Do No Harm

Primum non nocere. Translation: First of all, do no harm.

Non-maleficence, which is derived from the maxim, is one of the principal precepts of bioethics that all students in healthcare are taught in school and is a fundamental principle throughout the world. Another way to state it is that, given an existing problem, it may be better not to do something, or even to do nothing, than to risk causing more harm than good. It reminds healthcare personnel to consider the possible harm that any intervention might do.

Primum non nocere: Wikipedia

A pledge that I took decades ago, without thinking very deeply about its importance at the time. Why, of course I wouldn’t do harm, what sort of person does that? And there I was, off to becoming a doctor and covering myself with, if not glory, at least the adulation of my patients. I planned on a lifetime of being quite humble about all the wonderful work that I would be doing in my professional life.

I took the same approach to being a husband and father. Was there any question that I would be superb at both of these pursuits? Greatness was the only path that I could visualize.

Do harm? Bosh! Impossible!

But time has been my teacher. Time, along with pains encountered and pains caused. I tended to think of my professional and private lives as being separate, but they often bled into one another. Sometimes the line completely blurred.

All this, of course is looking backward and using the retrospectoscope, the world’s most powerful diagnostic instrument. BTW, I don’t think that I did an especially poor job at any of these endeavors, it’s just that I have found that along the way I didn’t hit all my marks spot on.

But to do no harm? That is a tough proposition. There are Buddhist monks who have trouble walking down a forest path because they cannot bring themselves to step on an insect. It must take them forever to get from place to place, and they will always fail because there are bugs so small they won’t see them, and beyond there are all those microorganisms, including planaria, my favorite flatworm.

I have a fondness for planaria for a couple of reasons. Who can resist a creature that regenerates itself so magically. If you cut one into eight pieces, each piece will grow into a brand new full-sized worm.

And just look at them, with their goofy cross-eyedness. Awwww … what’s not to love?

At my present state of life, I have promised (myself) to do as little harm as I can for the rest of my days on earth. Anywhere and everywhere I go. Knowing that perfection is not remotely a possibility. (I have made the promise only to myself just so that when I break the pledge I don’t have to spend a lot of time explaining things to others. I can simply duke it out with me.)

What I Cannot Change, by Lee Ann Rimes


From The New Yorker


On a cold day in November 1963, as I was trudging to classes at the University of Minnesota, collar turned up against a breeze that was doing its best to suck the life out of me, I watched a Studebaker Avanti approach the intersection I was crossing. Now the Avanti was a beautiful car that the company turned out during its last gasps before closing down forever in 1966.

I stood for a moment, looking at the car and as it came close enough I thought it was driverless until I could see that it was being piloted by a diminutive old woman peering at me through the spokes of the steering wheel. I stamped my freezing feet as I made a mental move toward Communism right then and there. This was not right. Not fair. If this was the best that capitalism could do, I was done with it!

Why should that female geezer have that gorgeous car while I risked my life every day walking everywhere I went in frigid Minnesota? What portion of the automobile’s driving possibilities could she make use of at her advanced age? What kind of world was capitalism producing anyway? (Of course I changed my mind a week later when I found what shitty cars Communist countries were turning out and that the average Communist was on foot just as I was, while their bosses were the only ones that could afford automobiles.)

But that disparity still persists. On our weekend drive to Durango and back we observed a handful of Corvettes tooling along the Million Dollar Highway. Without exception they were being driven by silver-haired and immaculately coiffed men. They were the only people who could afford to have a car that can really only do two things – look spectacular and drive really fast.

Give me that car today and it is way too likely that I might get a cramp in my right foot while motoring on that same notorious highway, step down too hard on the accelerator, and in this way finally achieve my lifelong dream of flying. For a few seconds, anyway, before gravity cut short my triumph.

Forget socialism, capitalism, communism, or any of our present-day isms. What is needed is a system that matches humans who are at their physical peak with these amazing driving machines. If we can’t do that, fageddaboudid.

Little Red Corvette, by Prince


From The New Yorker


Politics leading up to the 2024 elections are becoming interesting, and for all the wrong reasons. If I am to believe the polls, 120% of Americans don’t want either Biden or Cluck to run. They would rather vote for someone less partisan and definitely someone younger. As one interviewee put it when asked the question outside the Wal-Mart in Eau Claire WI: “Why are our choices limited to geezers from Generation MM ?”**

The reasons are obvious, of course. Republicans cannot give up their devotion to an orange-colored mini-Mussolini since they no longer have a single credible idea to put forth dealing with how to govern a country. Democrats, on the other hand, persist in their death-wish approach to politics by throwing away the golden opportunities to win elections that the Republicans keep providing, in coming up with the least attractive candidates and the poorest excuses for campaign slogans they can find.

I’m only half kidding when I say that if Li’l Nas X was available as a write-in candidate, I would bring my own pencil along to the voting booth.


Old Town Road, by Li’l Nas X (with Billy Ray Cyrus)


**Generation MM: people who cannot pass the Metamucil section of the grocery store without purchasing a can or two, just in case there should ever arise a shortage of this essential nutrient.


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