By Dr. Pierre Bland
Growing up I attended St Paul AME Church in Clinton,GA and I remember the gospel choir’s rendition of “Walk on by Faith Each Day.” The song laid out the benefits and tenants of Faith and leading a life there of on a daily basis. That song has stuck with me because during the period I was hearing it at least bimonthly, I was also making the decision and laying the foundation to become a man of science. Somehow I always thought I could be of science or of faith but never both, at least not without one being more dominant. In making the choice, I always felt a great deal of guilt and some shame. It seemed everyone had faith. I was just one of those who seemed not possess as much as the rest of my family. Faith was and has been challenging for me.
Throughout my life I have always prayed and respected religion, but never practiced it to the point it was obvious I was religious. I was just that guy who knew a lot about religion. I even won a $20.00 bet in college because I could recite the Apostles Creed from memory. The fact I was able to do so was interesting on two counts: we recited it during Sunday School and church every week so it is engrained in my memory if not a part of me and I likely violated several tenants of the Creed in winning the bet. Twenty bucks is twenty bucks. Science was a bit different. Science came to me easily.
For the three summers prior to my entry into veterinary school, I worked at a peach and vegetable cannery near my childhood home. It was hot, hard, manual labor and the social structure of the work place was as close a replica of the Jim Crow south as could possibly exist in the early 80’s. My co-workers those three summers were good people. Although they were African American, hardworking, and poorly educated, they were in no way stupid. Some of my greatest life lessons were conveyed by their words and examples. Though they relentlessly teased me for the way I spoke, the magazines I read at lunch, and the way I carried myself, they just as often pulled me aside to encourage my academic pursuits and goals. I may have been a geek, but I was their geek. Once a visiting quality control supervisor asked if any of us “workers” knew why some of the canned products swelled while in the warehouses and the resulting biologic dangers. To make a point, I offered a concise and accurate explanation, including the danger of botulism. The supervisor was dumbfounded as one my coworkers proudly declared “ Didn’t know you would be dealing with a college educated Nigger, did you.” For the first time I saw how my command of science could be a point of pride for myself and also others.
Science has always been a huge part of my life, allowing me to have a career and make a living, faith has always been a part of my life but a definite journey of growth and discovery. While on that journey, I realized my perception of science and faith are not as diametrically opposed as initially thought. While we have a tendency to marvel at the talents and gifts of others we tend to see the similarities in relation to those of our own.
I have marveled more than once at Rev. Patrick as he thumbs through a Bible and finds the chapter and verse cold, similar to the way I do much the same with my reference books , or Rev. Durrell comments as to how I was able to remember the anatomy as I placed an IV catheter in the arm his cat, while in turn I wonder how he remembers bible verses and their proper context. I think these events demonstrate the obvious similarities of science and faith: they are both based on truth; studied, learned, known, and assumed. The truth of science is quantitative, based on the collection of facts used to reach a conclusion. The truth of faith is based on the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. Those truths are manifested in time through our lives and the lives of those around us. In both cases, the truth is there for the taking if proper observation and analysis is applied.
The miniscule size of a mustard seed is a scientific fact: it is fact that faith the size of a mustard seed is more than enough.
Dr Bland is a small and exotic animal practitioner in Oakland Park, FL. He can be reached@ 954 673-8579.