Thursday, October 8, 2015

Life is Difficult

"Tender Thorns"
- in my meditation garden -

Yesterday I had a wonderful opportunity to sit down with my doctor in his office and have a rather significant philosophical conversation about the practice of medicine in contemporary American culture. My doctor has been somewhat of a pioneer when it comes to patient-physician internet accessibility, and for the most part it works very well to be able to contact the doctor with a medical problem without necessarily going through the process of making an appointment and going in for an office visit.

In our conversation yesterday we talked about the benefits of easy “online” contact, but he also lamented all the problems that have also surfaced for him by doing this.

People use their computers nowadays to get instant answers and quick fixes. With the flick of a computer key and in a matter of seconds a Google search tells you everything you ever wanted to know about almost any question you might ever have. When people access their doctor on the internet, the danger is that they expect the very same results.

Somehow people still imagine that their physician is something like a magician who can wave a wand, prescribe a pill or a procedure and make all the problems go away. Yesterday my doc told me that this “magician” expectation is exponentially exacerbated when people “visit” him online. But of course, it doesn’t work like that in medicine or in life, there are no quick answers and easy fixes, a pill or a medical procedure can rarely give the kind of instant gratification a Google search might be able to offer.

If and when physicians are able to accurately diagnose a problem, the healing almost always takes time and more often then not lots of medical problems cannot be easily diagnosed. And of course there are plenty of diseases and sickness that just cannot be cured or healed regardless of what a doctor does. The fact is that we human beings are mortal, our bodies fail us, we all grow old and ultimately we all die; but people tend to avoid their own mortality when they go to a doctor especially if they are talking to him or her online and expecting an easy answer at the flick of a computer key.

In my conversation with my doctor yesterday I raised the question that perhaps part of the problem lies in the erroneous assumption many people make that somehow life is supposed to be easy; but that’s just plain not true.  Life is difficult - a journey paved with joy, glowing with possibilities, and yet also laden with pain and sorrow. Life is a beautiful struggle.

Sometimes the very best we can do is help people through the struggle rather than try to take away the pain.

I am reminded of something the psychiatrist, M. Scott Peck, wrote many years ago in his best-selling book, The Road Less Traveled:

Life is difficult.
This is a great truth- one of the greatest truths.
It is a great truth because once we really see the truth we transcend it.
Once we truly know that life is difficult, once we truly understand and accept this,
then life is no longer difficult.
Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.

Before I left his office yesterday I told my doctor about a prayer I have always loved. Most of the time people pray to have their sickness cured. I think we also need to pray to accept whatever comes our way- as wonderful or as difficult as this may be. My doctor isn’t a particularly religious fellow (I’m not even sure if he is a believer of any sort), but he really liked this prayer:

This is another day.
I know not what it will bring, Lord, but make me ready for whatever it may be.
If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely.
If I am to sit down, help me to sit quietly.
If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently
And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly. 

1 comment:

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