We are underbred and low-lived and illiterate; and in this respect I confess I do not make any very broad distinction between the illiterateness of my townsman who cannot read at all and the illiterateness of him who has learned to read only what is for children and feeble intellects. We should be as good as the worthies of antiquity, but partly by first knowing how good they were. We are a race of [small]-men, and soar but little higher in our intellectual flights than the columns of the daily paper.
On Tuesday, I had an hour to spare between patients, so I elected to grab an old friend, my composition notebook and a pen and sit down with a cup of hot tea at my local coffee house. As I was adding a couple packages of sugar to my drink, I saw her out of the corner of my eye and hoped she wouldn’t see me – the eatery is large enough that if I could quietly find my way to the other side, she wouldn’t likely see me.
In less than 20 seconds, she was standing by my side and encouraging me to join her at her table with her friend. Without much recourse, I fulfilled my social obligation and followed her to her table where she was sitting with another. They are both physical therapists. They both work part-time. Both are former colleagues from the outpatient clinic where I last worked.
As I sat down, each briefly glanced at the articles in my hand. One said, “What is that for?”
“Just doing some studying between patients,” I responded.
“Why? Are you taking a course or something?” she inquired further.
“No,” I continued, “but I listened to a really fruitful podcast recently and I came to realize that my clinical reasoning skills were insufficient compared to those in the field with academic and clinical experiences that exceed our own, so I decided to really hunker down and work on…”
She interrupted me. “Oh, so you are just doing it to be smarter. Okay.” Her and her friend then returned to their conversation about their christmas shopping, the challenge of finding good-babysitters and how smart their respective children are. I sipped my tea and stared at my unopened book, realizing that I was about to waste the next 45 minutes of my day due to the forces of social convention.
Neither know who David Butler is, nor have they any understanding of what neuroscience has begun to inform us about the pain that each of our patients experience. Yet they continue to practice, attend the minimal number of weekend courses required to keep their respective licenses and are happy “helping” those in need..
*quoted passage from Walden