The phone rang. It was Jayvee Vallejera, the editor of the Saipan Tribune. “I’ve talked it over with the publisher, and we like your ideas, David. But we want you to be a little more controversial.”

“No way, Jayvee.” I proposed to write this weekly column because I wanted to make the world a better place. Pick up a newspaper on any given day and you find catastrophe, tragedy, corruption, crime and other anxiety provoking news. I wanted to share news or knowledge that might make someone happier or healthier. I wanted to share ideas that might touch a heart, a mind, a soul. I wanted to tell some stories that might make someone laugh, just to laugh. Or maybe help someone change in some small way. “There’s already enough controversy in the paper, Jayvee. This is something different. Work with me on this.”

I think Jayvee was reluctant, but he agreed, and the weekly column, Better Living was born in November 2004. This book is a collection of the favorite columns from those first few years.

I live on an island in the South Pacific – a place of romantic idealizations. An island is a paradise, but it is also a highly compressed universe. Everything is close together. The depth of the island’s beauty is obvious as you gaze into her eyes, but so too is the piece of spinach stuck between her teeth. They are both unavoidable. How you respond to the spinach is what defines your experience. And this holds true not just on an island, but anywhere.

Many of these columns deal with the issues that arise in this compressed universe. I strive to lend a new perspective to them. My intent has been to open minds to new ideas and possibilities. For this reason I rarely mention the specific issues at hand. By not getting lost in the details of the issues, I hope that the readers would focus on the underlying principles, in a calmer, deeper way. Some of the columns deal with health, medicine, and well-being. Others are simply stories to entertain.

The columns that I’ve chosen for this book are the ones that people enjoyed the most – the ones that people would stop me in the grocery store to say, “I loved your column this week.” Rather than try to organize them by topic, I’ve left them in the order they were written. I haven’t attempted to provide any context or explanation, trusting that the ideas are universal, and that you can get a sense of what must have been going on in the community to merit the ink.

As I approached the end of the first year of writing these columns, the Northern Mariana Islands Council for the Humanities came to believe that my writing was doing something to promote the humanities on our islands. In 2005 the Council took what must have been an unusual step, and awarded me – a doctor and a newspaper columnist – a Governor’s Humanities Award, naming me “Outstanding Humanities Teacher.” I was deeply honored. Nevertheless, it has not been lost on me that for all my profound commentary and erudite exposition, for all my delving into history, philosophy, ethics, culture, comparative religion, sociology, psychology, government, health and economics, the column that is re-read the most, and appears to have changed more lives than any other, is the one that explains how to make yogurt.

Once in a while, someone wonders what makes me write on such a broad range of topics. Well, I’m a doctor, so I suppose it’s natural for me to write about health and medicine. I’m a Bahá’í, which leads me to spend some time each day consciously thinking about self-improvement, peace, civilization and the things that relate to the planet’s spiritual and social organization. The themes are on my mind, and they leak out onto the page. The rest of the stuff – the silly stuff – is just evidence of the futility of keeping the inner goofball contained.

David Khorram
Saipan, Mariana Islands

What's the Book About? (The Back Cover)
Acclaim for the Book

Foreword - Kirk Johnson, PhD

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