Of Trust and Duty, Happiness, and Man's Civility

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How grave a responsibility is it to be a surgeon?

Surgeons, in many instances, meet for the first time patients they will perform surgery on the following day or two. The faith generated by those first few moments during the initial rapport must be so potent as to make a person place his/her life in the hands of a physician he/she barely knows.

This phenomenon of supreme trust and acquiescence has always overwhelmed my being and humbled my person whenever I see a patient on a cardiovascular surgery consultation. What other privilege accorded mortals in this world could even come close to this right and power bestowed upon us physicians?

To hold the life of a fellow human being in your hands and be the master of his/her fate only lucidly and indelibly underscores how we, physicians, must hold inviolate our Oath of Hippocrates. Being a physician, vested with the power to heal and, many times, over life and death situations, is indeed awesome, and a grave responsibility. To minimize the seriousness of our obligations to our patients is not only unethical and immoral but tantamount to irreverence.

As we minister to the sick each day, therefore, we, physicians, are ever-mindful that entrusted to our care, and placed in our hands, are precious and priceless creations of God, whose profound faith in us alone is in itself deserving of no less than our very best.

How do we achieve serenity and happiness?

In this topsy-turvy and muddled world of ours, where stress is the usual order of the moment, we need a disciplined mind to keep and maintain our sanity from day to day.

For hundreds of years, philosophers, from Plato to Aristotle, Aquinas to Descartes, portrayed to the world their intellectual and moral struggle in search for the meaning of life, destiny, truth, discipline and inner peace. Yoga, the art of living, and transcendental meditation, practiced in the East for thousands of years, has been shown to have soothing, calming and healthy effects on the mind and on the cardiovascular system.

Indeed, the marvelous human body produces endogenous auto-regulated chemical substances, triggered and controlled by the mind, that affect our entire system as exogenous drugs do. It is, therefore, paramount that we discipline our mind and body in order to take full advantage of this unique and beneficial built-in "pharmacy" in each of us.

One way to discipline our mind in dealing with daily stress in life is by behavioral modification with philosophical reinforcement. Expressing our gratitude to the Almighty when we wake up each morning, for the health and safety of our family and ourselves, for the home we live in, the food on our table, the job we have, and all the wonderful graces we have received over the years, provides us a more confident and stalwart outlook on life as we begin our day to face the world.

While our life is not perfect, we must realize and remind ourselves every day how lucky we are to be blessed with this bounty, compared to the more than half of the population of the world who are not so fortunate. These few seconds of bedside meditation each morning alone will instill positive thoughts in our minds at the very start of the day, enough to initiate the flow of opiate-like polypeptides, like enkephalins and endorphins, throughout our body, making us feel good and happy. And we do not even have to spend money for these "fixes" or go to the drug store for them!

Life is only a dream, and a fleeting one at best. Let's live it fully before we wake up one day and realize that we have missed it all. While we have time, we have to think and take care of ourselves, and not only of our loved ones. We should also pamper ourselves every now and then. We should do things we have always wanted to do, those that give us pure pleasure and joy, like taking the trips we have always planned to take, enjoying the wonders of nature, making people laugh, playing with a child, and smelling the flowers along the way.

Many of us seem to see and feel only the negative things in our lives. Most often we forget to count the generous blessings God has provided us. Like we train our physical being to be strong and healthy, so must we discipline our mind to learn how to cope with daily stress, and to preserve a sense of joy and inner peace as we live each day. Happiness is not the destination, but the journey itself.

Life is too short. Let us not endure it. Let's enjoy it.

Are We, Humans, Really Civilize? (Or, are humans for the birds?)

I was driving to work one early morning and noticed some Canada geese flying against a beautiful backdrop of a big orange rising sun. The picturesque scene was even more poignant as I observed that these birds were flying in a reversed V-formation. One seems to be the leader of the pack, at the very apex, and the rest, in an orderly fashion followed in a V-formation. At one point, another goose flew ahead and assumed the "leadership" at the apex of the V. When the the "leader" gets tired, another flew to the apex, the former "leader" goes behind the flank. They seem to each take turn. Everything was smooth and easy flying, and quite orderly.

The reason came back to me as I recalled a book I once read. Birds, in general, have the instinct to know that the wind they fly against offers most aerodynamic resistance if they fly alone or on a straight line. Flying in a reversed V-formation, which cuts through the headwind more efficiently, makes it a lot easier for the others behind to fly. The "leader" at the apex gets the most wind resistance, and less and lesser for those behind, who are covered by the birds in front of them, and so on down the line in their V-formation. When the bird at the apex gets tired, it goes behind another bird, and another bird flies to the apex to shield the rest from the strong wind resistance. And all of these take place in an orderly fashion, no bickering, no pushing, no wrangling.

How I wish we, humans, self-proclaimed the most civilized and most intelligent of all creatures on this planet earth, are as "civilized, compassionate, considerate, and orderly"` as these birds. Imagine how wonderful it would be if we, brothers and sisters of the world, stopped fighting, hurting, destroying and killing each other, and instead, understood, accepted, and protected each other, like these flying creatures of God. What a wonderful world it would be!

Obviously, it will not be easy, as the history of man reveals. But we, humans, better start growing up soon, even a little bit each decade or century, before its too late and blow each other up, together with Mother Earth, into particles of historical ashes in the galaxy, and leave behind only a legacy of Homo Sapiens stupidity.

©2003Raoul R. Diez, M.A.O.D.