Friday, July 28, 2006

Watching the Wheel

"And as for me,
I made up my mind back in Chelsea,
When I go, I'm going like Elsie.

Start by admitting
From cradle to tomb
Isn't that long a stay.
Life is a Cabaret, old chum,
Only a Cabaret, old chum,
And I love a Cabaret!"

- From the musical, Cabaret

It's been a tough week.
Three men - all friends, all men, all struggling to live.
One: arthritis, pain, daily struggle to walk, difficult to get out, schizoid, introverted, afraid, waiting.
Two: neck lump, squamous cell carcinoma, resected, margins clear except at base of skull. On to radiation.
Three: gregarious, outgoing, regal, arm weakness, calls 911, hospital in 30 min, thrombolytic, intracranial bleed, on ventillator.

Why, after all the countless human tragedies, working with people daily that have survived sudden death, does there come a time when I reflect on the human condition? I suppose the blind eye I turned on my cadaver during its dissection the first day of medical school, the compartmentalization of signs, symptoms, and pathologies that we learn so carefully in medical school, the intellectualization of medicine, has helped me cope.

But when we've played the game, step back and look at the big picture, the way people live and die, we see the futility of the rat-race, the striving to get ahead, to be wiser, richer both intellectually and financially. It is the very nature of the human condition that we must stop and really realize the limits of life and consider how we want to live. That every day is a gift to be cherished. That no matter what happens in the end, it's all about friends and family. And our faith that helps us understand that there's a meaning to it all.

"I'm just sittin' here watching the wheel go round and round.
I really love to watch it roll.
No longer riding on the merri-go-round
I just had to let it go."

- John Lennon


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