The Catholic Medical Guild of Singapore

Driving: a means of personal formation? Posted on 16th Jun 2010, 9:05pm by admin

I was chatting with a pal of mine the other day after a CME lunch. Among the things he prided himself on (besides attending the Saturday CMEs for the lecture & not just the grub!) was the fact that he neither drove a car nor totted a mobile-phone. He proceeded to expatiate on the virtues of these practices & liberty that his renunciations afforded him. “Hear, hear!”

I egged the old chump on, though conscious of the fact that his prolixity had caused me to age a couple of hours.
But I didn’t feel so chummy when he started to dissect the characters of those who did drive & owned a mobile-phone. Well I drive (my wife up the wall sometimes!) and I do enjoy playing “snake” on my mobile phone! But at the end of his discourse, I was a little better than an imbecile, a criminal, a waster of natural resources & polluter of the environment.

I disagreed with his conjectures (especially the “imbecile” part) which though plausible were at best specious.

Like many doctors, my typical day starts at dawn and ends around midnight. With a perpetually hectic schedule of seeing patients at the clinic & no less demanding job of trying (just trying!) to be a good husband & dad on returning home, I’m left with little if any time to breathe.

Now I face a problem:
As Catholic doctors, we have a grave duty to pursue our spiritual, ascetical, professional & cultural formation as part of our vocation to personal sanctity & apostolate. But as it is, I’m already squeezed like a lemon; how on earth can I possibly steal time to form myself and without eating into the family’s time?
I’d like to share a possible solution.

I’m one of those blokes who spend about an hour daily on the road (& more when I get lost): driving to & from work as well as extricating & teleporting various permutations of wife, mum-in-law, kids & their pals from all over the map. I had long since realized that the answer had to lie in that precious one hour!

That quotidian hour of solitude must serve as my means to fulfill the plan of life that I set for myself each day, or nothing will be done at all.

There are 4 invariables stowed away in my trusty Nissan Latio (5, if you include the petrol).
1. The Roman Missal, the New Testaments & my current spiritual reading book.
2. A medical journal/textbook
3. A word-a-day vocabulary book
4. A CD library consisting of a choice of the 25-min JP2 Rosary, Theology & Medical ethics, Michel Thomas language courses.

Armed with these, I’m almost impatient (the irony!) to start my journey a little earlier, driving more calmly & slowly.

The journey begins with the Holy Rosary. The CD keeps track of the number of roses in each decade & the commentary & background music provides a conducive ambience for reflection.
Traffic stops become points to make an aspiration; churches inspire a spiritual communion; road accidents evoke a Hail Mary & a prayer to the guardian angels of the victims.

Opportunities for mortification are myriad:
– driving without turning on the air-conditioner (becomes challenging when it rains!);
– maintaining equanimity in the wake of unreasonable drivers or pedestrians (the most difficult!).
Even traffic jams become an occasion to be offered up for loved one’s intention or a patient’s recovery. (And besides they give extra minutes to imbibe more theology and revise another language from the CD’s!)

Formation: Spiritual, cultural & professional
Waiting for friends & kids who are perpetually late are no longer odious tasks. (In fact, there are times that I secretly wished they were late!) When the car is parked, I switch over from CD to book mode.
If I had not been able to do my spiritual reading that day, this is the time to catch up! The Roman Missal is there to reflect on the readings of the day.
10-15 minutes is usually sufficient for me to browse through a simple article or specific topic in my medical journal or textbook. (Oh yes, I have a pencil-case replete with highlighters & colored pens too!)
If I judge the waiting time to be short: a new word & its etymology from Verbal Advantage would satisfy me. If the word is interesting, it can be shared at the dinner table too (Besides, it gives you a chance to impress the kids with your erudition!)!

What can a few minutes do, a skeptic might scoff. Well, what a few minutes can’t do, 365 times a few minutes can! Over the years, I have managed to learn to speak basic French, Spanish, Italian & German (though much has been forgotten through desuetude!). The accumulated minutes each day enabled me to listen to Christopher West’s 14-hour Crash Course on the Theology of the Body (TOB) four times! Without ever having touched the dense text, I’d managed to learn enough TOB to share its liberating good news with others. Prof Janet Smith’s sexuality commonsense series and Peter Kreeft’s brilliant lectures have enthralled & engaged me in a way that books could not. Just 10 minutes of spiritual reading equates to 5-7 pages a day which in turn translates to 7-10 books a year! 2-4 words a week enlarge the vocabulary by 120-150 per year- not too bad at all!
The fact that all is accomplished within that one hour of apparently wasted time without encroaching on family time is a boon!

It has been 8 years since I have begun the above routine. I’ve never since turned on the radio: compared with the edifying speakers on my CD’s, the DJ’s comments & what is passed off as music these days are at best a waste of time!

Above all, I feel that sticking tenaciously to this routine (which is by no means routine!) has had a gradual but perceptible salubrious effect on me. It’s harder (but not impossible!) to get angry when one is in a prayerful mood! I even managed to smile at drivers who swerve into my lane or honk mercilessly at me & actually find myself making excuses for their temerity –“they must be in a great hurry, please look after them, my Lady” (instead of “#%@!*&!” or even “*&%$#@!<^” which should never be uttered). I find myself subconsciously parking more considerately and consciously “rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s” while tearing the tabs off the parking coupon.

The scenery suddenly becomes more beautiful and I begin to descry the intricate tapestry of Nature in what had previously been a mere scuttling blur of prosaic landscape. I find myself marveling at the pulchritude of Life and the brilliant works of man, giving silent thanks to the Principle Author of them all.

My daily journey en voiture has in no small measure helped sustain & nourish my Christian vocation.
This routine (thought by no means routine!) is now part of me, like clockwork. I delight in it and I relish the ever-new experience each day- an act of keeping presence of God, if only for an hour!

I’d like to say more, but I’ve just been summoned to pick up the kids. And you won’t surprised by my enthusiastic “yes, Dear!” will you!

~ Gabriel Seow ~

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2010 Dec: A White Christmas
2010 Dec: A Medical Christmas Carol
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2010 Oct: I Am Always With You
2010 Sept: Be Joyful Always
2010 July: Managing Expectations
2010 June: But They Are Our Masters…
2010 June: Driving: A Means of Personal Formation?
2010 May: HO Welcome Tea
2010 May: The Rain
2010 May: A Missed Lunch
2010 May: Man In The Mirror
2010 May: Reflections At The End Of The Day
2010 Apr: Finding God In All Things
2010 Mar: Surely You Put Your Trust In The Lord?
2010 Mar: The Significance of a Name

2009 Nov: Batam: Beyond A Mission
2009 Oct: The Broken Rosary
2009 Sept: Love Note To God, Father
2009 Aug: Let God Take The Wheel
2009 Aug: The Prequel: The One About Graduation
2009 July: The Sequel: The Later Months
2009 June: First Month of HO-Ship
2009 May: “The House of God” by Samuel Shem
2009 May: In The Discipleship for Christ


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