The Great Equalizer
April 10, 2011 § 1 Comment
I went to a symposium on medicine and arts at the Sackler Museum in Cambridge today, which marks my fifth day in a museum in the past two weeks. I’ll write more later about why I’ve become such a gallery groupie… in medical school. It was such a full day: dramatic readings of Sophocles’ Phloctetes and Women of Trachis, a tremendous narrative medicine workshop with Dr. Suzanne Koven, lunch at the Harvard Faculty Club, then an hour-long poetry reading by Dr. Rafael Campo. I left after that to spend the rest of the afternoon in Lamont Library with my Immunology notes for company.
We talked a great deal about pain most throughout the day. Coming off of a particularly emotionally draining week, I felt each discourse resonate and reify in my consciousness, building a solid element that I could grapple with. I had been thinking about pain quite a bit lately, and its role in the human psyche. Whether pain is worth it. Whether pain carries a sense of nobility or just plain degradation. Whether pain brings about clarity through an expansion of our experience or by blotting out everything inessential. But rather than present a grand conclusion about life and its tenuousness, I’ll offer three perspectives instead. (italics my own)
Pain has an element of blank;
It cannot recollect
When it began, or if there was
A time when it was not.
It has no future but itself,
Its infinite realms contain
Its past, enlightened to perceive
New periods of pain.
“I see no reason or need for my doctor to love me – nor would I expect him to suffer with me… I just wish he would brood on my situation for perhaps five minutes, that he would give me his whole mind just once, be bonded with me for a brief space, survey my soul as well as my flesh, to get at my illness, for each man is ill in his own way.”
For once in your life just let it go.
-Joan Didion in The Year of Magical Thinking