Season 2
49 Minutes

E73 | Dr. William Benda | How To Leave A Magical Place

Bill Benda is a seasoned emergency physician, family doctor and integrative physician. His life has been spent practicing medicine in some magical places. For a time, Bill lived in California’s Big Sur region where he served as a physician at the Big Sur Health Center and at Esalen.

In recent years, Bill has lived on South Florida’s Gold Coast where he has served as an Emergency Physician in West Palm Beach as well as an Associate Professor of Clinical Medical Bioscience at Florida Atlantic University. For the last two decades, Bill has been a passionate public advocate for integrative medicine. At 68, he is ready for more magical places and his next act.

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Dr. William Benda  00:00

I’m the dark of that lake with my fishing pole, the fishing gear with the dark tannic water and the water lilies, and the shorebirds and the sunsets and the absolute quiet. I believe that it was those hours of what turned out to be meditation that helped me settle into myself, still took many decades of searching and work before I could really consciously understand all this, but I think I just needed to get off by myself and sit there in nature. And that is how I believe I began my journey into self awareness.

Achim Nowak  00:44

Hey, this is Achim Nowak, executive coach and host of the MY FOURTH ACT podcast. If life is a five act play, how will you spend your FOURTH ACT? I have conversations with exceptional humans who have created bold and unexpected FOURTH ACTS acts, listen, and to be inspired. And please rate us and subscribe on whatever platform you are listening on. Let’s get started. I am delighted to welcome Bill bender to the my fourth act podcast bill is a seasoned emergency physician, family doctor, integrative physician. His life has been spent for a time in California’s magical Big Sur region where he served as a physician at the Big Sur Health Center. In recent years, Bill has returned to his home state of Florida, where he has served as an emergency physician in West Palm Beach, as well as an associate professor of clinical medical bioscience at Florida Atlantic University. Throughout his life Bill has been has had a keen passion for Integrative Medicine, and naturopathic healing. At the age of 68. Bill lives a charmed life just off of a beautiful beach in South Florida. And he’s actively contemplating his next act. So welcome, Bill.

Dr. William Benda  02:15

Thank you. It’s great to be here.

Achim Nowak  02:17

I’m so glad to speak with you. And I just just need to say that a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting you at a place where you live, which is a truly, truly enchanted place like a block from the beach, a little touch of so whimsical older Florida that’s rapidly disappearing. And you’ve had a very intriguing life that got you there. Now, when you were a young boy, your teenager, did you want to be a doctor? Was that in your consciousness? Who did you want to be?

Dr. William Benda  02:51

Great question. Because of my family dynamics, and how I was brought up in my environment, I really didn’t think much about my future, I didn’t think about what I wanted to be. I was busy intuitively and unconsciously, trying to find out who I was. There wasn’t a lot of support around me for my own identity. And so I ended up doing many things unconsciously that would bring me closer to understanding who I was. And I suppose intuitively, I knew that it wasn’t much of a point in winning what I was going to be until I found out who I was first select the work off of that construct. But I really didn’t think about my career until probably high school when it was time to graduate and go to college. Yeah.

Achim Nowak  03:44

How did you go about figuring out who you were as as a kid or teenager, you just gave us this wonderful language. But how did you do that? Well,

Dr. William Benda  03:56

as with most techniques, of trying to get in touch with yourself, it involves a sort of a meditation. Now I was a young last kid back then I had no idea what I was doing. But I would spend hours upon hours upon hours, we had a lake across the street. On the dock of that lake with my fishing pole, the fishing gear with the dark tannic water and the water lilies, and the shorebirds and the sunsets and the absolute quiet. I believe that it was those hours of what turned out to be meditation that helped me settle into myself, still took many decades of searching and work before I could really consciously understand all this, but I think I just needed to get off on myself and sit there in nature. And that is how I believe I began my journey into self awareness.

Achim Nowak  04:57

Now as I’m listening Interview I am envisioning, we had this very idyllic childhood and connection to nature, which, for most people, that also means a connection to the God or the divine. What I was also thinking about as I grew up in foreign countries, around the same years that you did it, but there was no television there. You also grew up in the golden age of American television, which was burgeoning at the time. What were you doing sitting at a lake and not watching TV at night? What’s wrong with you?

Dr. William Benda  05:29

Well, first of all, it was idyllic. In my connection to nature, the social environment around me was not quite so idyllic. But this is back in the 50s. And we had three television networks, ABC, NBC, and CBS. And maybe PBS from Miami, if you could get it on channel two with your rabbit ears. And that was it. The TV shut off at about 10 or 11, with the pattern sign on and came back on it probably seven in the morning, there was no cable. The shows were 1950 shows based on idyllic family life and comedies. Westerns, Army shows, which I really enjoyed, I enjoyed playing army. So there wasn’t a lot of educational stimulation or material that would actually change my thinking, in those programs. Plus, I just I, I haven’t owned a TV since I left my family home at age 16. Something about it, I don’t like I don’t like the constant stimulation. I don’t trust it’s it’s, I feel that it’s takes away from our capability of looking inward and figuring things out for ourselves and developing our intuition and our instinct, if we’re always being constantly told what to do, what to think what to buy. And I knew if I watched it, I would get hooked up in that drug as well. So, so I stayed away from it.

Achim Nowak  07:00

I salute you for that fortitude. How did you decide that you did want to be a doctor, which in my mind requires lots of dedication, lots of hard work.

Dr. William Benda  07:19

Well, I was blessed with a good brain. And I was also kind of a nerdy overweight kid as I when I was young. So I did very well in elementary school, junior high school and high school, the top of my class, and spectrum in high school, we had these things called guidance counselors, and my guidance counselor who was a wonderful woman and my mother got together and decided I was going to be a doctor and not knowing any better or any different or having any other viewpoint, I decided to go along with it. So I applied to Duke University and was accepted for a four year undergraduate program. And at that time, since I was going to be a doctor, I took all the pre med courses. That being said, these were the early 70s 71 to 74. And it was the height of the hippie culture, which I partook of really had an appreciation for some of the purity of thought that was behind it. And some of the rejection of the capitalistic culture that was behind it. Even though it was rife with immaturity and arrogance and foolishness. There was a certain purity of thought and intention behind it that I was drawn to. And I got to be average in college, but it wasn’t good enough to apply to medical school. So I took another five, six years off, came back to my hometown right here. I first became a lifeguard on the beach. And then our local fire department started the paramedic program, which was a very unusual thing in those days, there are only several in the country. And so I applied for and became a paramedic firefighter, which introduced me to the field of Emergency Medicine, and actually the field of medicine itself. And that has influenced the rest of my career. Now just add to the end of that, that after five or six years with the fire department, I realized this is dead end for me. So I went back and studied we took the med boards, reapply to med school and was accepted at the University of Miami. And that’s how I ended up actually becoming a doctor.

Achim Nowak  09:17

As you’re speaking, you know, you mentioning the soldier and you had before you went to med school, the activities you’re engaged in again, I hear I see. They watch television show, which you probably don’t know, or i i see the firefighting TV shows I these are the heroic professions, even though reality may be very different. And if I want to make a little leap, I’m struck by the fact that you’ve spent a bunch of time doing emergency medicine, which is again, even though you don’t watch TV people see that’s what the TV shows do like that’s the sexy part of being a doctor and the heroic part, right? Yeah, there’s any of those connected in your mind at all.

Dr. William Benda  09:58

They’re not real it. I mean, there is small doses of heroism, heroism is when you do something that you don’t want to do, because it’s the right thing to do. So if I walk into cardiac arrest in the emergency room, and I give all the appropriate medications and run it the right way, and the person comes back and walks out of the hospital two weeks later, that’s not heroic. I took my job. Now as a firefighter, and I walked into a burning building, that was sort of heroic, but not really, because that’s what I signed up for it. I’ve heard about these shows, er, and they will fire shows, and now you don’t have sex in the closets. And everyone’s not beautiful. And it’s not nonstop. But you know, critical situations. You know, back in the 70s, there was a show called emergency, which was the first show about paramedics that was much more accurate than shows today. Now, it’s not that way.

Achim Nowak  10:58

While since you’ve had a long and really impressive journey in medicine. If you if you had to give us a snapshot of the first thing, the first. The first job you had as a physician, where was that? What were you doing there? And did you like it? Or did you not like it? What was that like to finally be a doctor somewhere?

Dr. William Benda  11:26

Well, the first job I had was after my residency at Harbor UCLA in Los Angeles, I stayed on the faculty of that academic program for a few years as Director of Emergency Medicine services. And that’s teaching and having a job, but it was sort of like the training. So I’m not gonna count that. Yeah. Take your question and turn it a little bit and say, what is the first really important job that I have? I’ve worked in a lot of jobs. I just went through the motions did the right thing. And that was that. But think the first so I’ll go back to my training. I think that during my residency, I trained in a county hospital, I’ve worked in several county hospitals, since in California County Hospital is one where you have all the indigent, poor, mental health, addicted alcoholic people, along with all of the other clientele. And that exposed me to the undercurrent of American society. And that was a huge, important education for me, my mother, God bless her, taught us to be colorblind, we didn’t grow up in a household with any bias or prejudice whatsoever. So I got to see all of these people in all these situations, from a more clean perspective, and I got a feeling of what’s the social construct of this country in the world really is about, it’s not about corporations, and it’s not about television shows a common humanity, a common connection of empathy, and pain, and joy that connects us all. That unfortunately, I think we lose track of in our jobs. But when you’re in a county hospital, and you are figuring out what to do with the situation as these people bring you, then you start to really appreciate what other people go through. So I think that was my first real job as far as growing as a physician. So hope that answers that question.

Achim Nowak  13:25

Well, where were my thoughts went and I don’t want to label it is that did that experience help you become a more empathetic human being because you met on people whose lives were different from yours, and you had a chance to be a helper, right?

Dr. William Benda  13:46

I was born and cursed to be a healer, helper, whatever it is, it’s my fifth act is no way I’m going to be someone who I’m not going to be providing a service. It’s just it’s in grains and meat in particular. I think it’s ingrained in all of us. But that definitely taught me how to connect with people. But it also taught me how privileged I was just to be goof off, and what people actually have to go through. And if I was in their position, I would probably do the same thing they did to bring them to my emergency film. It’s I think those of us who work in a field where we work with the underserved and the outcast, learn that we learn to not judge. Yeah, it’s not a judgment right out of us. I met I judge rich people and corporations and politics all the time. But I don’t really judge people who are just trying to make it in the world.

Achim Nowak  14:55

You judge the oppressors, but not the oppressed is that which is a

Dr. William Benda  14:58

Yeah, I do. Thank you. Yeah,

Achim Nowak  15:03

there are so many doors we could walk through in the conversation right now. And the one thing that strikes me about just what I know about your story is you. We were connected through a mutual acquaintance who is out in the Big Sur area, you lived in Monterey in the Big Sur area for a while in my mind. That’s this sexy, primal, beautiful part of California. It’s addictive, and then giving you all the cliches. How did you ended up in that part of California? And why did you hang out there for as long as you did?

Dr. William Benda  15:42

Well, this relates to my early childhood, because as I went through all my training in Los Angeles, medical training, as you mentioned, is rigorous. Yeah. And it takes one away from being with oneself, if you’re always focusing on protocols and paradigms and diseases and treatments, and there’s not really a time to stop and just feel yourself. So all of the difficulties I felt during my early years, came bubbling to a head. At the end of my training, I just didn’t know what to do, I was getting very depressed. So I heard of this place, called the Esalen Institute, in Big Sur, and I decided to go take a week long workshop there. And that is where I met Ellen, our mutual friend actually had a relationship with her for a couple of years, and decided that LA was not the place for me and I had to go somewhere and Big Sur was as healing a place as I could possibly find. And in some respects, that was true. So Big Sur, it’s a fascinating place. It’s, I think it’s feminine. I think it’s a woman energy there, but either Big Sur, takes you in and nurture shoe or boot you out immediately. Some people go there and their house burns down, the road falls in their car gets stolen and they lose their job, then that’s supposed to be there. I had the great fortune of showing up there. And spending probably almost 15 years there and being taken care of by the environment. So I guess I went there for the right purpose. And I lived on a mountain with my Labrador retriever, and not really any neighbors. It’s an out of town. There’s the Big Sur community around but that’s 2000 People maximum two hills, and the Esalen Institute was a few miles south down the road. And I became their unofficial physician, which gave me unfettered access to the place. So I spent a lot of years at Esalen Institute, as part of the community taking workshops, listening to leaders, listening to lectures, soaking in the bath, eating the food, doing a few foolish things. But that’s how I ended up there. And I know your next question is probably going to be so why did you leave?

Achim Nowak  18:04

No, it’s not I want to think well hang on. For the listener who has not heard of Esalen Institute, it’s really a seminal place of in the history I think of American personal growth, development where Eastern and Western thought met each other. And again, for a while in the 60s it was definitely attract a lot of celebrities, your earlier joking about sex, drugs and rock and roll and it was had a little bit of that wild reputation as well and the middle of it a place of deep personal exploration. And the other thing is, if anybody was to Google, just some photos of SLN the nature and the beauty is just jaw dropping there. So you hung out that community for a while you’ll learn about yourself you were embraced, you also had a formal role as your informal role. As a physician. She just went back and thought of a moment or two that you go, these moments really stand out for me. When I think of these moments, I go, wow, how blessed was I to be there, like what moments come to mind?

Dr. William Benda  19:21

Well, the most frequent moments was sitting in the mineral baths, which naturally come out of the mountain and watching the sunset over the Big Sur coast and or at nights. Every nights when there’s no fog, you have the entire Milky Way at your disposal every single night. So just those moments and nature absolutely made me feel gratitude for where I was. There were also several people I met some workshop leaders, some community members who embodied what I was looking for. Those who were very wise and very talented. And there were times when I was in their presence or taking a workshop from them that I realized how fortunate I was. Whenever I Yes, I realized the entire time I lived there how fortunate I was to be there, have great gratitude for Big Sur as, as an entity. Actually, the Esalen Institute was considered holy ground by the SLN Indians, for whom it is named. It’s been a holy place in Native American culture for a long, long time.

Achim Nowak  20:32

I so appreciate your use of the word holy, holy ground. And and I think that there’s so many different meanings we can all attribute to that word and what it is, where my mind was going. You alluded earlier about how some jobs you had where you just went through the motions, and some you did not like, and as a physician, emergency room physician, wherever you are. Is it possible to have similar holy experiences through the work that you do? Or we do? Is that possible?

Dr. William Benda  21:11

Yes. Yes. And this took some time to develop. Because during my early training years, and my early years out in the world working, it was all about the excitement and the trauma and the heart attacks and the things that you could jump in and get your hands into and do some make some major interventions. But then I began to learn as all that became old, because it all becomes old. You’re told that that point, when you’re into it, will come a time when you really don’t want to do this to go, I’ll never I love this stuff, I’ll do it forever. No, it becomes old. And when it becomes old, and it’s blasting light dims down, then you can see the more subtle light of what else you’ve been doing. And there are two things that I haven’t known for. The last few years, I’ve been teaching residents in emergency medicine. And the two things I am known for is the first I can walk into a room make an instant connection with whoever it is, and they trust me immediately. And the seconds, but there’s three. The second is I know how to be there when they die. And the third is I know how to tell the family that’s it, somebody is going to die or they have died, whether it be an old person or a child, or, or anything. So those three things I have learned through all experiences I’ve had, including at Esalen. And those are the things I carry with me that I wish to continue. And I’m actually proud of where as the sewing the lacerations, I’m setting the broken bones and bringing the dead back to life. And this, I don’t want to do it anymore. I’ll do it. But it’s just, it doesn’t do it for me.

Achim Nowak  23:01

A word from your sponsor. That’s me. I invite you to go to the website associated with this podcast Fourth, you will find other equally inspiring conversation with great humans. And you will also learn more about the my fourth act mastermind groups where cool people figure out how to chart their own fourth acts. Please check it out. And now back to the conversation. Now I want to go to the question that you thought I was gonna ask you five minutes ago when you are in this stunningly beautiful place in nature. You give us a snapshot of where you live, you were accepted and embraced by a community that lived in holy ground. There were great teachers there. And at some point you you love. Why? I’m curious? Well,

Dr. William Benda  24:02

throughout my life, there have been times, usually seven to 10 years apart when this voice comes in to me and says you need to do this. And I have always obeyed that voice. I’ve always attached faulty reasoning and ambitions to that voice. Yeah, and there came a time when I just knew it was time to move back here to South Florida where I said I’d never returned because of the of the population and the building and everything. And I made that decision and interesting ly enough. That’s when there was this huge basin fire in Big Sur and Monterey County and the Institute closed for a few months. Because of their financial hit, they took the people who ran the institute decided to shift from sort of a community based you know, low key communal learning situation Until a more commercially viable, they created all the buildings, they raise all the rates on their workshops and such they wanted to attract a higher social strata of clientele. Which is not something I was interested in. And I knew I would not have left before I knew this. But now I know I would not have fits there anymore. I think life I’ve been blessed with timing. I don’t know why I didn’t develop it. But somehow my, my sense of timing has always been spot on as far as when it’s time to leave. And so I left and I came back here. Not sure why I missed the warm Atlantic Ocean, you know, like the Pacific Ocean. So understand that, yes, I miss this because I grew up in it. And so I wanted to have it back in the last part of my life. And so I just packed up grabbed my dog, and we came back. I started another chapter

Achim Nowak  26:00

Did you immediately move back to so the area where you and I met a few weeks ago, which is close to the beach and a an almost old primal beach lifestyle that is also vanishing Florida? Did you step back into that?

Dr. William Benda  26:15

As a matter of fact, if I look out the window, I see the little cottage where I lived in the 1970s. black Labrador Retriever when all the roads were dirt roads. So I actually moved back to the neighborhood I left. But yeah, I stepped right back into South Florida. It’s changed a lot.

Achim Nowak  26:35

So that I’m going to just tell a little story as an analogy, and then I want to go back to you like I I spent a year in the early 90s. And a remote island, the Caribbean Tobago was a very magical time for me. And when I was done, I felt like I was done. I had no no desire to go back. 20 years later, through a friend of mine, who was a flight attendant, he said he had a flight to Puerto Spain. Hey, calm, you have a free ticket. Let’s go back to Tobago and check it out. And what I realized is for me, I couldn’t really go back. There was a reason why I had not wanted to go back. That experience has stood us and 20 years later, the place I thought was charming and shabby. And I don’t I didn’t think it had gotten shabby or my perception had changed. So what was it like to step back into literally the neighborhood where you had grown up? Many years later? What was that like for you?

Dr. William Benda  27:32

This is a neighborhood where I spent my time as a paramedic and lifeguard. I’ve grown up a bit west of here, okay, it was relatively unchanged. And even a few people that I knew from then were still here. So it was, it was wonderful in that respect. And then I landed it in community like I had had in Big Sur. So there’s always the question, can you ever go home? Yeah, and this is my geographic home. But what I’ve discovered in my life is you can go home, you can go home several times in different places. Because Home is where you feel you belong. So I belonged in Los Angeles for my training. I belonged in Tucson for my integrative medicine training, I belonged in Big Sur, for what it gave me and I belong here. When I got back. I’m starting to have thoughts about that. Do I still belong here or not? I’m not sure that’s yet to be seen. But for me home is where I feel I’m supposed to be despite the geography, so

Achim Nowak  28:46

and what I’m thinking of as is speaking, though, is I think similarly to you, I have a good sense of timing. So part of it is knowing when to move on. And maybe a different home is calling us right. And you seem to have that which is many people don’t have that.

Dr. William Benda  29:02

It’s too frightening to think of leaving what you have now. Yeah, because it’s comfortable. And maybe you even like it, but you hear that voice, you feel that yearning, it’s time to go somewhere else go, oh, I don’t want to that’s, I don’t want to lose. I don’t want to lose this because you have to, as I say, close the door to open another one. So you have to take that risk that step.

Achim Nowak  29:27

Would you talk a little bit about your interest how your interest in integrative medicine grew you’ve, you’ve been very involved in the community. You were an associate editor of Integrative Medicine Journal. You were an associate editor of another journal that’s related, you served on some boards, so that that is a community that you you made choices to play there. So would you talk about why this matters to you or has mattered?

Dr. William Benda  29:54

It was that pesky voice again. So there I am working in the Big Sur health center And back when I first was a doctor, it was we were autonomous, we had control over what we needed to do. And no one really was over us. And then, as you may remember, the 1980s, our technology advanced, which was by definition, expensive, and therefore the insurance companies and the government through Medicare, so you’re worrying about the cost of health care, right. And that’s when corporate America stepped in and said, Hey, we’ve been doing this for a long time, we know how to do it. And just let us do it. And you can keep your autonomy and you can keep the data you want, and you still make your money, which is secure the business part. And we knew that was a bad idea. That was bad idea that we did it anyway. And as the years have gone by, corporate medicine has taken over our practice, no matter what we do, I have a graph from the Department of Bureau of Statistics or something at the US government, the number of physicians between 1970 and today has grown by 100%. And the number of administrative people in healthcare has grown by 3,000%. Everything feeds that 3,000%. And we get the triple down leftovers. And it’s just not that much fun anymore to have to meet metrics and follow protocols and algorithms. And you always look over your shoulder. Hopefully, the younger people training now just used to it. So it’s not going to bother them much. But it’s becoming unbearable for many of us. And so back in the year 1998, I was starting to feel this and a friend of mine I had trained in emergency medicine with I was talking to him and he says, Well, now I just I’m going to enter this new fellowship in Tucson at the University of Arizona under this guy, Andrew Weil, called the program and integrative medicine, and it combines conventional medicine and alternative medicine. And that’s when that light went off. And that voice popped up in meeting and said, Okay, you have to go do this. And it was a struggle for me to to get there and do the program. But I did go there and do the program is a two year residential fellowship, where we were exposed to homeopathy and botanical medicine, chiropractic, massage therapy, various other conventional therapies. And that’s when I learned that there was a different way to look at the field of taking care of another person. I’d always known it was there. But since all my training had been kind of conventional techniques, that’s why I thought it was I hadn’t, I hadn’t really understood what else there was to do. So I spent two years there in the fellowship, I stay two more years, I did research on the effects of physical therapy on horseback with children with cerebral palsy, and publish that did some political work. And then spent the next 10 to 15 years not practicing this kind of medicine. Frankly, it bores me to death. But I was fascinated by how it was affecting American culture. So I got involved, journalistically, academically, politically, I got a good feel for what this is all about and where it was going, which is another whole story.

Achim Nowak  33:23

I know you’ve been in recent years, working as an emergency physician in West Palm Beach. And what I’m thinking is you spent two years with Andrew Weil, you will learn a lot of integrative approaches. Are you able to put any of that into practice in that environment? Or are those really separate worlds that don’t actually come together? Even though it would be wonderful if they did?

Dr. William Benda  33:50

Perfect? You just delineated why I left? Because the answer to your question is no. I mean, there are clinics and specialties where you can do that cancer, one really makes a lot of good use of that. Family Practice can make good use of it all sorts of things that make good use of it, not emergency medicine simply by the fact that we are patients and our problems we have, you’ve got a few minutes to deal with it, fix it, that made them or send them home. We don’t have this capability or time to do it. However, I knew intuitively when I entered it, integrative medicine, that the key to having this actually work in this country was to find a way to take the conventional system, which kind of rejected alternative things and the alternative system, which frankly, reject the conventional medicine just as badly and you got to bring them together. And since those of us in the fellowship were MDs, MDS and iOS grand into the into the program. It was kind of our job to do that. So many of the graduates went off and joined a family medicine residency somewhere and brought in that teaching, and started to integrative medicine within academic centers or even even private centers. But as I said, I don’t have any interest in practicing that. So I tried to do it politically. So I joined a number of boards of the unconventional therapy, specifically naturopathic medicine, and tried for quite a few years to convince these two sides, that the only way through was to actually accept each other, learn about each other and work together. And I landed, I failed, there’s still way too far apart. So at that point, just I couldn’t make a living doing what I was doing, I was doing it for the love of it. I decided, Okay, it’s time to shift back into taking care of myself and finding whatever the next chapter was. So I left all the conference speaking and lecturing, and the writing, for the most part of writing. And I went back to the practice of Emergency Medicine.

Achim Nowak  36:04

Integrative Medicine, to me is just a no brainer, you know, and I have a long history of dealing with my own medical issues. And I have had every kind of practitioner take care of me for which I’m very grateful on every side of the professional spectrum. So I have a great appreciation for what it is. But when you look to the future Are you hopeful about integrative medicine? Are you cynical and jaded? How do you see the future?

Dr. William Benda  36:40

Yes, I am all of those hopeful. Our current system has to fail. It has to die has to crash and burn, you know, with or without integrative medicine in the sidelines. It’s it can’t continue like this. It just can’t. If that happens, and there’s enough wisdom on the integrative side, to come in and help rebuild. Yeah. I have great hope. My cynical and jaded. Yeah. And I mean, 45 years in emergency medicine to make anyone jaded as to as to life. But there’s hope. We’ll see what happens.

Achim Nowak  37:29

So when you look at your own life right now, where you are, again, and I have had the privilege of visiting you at your beach path, so I know you, you live a life that thing has all is full of like modern amenities, but it has an old, rustic olden time charm, you’re close to the beach. It’s a life that many people would envy. And at the same time, I have a sense that there are other things you want to explore that you’re open to other things that connected to your desire to be a helper, would you explain, you have any hunches of what other things you might wish to explore?

Dr. William Benda  38:12

Not professionally, at this point, I realized at this stage of my life, I am probably at least two thirds to three quarters through. And these last 20 years or so 25 years need to be for me to finish up whatever journey I started for myself. I one thing that weighs on my mind these days is our political situation. And I have certain fears about what may happen after the next two election cycles. And being a good emergency physician. We always troubleshoot what’s going on and come up with different options. And so I want a plan B in case I honestly don’t want to be here anymore. And that would involve being probably some other country territory, Island or something where there would be a full time move, or it would be just another option waiting for me. I don’t know I’m exploring that right now. But something tells me that I need to get back to a place that’s much more low key on the ocean. And a place that perhaps I can be honest escape to if necessary. And it’s a community and I can provide a service. And in places like this, they usually don’t have a doctor so I could provide a service as well. And I think I may have found a real potential place. I think since I talk to you. Start your way. That’s what we were talking about back then. Much, much closer, but I think I may have found that past a possibility. So I’m starting to feel excited again about about the next year or two. But I think we have to wait and see what happens over the next two to five years. I don’t think I don’t see how any of us can make any plans, or know how we’re going to be or feel want to do until we can get through this crisis that we are going through. That’s beyond my comprehension. I still don’t get it. I still don’t get why is this happening? I don’t get it. So I think we’ll come to some sort of a resolution in the next few years, not many. But I have no clue what it would be. If it could go either way.

Achim Nowak  40:37

I trust that your sense of timing will stay intact. The other thing that really struck me as you were describing what and next place that would both feed your soul, but also give you a sense of I’m gonna restore a piece for you feel free to give me a piece or calm or home in the middle of a storm as you described it. To me, it sounded like it’s a it’s another version of SLN, but in a different time in a different place. And it doesn’t have to look like SLM, but it has some of the elements that you describe as you were describing that experience. I mean, am I hearing that correctly?

Dr. William Benda  41:22

Yes, absolutely. It’s another version of that of the lake Ida, where I sat as a child and fished for untold hours at a time. It is, and it’ll be home. Yeah, the home because it’s where I feel at home. But I’m tired. And today’s issues really need to be addressed primarily by younger, more energetic people with still hold a lot of the passion of of the youth. And I have faith in them. I know they’re out there. But there does come a time where people become elders. And in prior cultures, they were revered, honored, and not shipped out to some nursing home. But I’m entering that phase, I don’t have the physical, mental or emotional energy anymore to enter a major battle. I don’t

Achim Nowak  42:19

Well, because part of your recent stage of work has been you have an image emergency in an emergency room, but you’ve also been teaching leading supporting residents, right. So you have been an almost classic elder role, which is a mentor to the next generation. And that’s true. Do you have a sense that your wisdom experience, longevity was was respected?

Dr. William Benda  42:47

And oh my god, yeah. So it was a brand new program. I started it when it was brand new. So we taken six residents a year for three years, that’s 18 at a time. And I didn’t have all of the recent scientific knowledge that the younger faculty had, and they were in their 30s and 40s. But I did bring my experience and my what I’ve learned about myself, and I was the most beloved faculty there, I’ll just go ahead and say it’s got awards they give at the end of the year for a year, and they just knew they were getting something from me about life. Even though a lot of what I said contradicted what the academic and corporate world are telling them, but they just knew is something they’ve needed. They were hungry for. So now was I respected and adored by the administrative people, not a bit. Not a bit, I actually had to leave just this past June, because it was just getting too difficult to be there. But the students and residents, it was wonderful. I missed them terribly. They still come by here. They ride your bikes by and stuff by for a beer. But absolutely the youth of our country, especially the ones like these were intelligent and have enough moral compass to go into a field where they can help people they are hungry. For the old philosophies, they are hungry for the old stories, they are hungry for things that have been taught throughout the generations and ages. Because it’s intrinsically in their genetic makeup, they know this is what they need to thrive and to survive. So yeah, it was a great experience teaching them we it was wonderful. I will treasure it always.

Achim Nowak  44:31

So last question, when you talked about your childhood, and I saw the lake and I heard as you’d spoke about this, a young man who know whether you were totally conscious that you were a Seeker for for deeper things from meaning for all of those things from a young age. From your current vantage point, you got 68 You have a lot more stuff ahead of you. What have you learned about the meaning of Life or the mysteries of life?

Dr. William Benda  45:04

Well, let’s keep in mind during the decades, I was not self aware that I was on a search. I spent a lot of my life suffering and depression. What have I learned about life, but the most important thing I’ve learned is that I belong here, I deserve to be here. That it doesn’t really matter what somebody else thinks of me. That’s, it is essential to hang on to one sense of moral compass and, and right from wrong and to choose to do the right thing, despite the consequences. I have learned that there is some underlying entity deity, energy force, whatever, I’m I’m of the many paths one mountain philosophy of spirituality. Everyone’s pretty much trying to find the top of that mountain, whether they’re Muslim, Jew, Christian, or whatever. atheist, agnostic, I think they’re still trying to find up that mountain, they just, they reject existing religions. And I can see why because existing religions can be bad, sometimes do bad things. But everyone’s somewhere inside seeking that now, whether it’s so smothered by by their environment, in the circumstances that it doesn’t pop out, or whether it’s part of their whole reason for existence. I’ve learned that I’ve learned that we are here to serve, serve to take care of others. I have. Honestly, I’m not a practicing Christian. I did go to Lutheran School for eight years that Jesus had it down. Forget the Old Testament, but Jesus had it down. That is, why we are on the planet. The Sermon on the Mount everything that God bless them, a lot of the Christian faiths total, if you don’t follow that we are here to forgive, we are here to take care of each other to care, the least of us, take care of the children. We are here to offer ourselves in service. And only through that, do we end up finding who we are as a person?

Achim Nowak  47:31

Thank you so much for the gift of this conversation bill. It was a complete pleasure to catch

Dr. William Benda  47:37

up, it resonates with somebody out there listening, I haven’t really done anything. Like some people do in their lives. That’s That’s enormous and spectacular and benefit for mankind. But I’ve helped a lot of people extrapolate it once on my patients I’ve had I think it’s about 90,000. So I know I’ve made a difference in a lot of those lives. And there’s godless Christianity. I haven’t, I think I think I’ve got a ticket. And so it’s been a pleasure seeing you again and talking to you again. And thank you for delving into my personal history because it’s done a lot for me just to review it and think about it again. So thanks to you as well.

Achim Nowak  48:19

It was my pleasure. Bye for now. Take care. Like what you heard, please go to my fourth And subscribe to receive my updates on upcoming episodes. Please also subscribe to us on the platform of your choice. Rate us give us a review and let us all create some magical fourth acts together. Ciao


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