• Is Mark Louviere Healing Himself?

    • Posted on Aug 17, 2017
    The Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier published this a week ago, on August 10.  It was the first information in the area about former medical doctor Mark Louviere, who is just out of 10 years in prison for trafficking in meth.  I interviewed him at length, and boiled it down to this essay.  

    There's much more to say, and I will be following up with him as his situation evolves.  

    I've already completed a fair amount of research on his medical practice and multiple patients and colleagues who knew him before his arrest.   If any readers out there want to discuss him and his current or past situation, email me at s.cawelti@uni.edu.  I'm more than happy to continue the research.  

    Photo taken Aug. 3 at St. Vincent de Paul Warehouse in Waterloo, Iowa.  

                “Physician, heal thyself,” said hometown citizens to Jesus. By which they meant “prove you can work miracles here like you’ve done elsewhere.”  Jesus, knowing their skeptical put-down, replied, “A prophet is without honor in his own hometown.” (Luke 4: 23-24, slightly modified)

                Which brings me to former Waterloo physician Mark Louviere, now returned from a decade in prison for facilitating methamphetamine sales—part of a ring of suppliers and dealers. 

                A doctor helping supply meth? First, do harm?  It didn’t add up, and the news hit the Cedar Valley in 2007 like an E5 tornado. It devastated patients, colleagues, and friends. Some remained loyal, others turned on him, wanting nothing more to do with him or his partners.     

                 When Louviere was arrested in 2007, agents discovered over twelve pounds of methamphetamine in a neighbor’s Cedar Falls garage—street value around a million dollars.  Because Louviere stored guns in his house, they added years to his sentence—up to 100. Under the law at time, he was required to serve 33 years, and that minimum was reduced to 22 because of his guilty plea. 

                No trial. He confessed, and the details of his crime were frankly sordid and shocking.

                Louviere himself was addicted, admitting that he had lived the life of an addict toward the end.

                His 22-year sentence was further reduced to ten for good behavior, and now he’s out on work release from the Newton Correctional Facility.   Parole will follow, if all goes well, in about five weeks. 

                At his suggestion, I interviewed Louviere recently in his workplace—the Waterloo Saint Vincent de Paul warehouse.  He’s certain that he’s ready to become a contributing member of the larger community, and not necessarily as a doctor.

                I asked how he was feeling.  Since he allowed me to record him, I can quote directly.  “I feel great.  I’m happy to be out, of course. I was able to exercise every afternoon, and became a tutor for inmates earning their high school diplomas, and taught advanced math and science courses.”

                Prison was not too bad?  “I actually returned to my younger days of reading and contemplating. For the last five years, I kept track of all the books I read, and in that time, I read 687 books.  Nobel prize winners, winners of various literary awards.  I actually enjoyed that part of prison, since I had time to read and contemplate.”

                Has he transformed? “I know this sounds like a terrible cliché, but I found religion, or rather returned to my childhood belief in Catholicism.  I went to mass every Sunday, and now work four nights a week at the Catholic Worker House. For work release, I chose to work at St. Vincent de Paul, thanks to Pat Russo, who offered me a job as a computer and fundraising specialist.  I love this work, and might stay on after work release.”

                Russo, incidentally, confirms Louviere’s change, saying “He has a great work ethic, he’s deeply religious, and he’s had a positive influence on everyone.”

                 Louviere continued, “I do feel remorse, especially because I not only betrayed my family, my friends, my colleagues, and the community, I betrayed myself.”

                Why? “During that time I became someone else.  I was no longer myself, and now realize what a hypocrite I had become.”

                So, what’s next?  He hopes to find a new life.  “There are three things that I’m contemplating for my future. One of them is getting my medical license back. They would might restrict me to practicing prison medicine.  This would be an interesting thing for me.”

                “The second option would be mission work—depending on my parole officer, I might be able to work in Africa, or Haiti, or the Dominican Republic.  I don’t know what the requirements would be, but I would have the skills to be a medical worker in missions.”

                Third, “I have a very close friend who’s a nun in Dubuque, and I would happily spend a year at the New Melleray Abbey in Dubuque to continue my contemplative life.”

                Mark Louviere, the wild man, the motorcycle-obsessed free spirit of old, known for his love of wine, women, and living large?  Living a monastic life by choice?

                “They have a program at the Abbey for people who want a quiet life to decide what they want to do next. I’m considering that.” 

                 A glimmer of his old life broke through.  “I still love motorcycles.  Of course I sold them, but I still have access, and I’d like to ride occasionally, though I’ll probably never buy one.” 

                My skepticism came out most when I confronted him with a straightforward question:

    “Do you feel like you might be a sociopath, devoid of any real feeling for those you hurt?” I had heard that from several people. 

                He seemed taken aback.  “My gosh. The only thing I can say that if they knew me before I was involved in the drug culture, they wouldn’t ask.  I can tell you, once you become involved in the drug culture, your ability to make moral, spiritual, and ethical decisions becomes clouded.” 

                “During a period of time, I was still functional, but I did behave in ways I can’t justify.     I am totally, completely, and solely responsible for the decisions I made.”

                He describes himself as a changed man, ready to contribute, utterly uninterested in returning to his old life, and anxious to make a contribution that will justify his ten years of punishment. “I can guarantee you I will never, ever return to an addict’s life.” 

                In fact, he doesn’t even seek to live the good life of a wealthy doctor.  Instead, he’s content to drive his mother’s old Buick, and work in the St. Vincent de Paul warehouse.

                As we ended, he mentioned, “A guy asked me, ‘Are you a bad guy with a streak of good, or a good guy with a streak of bad?’” he laughed.  I had wondered the same.

                I’m still a bit skeptical, since newly released inmates sometimes continue a con by claiming a religious conversion.  But from what I saw and heard, he’s straight-on sincere.  

                I called two of his close recent friends, older women who drove to Newton to play cards with him nearly every weekend for years.  They spoke highly of him, and both were certain that the old Mark Louviere is gone forever.  “He’s a changed man,” they agreed, and were happy to have provided him with Christian friendship and support when he needed it. 

                He’s certainly a high-energy talker, a “hypomanic” Type A personality.  Yet he looked me right in the eye for the whole interview, and our conversation seemed entirely natural and on the level.           

                With the crucial help of his Catholicism, which he reveres, Mark Louviere may well be healing himself. 

                Now to find honor in his own hometown. 




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  • Reflections on Still Being Here

    • Posted on Jul 23, 2017

    Posted on Jul 23, 2017
    Here's this morning's Courier column--a bit more personal than I usually write, but seemed appropriate to my current state of mind, scattered as it is.  

    Last week I put my early old age behind me and moved into middle old age. 
     I turned 74.    

     Since wisdom has always been in short supply, and since elders are reputed to have access to it occasionally, I thought I’d share a few snippets, insights, and tidbits I’ve been pondering since reaching—uh—full maturity.

     Least to most crucial: 

    • Life is a race between obsolescence and retirement.  Keeping up with work-related technologies and new approaches was fun and challenging at first, then became routine, and finally just a chore.  I avoided Twitter, as should at least one other elder we know.  

    • Don’t underestimate sleep.  Most of us skimp on shuteye, using caffeine to wake up and dragging through the day wishing for more nap time.  When I miss out on sleep, I feel downright mean.   People easily mistake my sleep-deprived personality for a grumpy old man.  Normally I’m wide-awake and nice.  Mostly.   

    • Hydrate.  Here’s the single most important health advice we get. Humans’ bodies are mostly water, and we literally dry up quickly. Health issues from fatigue to cramps to headaches to constipation afflict dehydrated humans.  Drink up and I mean water only.  Boring but true.   

    • Many troubles from trivial to life-threatening are real but not true.  Fear of flying remains my best example.  For years flying terrified me, and I’d get off jets shaking with sweaty palms.  Crashing seemed real and imminent on every flight. I finally got over it, thanks to sheer repetition and a fearless wife. 

    • Replace religious with spiritual.  The great seers, saints, mystics, and seekers world-wide, from Jesus to Buddha to Mohammed to Confucius to Krishna, espoused personal transformations not tied to doctrines.  They were disruptors whose lives led followers to seek enlightenment and transcendence.  Rather than daily getting and spending, they understood life without religious rituals as a spiritual journey.  

    • Meditate.  It’s just common sense to quiet our drunken monkey minds.  It’s free, simple, and may add years to your life, not to mention calm to your days.    

    • Then there’s—sigh—death.  It’s the most feared event in life, at least in our youth-oriented happy-ending culture.  The older we get, the more we notice signs of the grim reaper on our trail, and avoid facing it at all costs.         The ancients certainly faced and explored it extensively, especially Tibetan Buddhists, whose “Book of the Dead” examines various stages of living, dying, and after death.                                                                                                                                               Who are we and what are we living and dying for?  Those are questions that deserve our clear-eyed attention.  There are remarkable answers, both from the ancients and from current “near-death experience” studies, which now are legion.                                                                                                                                            For a serious challenge check out Sogyal Rinpoche’s “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.”  It’s the most helpful and engaging explanation of death and dying I’ve found. Bardos here we come.                                                                                                                                                  

    Finally, as Leonard Cohen puts it, “When things get really bad, just raise your glass and stamp your feet and do a little jig. That's about all you can do.”
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    • Humor
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Scott's work does just that.  Enjoy this collection of his writing.”

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