Inside the Book – Preface

As I look back on more than a half-century of life, I realize that I‘ve been happy—truly, deeply happy—almost all of the time. My good fortune has made me ask: ―Why me? Why have I had such a happy and fulfilling life? Was it luck? Good genes? My conservative upbringing? Or something that I did or learned later in life?

Finally, why am I so comfortable with differences, particularly the differences in belief that cause discord worldwide? I‘ve learned to stand between opinions, not at the extremes, in order to see all sides of an issue, and this approach, if applied on a global scale, would undoubtedly lead to greater peace, tolerance, and concern for everyone. Yet this philosophy of life—choosing the middle ground rather than a position closer to one of the extremes—is rare. Why?

And why has it been difficult for me to accept beliefs that seem to come so easily to others? Even now, at an older age, I‘m still not sure about some of the issues that have long since been decided by most people, including questions about God, religion, complex political and social problems, and the best way to live one‘s life.

This book answers these questions—and more. It was written mainly during a three-year period when I worked in South Korea (2006 to 2009), and it describes the long journey I‘ve taken from my roots as a conservative Christian American to a centrist Buddhist and citizen of the world. The format comprises short narratives, all of which are true (some narratives combine unrelated events to protect the identity of characters in the book), followed by a brief discussion of the lessons that I learned, and as often as not, the mistakes that I made. The events involve some of the most memorable times of my life—organized not chronologically, but rather by the lessons I learned—and they take in my experiences as a child and then as a husband and father, physician, businessman, and world traveler. The cast of characters includes my wife, Chris; our three children, Michael, Lisa, and Elizabeth; my parents and in-laws; and my brother Bill. Also appearing are friends and acquaintances from around the world (all of whose names have been changed).

As a point of clarification, there is no intent to convince readers that they‘re wrong about some of their most fundamental beliefs. Rather, the goal is to suggest that, in some cases, they may not be right. This is a subtle distinction, to be sure, but one that has far-reaching implications for how we view the world and our place in it.