can’t imagine the feds doing anything but adding to the inconvenience.
Granted, if we only had insurance for life-threatening diseases or injuries people who now don’t have health insurance would continue to use emergency rooms at hospitals for basic treatment. But if that were the case, just imagine what a service Roman Catholic and other religious hospitals could provide (along with a public relations windfall). Instead of having to offer a full range of medical services, they could simply offer medical treatment to the indigent. And their development officers might also be able to raise funds for some kind of insurance that would cover their patients when they have to send them to the hospitals with all the bells and whistles.