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The Adventure of Health

When I was in college, I took it upon myself to write a critique of Percy Shelley’s poem “Mont Blanc” as a treatise on the inner-workings of a mind as it contemplated a memory. Shelley’s poem was a recollection of seeing the Vale of Chamonix in Savoy. Now, anyone who has studied poetry will know that writing about how a mind works is not an unusual topic for the Romantics (see Coleridge’s “Frost at Midnight” for example), but what I did that was different from what I’d seen before in critiques was to connect Shelley’s vision with what I’d learned on another front, i.e., that the right brain tends to be the home of spatial and emotional thought while the left houses language and linear thinking.

I was moved to connect this understanding of brain physiology to poetry from an earlier biology class. I learned how people with split corpus collosums cannot say what they see with their left eye because that information cannot pass from the right brain (where the left eye goes) over to the language center in the left brain. If poetry, as it was said in my English studies, was the most essential literary means for describing experience and emotion, then perhaps it could well be seen as the most essential means by which the left brain seeks to understand and explicate what goes on in the right.

Now, I have come to take this thought process a step further. I have decided to flip the topic on its head, ala Marx flipping Hegal’s concepts of Idealism over to show materialism to be truly the generator of human behavior. I believe we may see all of literature and indeed life itself as the adventure of our own health. I believe we are, in every facet of our lives, seeking to find and build equilibrium, happiness, joy and safety in our minds and bodies. Further, I believe changes we make in our lives are as often about a deep need for adventure, whether it be adventure in the classic sense or one we define in our own terms, as they are about external stimuli. I believe we are engaged in a quest our entire lives to be healthy and happy, and this doesn’t just come by any single or set of means to any one person. It is in fact an unending process of redefinition and finding the needs inherent within us that are difficult to give voice to.

I believe one crucially important offshoot of this idea is how it allows us to define the health professionals we deal with in our lives. Often we have viewed doctors as Gods from on high telling us our procedure and path to fulfilling their vision for us. We nod our heads and go about our (or their) business to please their authority and gain their favor, i.e., our health. This has been true I would argue in many or all health disciplines over the years. Only recently has the concept of patient partnership with care decisions come more to the fore. What I am suggesting is not only should patients participate in their health decision-making, they should in fact lead it, with an eye towards their own holistic mental, physical and spiritual needs. Our health, in all facets holistically woven together is not only our responsibility; it is our passion, and really the only passion that matters.

We must understand the path within us, our needs and aspirations and build or therapies with all different professional healthcare providers and partners accordingly.

As I write more of this in the coming weeks I will be telling stories from my own life and stories of others that reflect and impact on this topic. My hope is that many of you will add your own stories and ask your own questions. We are, after all, in the field of health, each other’s mediums. We live with one another and so the paths of our lives must needs be written upon one another.

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