Here  two artists advise possible apprentices:

Rainer Marie Rilke counsels  a young poet, “Go into yourself…acknowledge to yourself whether you would have  die if it were denied you to write.”

Nadia Boulanger when asked what advice she would give to a young musician, she replied:

“Do not take up music unless you would rather die than not do it. It must be an indissoluble love. And one with the great joy of learning, the firm determination to learn, the unswerving perseverance, the intense faithfulness. But primarily if it is not better to die than not do music-then it is an excuse. And  if not then why, why?”

I never felt this way about practising medicine. At times I thought that I would rather die than continue medicine. These times when I felt culpable for a patient’s bad outcome.

Rilke and Boulanger both describe an urge, a dare to go all the way, a clear call that may not be denied  (Masefield’s Sea Fever), a vocation.

Should the word vocation be applied to medicine? What advice  would you give to a medical apprentice?


Striving for aequanimitas,


John Mary Meagher


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