What’s Up, Doc?

Physicians are sometimes loosely described as “healers.” I was a practicing physician for more than thirty-five years. Thinking back over all of that time, I struggle to find a single episode where I healed anyone. What I did at best was to help create the conditions where the body could heal itself.

Examples. We all learned as children that if we cut ourselves, the cut didn’t last the rest of our lives, but that our bodies would immediately begin trying to repair the damage. There would first be a clot, then a scab, then perhaps a slight scar as the process ran its course. If we contracted influenza and survived, we did so because we were protected by our body’s immune system, where antibodies and white blood cells would rush to the site of the infection and kill off the invaders.

Without those systems in place, there is little a physician could do but commiserate with the patients’ families. In fact without those systems in place, there would be no physician, no families, no adults of any kind, and our species would have represented only a blink of the eye of time as it appeared and disappeared from the face of the earth.

Because the earth is at once a beautiful and a hostile place. Example. Each day of our lives we are in contact with bacteria that could destroy us, whether within our gastrointestinal tract or upon our skins. We live because our skins and the linings of our gut protect us, working in concert with that immune system I brought up a few lines back.

So in the past if someone wanted to give me credit for their recovery, I would gratefully accept it. It was easier than going into a long-winded discussion of what really happened, and let’s face it, I am not immune to praise (even if undeserved). But if I had been completely honest I would have said: “I accept this award on behalf of the body’s own recovery apparatus.” And then I would have humbly left the stage.

I Don’t Need No Doctor, by Ray Charles


From The New Yorker


Robin and I sat down and voted yesterday. Yes, we sat down at our own kitchen table to fill out the ballot and place it in its envelope, because Colorado is one of those states that make voting so easy that one has to be a complete lunchbag not to get it done. No lines, no standing in the rain, no breathing the November viral-laden air exhaled by fellow voters. No fuss at all.

Colorado has been doing this since 2013, and without a hint of the scandals that that good ol’ Parti Rouge keeps flashing us as a bogeyman. The ballots are sent to each voter by mail, which puts us in the 21% of states that conduct their elections this way.

There are so many good reasons for mail-in voting, not the least of which is to avoid seeing those armed yahoos lounging by their flag-festooned pickup trucks in front of polling places. It must frustrate the hell out of them in states where voting by mail is practiced. One could almost feel sorry for this confederacy of bozos in such a case. After all, they had to get dressed up and everything to come out to take their shift, and finding a clean shirt seems to be a challenge for some of them.

And then if nobody shows up to be intimidated … what fun is that?

Don’t get me wrong. I may jest here, but these people are not harmless. I strongly suspect that they were not the leaders of their class in high school, but it doesn’t take a Rhodes scholar to load and fire a rifle. Someone with more forgiveness in their heart than I possess needs to take each of them aside, gently relieve them of their weapon, and give them something else to play with.

What’s Going On, by Marvin Gaye


From The New Yorker


Last night as I prepared to climb into bed, I automatically hung the pants I had worn during the day on the back of a bedroom chair. But this time I thought … how long have I been doing this? The answer was since 1966, my internship year at the U. of Minnesota Hospitals. Early in that year I began keeping my uniform close at hand because it was a common thing to get a call in the middle of the night requiring that I dash down the long hallways from the on-call room to wherever I was needed, and it was considered bad form to show up at an emergency situation without one’s pants. It sort of marked one as not a serious person.

The habit became so ingrained that it continues today, even though it has been a while since I needed to get dressed in ten seconds. But on the other hand it harms no one, and I am ready for conflagrations, break-ins, and the revolution whenever it should arise.


The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, by Gil Scott-Heron


I was reminded by an article in the Times of New York that there is an antidote for global warming. Scientists have a discovered some decent-sized asteroids that had been hiding in the sun’s glare. Big enough chunks of space stuff to be, using the scientist’s own words, “planet killers.”

If one of these were to collide with Earth, there would be such a dust cloud raised that it would block the sun’s rays for … well … more than our lifetime, which would likely be brutal and short. Because the result of such a cloud would be significant cooling and a rather drastic alteration in flora and fauna. (Remember those dinosaurs that were and then they weren’t?) Our species would be one of those severely affected, since we have no fur to keep us warm and GrubHub wouldn’t be making any more deliveries.

Therefore, should such a collision occur, we could stop worrying entirely about our present climate problems. That’s the good news.


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