Long before he became a doctor, William House learned some things about truth.
“In my church, they were preaching that every word of the Bible was literally true,” he recalls. “They told us about Adam and Eve, and that the earth had been created in a week, sometime around 4004 BC.
“I wasn’t entirely sure that was right, but I remember reading the New Testament when I was about 14 and I decided that I wanted to live like Christ. I wanted to help people.
“Then in high school I had an argument with my biology teacher about evolution. Of course, I started by saying what I had learned in church, but he showed me what Darwin said and the evidence he gathered.
“I really felt I had no choice but to accept that evolution made sense. But I still wanted to live a life of service.”
Indeed he did, becoming a dentist. And when he discovered that he needed more scope for the work he wanted to do, he gained his MD degree and made excellent use of it.
He became perhaps the world’s pre-eminent otologist (ear doctor) and a world-class surgeon. He established the field of medicine now known as neuro-otology, developing new surgical approaches to gain safe access to structures deep in the skull, and becoming famous for pioneering work in cochlear implants.
He developed a treatment for Ménière’s disease, which causes terrible dizziness. (One of his first patients was astronaut Alan Shepard, who would not have been able to go to the moon otherwise.)
He gained further renown for revolutionizing the surgical and medical treatment of acoustic neuroma tumors and for a large number of medical innovations.
Now, at 87 years old, House has become a Baha’i.
In 1975 his son David became a believer, and they discussed the Faith many times.
“David never put any pressure on me to accept it, but it just made sense, like evolution. I remember telling him during one of our talks that, yes, Baha’u’llah is the promised Return of Christ. But I was busy with life and I didn’t see any reason to take any other step.
“Then I retired and moved up to Oregon so my wife, June, and I could live on David’s land. After 63 years of marriage, June passed away.”
David House could see that he was grieving, so he gave his father a compilation on the Baha’i vision of life after death. William House found himself studying it intensively; it was a great comfort.
The two of them formed the habit of going to a local monthly fireside (introductory) meeting at the home of Farah and Tulsi Ramchandani, where House learned more about the Faith, and formed many friendships with the Baha’is.
“There is a lovely, non-verbal, unspoken quality about him,” Farah Ramchandani said recently. “I think this is something that is due to his life of service. It’s in his spirit, in his blood, in his soul.
“He not only expresses himself from his knowledge and education, but he also speaks of his love for mankind, for his family, for his wife. And he’s very kind. All of this was very much evident in him.”
One evening shortly after his autobiography The Struggles of a Medical Innovator was published, House was among the last to leave the fireside.
Farah again offered her condolences on the passing of his wife, and then offered a prayer for the departed. He was very moved. She gave him a Baha’i registration card. He took it home.
It was an Ecclesiastes moment. “It just became time,” House said. He decided to continue to follow truth wherever it led him, to serve, to love.
So on July 26th, 2011, William House — healer, author, inventor, father, husband — declared his belief in Baha’u’llah and joined the Baha’i community.
A few weeks later, his son asked him to listen to a song that he found inspiring: “Holy Now,” by Peter Mayer.
The song tells a story of a child’s disappointment because there were no longer any miracles, like water into wine. And it goes on to say that these days, wherever the singer looks, he sees beauty and miracles: for him, everything is holy now.
House’s response? “You know, David. We should do a fireside on this. This would make a great fireside.” They called Ramchandani.