Saturday, October 3, 2015

Monday Musings 242 - Two doctors and afterlife

Monday Musings 242 - Two doctors and afterlife

Many springs ago i remember reading the popular novel 'Doctors' by Eric Segal. In the first few pages there was a scene depicted by the author in the first lecture for new class of aspiring doctors in the medical college in which the novel was set, where the welcoming professor says - and i quote from memory at the risk of not being completely accurate "Medical science knows the exact cure for 26 all is guesswork". 
The memory of this came flooding back to me over the last few days as a nagging shoulder pain took me two orthopedics with whom i had some interesting conversation. 

The first one was avuncular, with sufficient grey hair to give the impression of experience and authority. At the end of my examination  i asked him if there was anything i should really be worried about. I told him that i was quite obsessed with healthy eating and regular exercises and try to be as disciplined as a foodie Punjabi could be and that i was quite scared about morbidity, disease and illness. Instead of calming my frayed nerves he gave me a long calm look and asked "Do you believe in second life or reincarnation?" Needless to say i was jolted by his question and spotted the aroma of an interesting conversation. I asked him why does he ask this. Let me try to recreate what he said from memory - "You see everyone is busy making his current life healthy, conveniently forgetting that this life at best will last only 80 odd years. There is no point fretting over making only this life healthy - you should also be worried about making your soul healthy. That will take care of not only this life but also the next - don't worry there is nothing wrong with you"

I am sure you can appreciate my sense of surprise with this rather unexpected answer. The surprise is both in the content of the answer as much as the fact that we usually do not expect someone to be trained in the business of science, rational thinking and evidence based education to talk about something as esoteric (cannot think of a better word) as the business of next life. 

Although it had nothing to do with his last question and the answer i got, i went to second Orthopedic who came with a huge across the board recommendation. At the end of the examination i asked him the same question - if there was something serious and if i should be a worried man. Let me try to recreate from memory what this guy said. - "You see while there is no evidence of anything wrong, the fact that the pain is real. When the problem is certain but the reasons are not known we call that idiopathic - even medical science does not know everything and the doctors learn it the hard way and only with time"

Eric Segal and that quote came flooding back to me at this point. I am intrigued and perplexed both at the same time. We live in times where certainty has a premium - at least in the corporate world it has a huge premium and penalty both. However those who are in the business of life and where certainty of opinions and outcomes can be life giving or life threatening, are veering towards accepting underlying uncertainty of things - what is this obsession with clarity and certitudes the rest of us live with. 

Are we missing something here? Do they know something we will just not accept?


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