Antoine Saint de Exupery attempts to describe a quality of Guillaumet, a fellow pilot:
“There exists a quality which is nameless. It may be gravity, but the word does not satisfy me, for the quality I have in mind can be accompanied by the most cheerful gaiety. It is the quality of the carpenter face to face with his block of wood. He handles it, takes its measure. Far from treating it frivolously, he summons all his professionally virtues to do it honour.”
Guillaumet was a mail pilot in the ‘30s in South America, Africa and throughout Europe. After a dangerous, noisy flight he would be deaf for hours, mute from the experience, yet celebrating it.
We physicians have much more to be curious about our patient: symptoms, signs, history, allergies, drug interaction, and the patient’s life story and values. The impediments to our curiosity and cheerful gaiety are assumptions, rushing, fatigue and sometimes our lack of humility towards the uniqueness and wonder of another person. A more prosaic yet adequate quality is urged by Osler, aequanimitas – imperturbability; and by Keats; “Negative Capability” meaning when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.
If we can’t summon up all the professional virtues of the carpenter to do the patient honour, at least, when face to face with our patient, we can strive for negative capability.
Striving for aequanimitas,
John Mary Meagher
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- Meditate on death to live more fully.
- Tolstoy’s Ivan Illyich asks, “how have I lived?” A Cautionary Tale.
- Ivan Illyich’s Doctors treat his disease but neglect him.
- The Elephant in the Dark House
- “Needless” Mr. Lemond’s reflection on end of life gasping for breath.
- We see what we expect to see.
- The ageless conquest of oneself
- The Inner Game of Golf- of Medicine
- What advice would you give to a medical student?
- “That was a curious incident – the corneal abrasion did not pain.
- Poems to jolt when humanity has flat-lined in the hosptial
- Heard at a Journal Club On “the Difficult Encounter”
- Brochure for upcoming CME event: Staying Tuned La Malbaie, May 8th, 2016
- Staying Tuned CME May 8th at La Malbaie QC
- Percocet (oxycodone): This White Collar Heroin is a dog collar. Who will escape?
- Is Cynicism pernicious to your health?
- Should the privileged get privileged care?
- Antoine Saint de Exupery (or The Carpenter and his Block of Wood)
- Heartsink is a better term than Difficult Patient?
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