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Monday, August 22, 2016

Our power to choose

Premiere of David Lang's "the public domain" for 1000 voices at the Lincoln Center. Lyrics: "Our power to choose"

"Where have you been? I wondered about you..." says the patient lying on the bed in front of me. Light streams in from the Hudson River, and I think how peaceful a time this is, how unchanged and natural it feels, to be seeing the searching calmness on this man's face. He has a gentle smile on.

Except that everything is not the same. It had been a week since I had seen my patient. On my last day on the wards, I told him I needed to help this world make music. And he said, "go do it."

I came back for a practical purpose--to pick up my tablet. I had stalled long enough. Part of this seemed symbolic. I'd given him my tablet so he could talk to his family; I'd entrusted a part of me to him. So maybe I stalled because telling him felt like a statement bigger than any meeting with a dean or signing of a contract.

Donned in my white coat, he asks me the usual questions--

"What do records say?" "What's happening to me?" Eyes alight.

The tablet is on the table. His phone, now fixed, is in his hand. I sit down on a chair beside him. And I have to I tell him I didn't know what was happening--I hadn't been a part of the team for the past week. I see the dejection in his face; I feel my own disappointment. And then he says,

"go do it."

I will go forward caring for others in a different way: it's uncertain, but I believe in it for us all--and if I don't, I will forever ask, what if? I have to give it a shot or live with regret. I have a deep sense of what I'm fighting for and why, and no matter what path or profession I end up in, I'll never lose that: music at the core--about connecting with humanity.

Before going, something compels me to ask him, "what makes a good doctor?" His answer:

1. Be loyal
2. Be prepared
3. Be charismatic
4. Believe in god

A doctor comes into the room. I'm about to say--"I'm just a medical student," but I catch myself.

As I look back, I smile, we smile, I'm going.