Old age can best be described as awakening from an interesting dream before it ends. It’s irksome. Just when you thought you would have The Answer, it’s just out of reach. We all know that everyone dies, we just have trouble believing it will actually happen to us. There must be a meaning to life. When are we going to discover it? What about all my careful study and reading?
I admit it, I’m a skeptic and proud of it. Like Harry Truman, I’m afflicted by Missouri’s “Show me” philosophy. But as a human, I’m also aware that I come equipped with a belief structure and as with all humans, beliefs carry the day. I seek plausible explanations for the beliefs I hold and therefore, like so many, fall victim to conformation bias.
We begin another calendar year, another chance at renewal and redemption, another shot at ridiculous resolutions to lose weight, cut out sweets and get more exercise. I personally have resolved to call more old friends and waste their time on the phone talking about absolutely nothing. I have come to the realization that in a 13.7 billion-year universe, in which man may be just a passing fancy, these relationships are unimaginably important.
This month we continue on our journey to understand what really happened at the 2013 ACEP Council, as expressed in the resolutions which were sent to the Board of Directors. I act as Virgil to your Dante in this quest, but the journey is neither allegorical or metaphysical. These resolutions are real. It’s your money. It’s your leadership. It’s your profession and your life. If you have no interest, fine. Then live with what you get. But to the rest of you, pay attention.
I have recently returned from my annual trip to the ACEP Scientific Assembly. It’s good to remember that this is the largest gathering of emergency physicians in the world. Even the Chinese don’t have a show this big. There is a circus-like atmosphere to the exhibit hall floor, and as I walked in, it actually appeared as a carnival midway. They were clearly only one malignant dwarf clown short of a circus. Fortunately, I showed up in time.
I am in that autumnal season in which I choose my two areas of study for
the academic term. My pursuits have been wide ranging over the years
but the recent PBS series on Shakespeare’s tetrology history saga made
up my mind. I have now plunged headlong into Richard II, the two parts
of Henry IV and Henry V, with even more zeal than I did as a youth
studying under the legendary G.B. Harrison.
I decry the death of civil decorum and protocol. We are in the midst of a
war on decency, responsibility and proper human discourse. Those who
know me will concur that I am not a prude. In fact, far from it. I
advocate no thought police, fashion police or official adjudication of
language or manners. After all, we’re not the French (sacrebleu!).
There is no universal definition of a weed. Look it up. It’s really that
plant that we don’t want growing in our garden; a subjective point of
view in which personal taste trumps botanical knowledge. But just as the
quintessential garden elements are a matter of opinion, so are the
important events of our history. Time is the only dimension we are all
forced to march along with at exactly the same rate, and it allows us to
look back at events and have perspective.
This column is a nested narrative, but lest you think I am fulfilling
the path of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein or Ovid’s Metamorphosis, be
assured that medicine is still the medium. The time frame is the last
ten days of my life, during which I testified in a jury trial in defense
of an emergency physician and lectured to 300 physicians in New York
Licking old wounds is what you do at my age. This issue of EP Monthly
explores the question of workforce, like it was a “terra incognita”. We
have discovered a new problem! Eureka! This is like Christopher Columbus
claiming he discovered America.