Sunday, January 22, 2006

Balance is a concept necessary to life which is probably over-discussed, and under-considered by medical students. I recently have been doing a lot of thinking on how much I've let my studies, and my work, take over not just my time "at the office" as it were, but my life outside too. What is most disturbing is how much of the thinking I used to do I am now too tired to entertain.

When I considered life after college, I thought about two paths. One, to medical school, and the second, to seminary. Because, while I've always been good at science, I've always felt a deep spiritual conviction. And even when I've tried to subsume this conviction for various reasons, G-d will not be ignored. Why I didn't go to seminary is primarily that I didn't feel a real call to that, and though I knew a lot of theology compared to most of my friends, and enjoyed it a great deal, I've never been very good at communicating it in practical ways. I've always felt that spiritual communication requires some degree of openness on both sides, and a natural introversion kept me from doing this well. Though I may have been wrong about that, it is decidedly the case in medicine that no openness at all is required of the doctor. Sure, interpersonal exchange is part of the encounter, but that isn't what I mean. A doctor, I supposed, was to listen impartially and make recommendations and decisions. Additionally, I've always been pretty obsessed with wanting to know exactly the right answer, and the advisors I had my junior and senior years in college were of the mind that a minister must be much more open-minded than a physician, and much more willing to deal with uncertainty. I think they were probably poor advisors in that, and spoke largely from inexperience with either the true G-d, or with medicine.

The long and the short of it is, I've recently realized how much I miss the meditations I've neglected. For there is only one way to keep sane in this world, and life in the hospital is nothing if not more intense than life outside. For there one is faced with all of life and death and the human experience of suffering, constantly. At any one time, there is rejoicing and there is agony behind the doors marked with a caduceus. As someone who empathizes easily, this can be greatly affecting, and I've noticed that to deal with such stress, I can either shut it out, or embrace it with the realization it is part of the curse humanity has brought upon itself and the world. Only one of those options is healthy in the long term.

But it isn't just the stress. Part of the problem is that I got into medicine because I love learning of all kinds. And medicine is infinite. You can never stop learning, and you can't afford to. So both positive and negative reinforcement are at work here.

At some level, I'm not sure "balance" is what I should strive for though. It seems to me that if G-d is Who He Is then He demands everything. And medicine being what it is, it demands (almost) everything. And I can't split my time 50% medicine, 50% G-d, if that were even possible. There must be a way to serve G-d through medicine, and so, according to a long history of Protestant theology, there is. It is just making that theology real which is bothering me at present. However, I also don't have the energy or time to act like a seminarian. Additionally, that would be abrogating my responsibilities in the position to which G-d has called me. Every situation which requires thought, it seems, is also of the kind which takes up any time you might have for thought.


Erin Carini said...

This has so much to do with what was talked about in the email. Even if you are not a seminarian as you say, you can still glorify God with your occupation just as much in medicine. Its about finding out about his creation and helping people at the same time.

Nathan said...

Indeed. As I told a very good friend recently, we are to be salt and light to the world, but salt by itself is a pretty nasty flavor, and light by itself is no use to man except that it light something.