Stress, Truth, And The Voice Of Reason (Part 3)

by Doc Orman, M.D.

Stress, Truth, And Reason Part 3This week, I’ve been focusing on the relationship between stress, truth, and the ability to reason, by highlighting the life and wisdom of the late Ron Smith (1941-2011), beloved Baltimore radio talk show host, also known as “The Voice Of Reason,” who died from pancreatic cancer at the age of 70 in December of 2011.

Ron hosted a daytime radio talk show in Baltimore, starting in 1985, where he earned the title “The Voice Of Reason” because of his honesty, thoughtfulness, depth of knowledge, fairness, and respect for both his callers and guests, regardless of their political leanings or opposing points of view.

Excellence In Reasoning

In my first post this week, I briefly summarized Ron’s career and showed how loved and respected he was by most of his listeners.

Then, in my second post, I highlighted one of his best thinking skills—his ability to take all sorts of complex, difficult current event topics, and quickly boil them down to one or two key fundamental issues. 

Today, I want to focus on another of Ron’s many high-level thinking skills—his ability to think historically, and to take complex contemporary problems, boil them down to key fundamental issues, and then trace those same issues throughout human history.

Simplify, Then Clarify

Ron Smith was an avid reader and a self-made student of human history and human nature.  He frequently would recommend books that he liked to his listening audience, and many of these were profoundly insightful and historical in their scope.

I remember getting and reading several of these books, on Ron’s recommendation, such as:

  • The Forgotten Soldier, by Guy Sajer
  • The Great Reckoning, by James Dale Davidson and Lord William Rees-Mogg
  • Red Odyssey, by Marat Akchurin
  • Hazardous Duty, by Colonel David H. Hackworth

Ron’s recommendations never failed to deliver on their promise.  I always learned something, or experienced something, I had never appreciated before.

But his uncanny ability to tie many complex contemporary problems to frequently reoccurring historical human trends was one of the most powerful gifts he shared with his listeners.

Whether it was economic cycles that had recurrent patterns throughout history, or the housing bubble that burst almost a decade ago, or the nature of war and human conflicts, or the rise and fall of man-made institutions, or the constant evolution of human values, or the nature of superstition, or historical errors in logic and reasoning—Ron could sniff out a historical trend a mile away.

And when you combine this powerful thinking skill with his ability to quickly simplify problems down to their fundamental core elements, and then recognize historical or basic human patterns associated with these core components—well you begin to see how formidable a thinker he was.

Those of us who knew Ron Smith, and who listened to him opine so masterfully and intelligently on the public airwaves every day, know that we lost a great thought leader and really good and caring public servant.

Ron Smith cared about how we thought about not just our political problems and controversies of the day, but also about our personal issues and concerns and about how we either intelligently or not so intelligently went about living each day as best we could.

“My Work Here Is Done”

Ron accepted and dealt with his diagnosis of terminal cancer with the grace and dignity and sense of community that we had come to expect of him.

In the final days and weeks of his life, Ron received many phone calls, letters, and emails from many of his fans.  Some even traveled many miles to personally visit with him and his wife June at their home, not just to pay their respects, but to personally thank him, to his face, for all he had meant to them as individuals.

Just two weeks before he died, John Harbaugh, coach of the Baltimore Ravens pro football team, called Ron on his 70th birthday to wish him well.  They went on to have a 30-minute phone conversation, which to this day John Harbaugh calls “one of the most encouraging and motivational conversations I’ve ever had with anyone in my life.”

In addition to being on the radio airwaves, Ron also wrote a weekly column for the Baltimore Sun newspaper. In his final column, a few weeks before he died, he wrote these parting words to his loyal fans:

“What is a mere individual to do? Live as sane and decent a life as you can, love your family and friends and understand that everybody is in this together.  My work here is done.”

Team Reason

Ron’s family, friends, and professional colleagues set up “Team Reason,” which has been raising money to fund pancreatic cancer research at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, ever since Ron publically announced his diagnosis.  To make a donation to Team Reason, in Ron’s memory, please click on the link below:

Click here to donate to Team Reason

Ron’s work may well be done here…but his influence is clearly not.

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