Friday, January 11, 2008

edmund hillary

Formal introductions
Hospital workers have clearly been told that they need to make sure the patient (or service user) isn’t confused by the stream of people examining, prodding and poking at them and that every person is treated as a human being. This is a very good thing, but it leads to a strange hospital custom of formal introductions.

Every time anyone comes in, they formally introduce themselves: “hello, I’m suchandsuch and I’m the one of the nurses looking after George today” - always the same form of words.

Every time another nurse or doctor enters, the one looking after George introduces him: “this is George – he’s 2 ½ months old. He had a VSD operation yesterday. He’s on morphine and frusimide.” All very clear, polite and personal. They even introduce themselves to each other in a similar way.

Unhappy day
George was miserable most of the day. Grouchy, restless and difficult to console. Yesterday they were supposed to give him paracetemol, but for some reason he never got it. Today he did get it, but it didn’t seem to help. I think it’s at least partially that he’s not really got to move around and play over the past few days and he’s just bored.

The beeping machine that doesn’t work is still beeping every few minutes and nobody’s responding to it, so Lisa’s having to turn it off. This means she hasn’t got any sleep last night. I hope she gets some tonight.

On the more positive side, he’s had his final air tube removed. He’s now just got a feeding tube (again – never used). He’s looking a lot freer now, but still hasn’t smiled since the operation. It looks like we should be going home early next week.

The Noble trainspotter

Right now, I’m reading a beautifully written book by a man who spent his entire carreer studying trilobites. You could say that studying trilobites is a pretty pointless thing to do. Edmund Hillary died yesterday – the first man to climb everest. You could also say that climbing everest is a pretty pointless thing to do.

Almost everything we do as humans could be judged pointless in the end. The point is not to find the point – the point is to commit yourself wholeheartedly to whatever it is you decide to do regardless of whether it seems pointless to others. Society decides that train spotters are of less value than the discoverers of DNA – but basically they’ve done the same thing – compiling endless tables of figures and facts. Pursuing wholeheartedly a goal which only they see as interesting. The fact that one endeavour produces something of world changing significance and one doesn’t is only by chance.

Obviously train spotters don’t labour under the hope of discovering something fundamental about the nature of life – or believe that one day they’ll end up at the top of the world’s highest mountain, but that doesn’t make the impulse which drives them any different. People who commit themselves wholeheartedly to goals generally aren’t seeking society’s blessing – they’re just fascinated by something - and that for me is fantastic.

Who are we to judge one obsession more valid than another? To say that climbing Everest is a great and noble purpose whereas cataloguing trilobites isn’t. It’s not the subject of the obsession, but the fact that somebody will wholeheartedly commit to doing something while others will only wonder what the point is.

I, for one see the trilobite studier and the train spotter and Hillary as the result of the same noble impulse and I hope I can emulate them. It’s only by obsessively pursuing a goal that everyone else thinks is reckless, impossible or pointless that anything worthwhile is achieved.

Society doesn't know what obsessions will turn out to be important or life would just be an episode of The X factor- take Van Gogh's art, Mendel's peas. The difference between vision and foolishness is simple chance and if it’s up to us to determine the point of life, then the only way to judge our contribution is to judge how wholeheartedly we pursue the goals we set for ourselves.

1 comment:

Jon said...

Love your ruminations on motivation and action. As some buddhist somewhere once said, "When walking, walk. When sitting, sit. Above all, don't wobble."