Commentary on Poem "Physician Treating Patient":|
Is the human body like a machine
so when we're ill, a physician treats us
like a mechanic repairing broken parts
Body as Machine (1926)
|Dr. Fritz Kahn (1888-1968) was a world-famous popular science writer who illustrated the form and function
of the human body with spectacular, modern man-machine analogies. Fritz Kahn's books and illustrations explored
the inner machinery of the human body, using metaphors of modern industrial life. Kahn turned the brain into a
complex factory with light projectors, conveyor belts, secretaries and cinema screens; he showed the journeys
of blood cells as locomotives encircling the globe; and he compared bones to modern building materials such as reinforced concrete.
In the 1920s, his magnum opus, Das Leben des Menschen (Life of Man) a five-volume series was renowned as
a German accomplishment of global repute. In the 1930s, his books were banned and burned by the Nazis because of his Jewish background.
He escaped Germany with help from Albert Einstein, by immigrating to the U.S. where he continued his career as a bestselling author.
In 2010, the Berlin Medical Historical Museum exhibited
Kahn's graphic illustrations that attracted over 24,000 visitors.
Photo Sources: Man as Machine (topdesignmag.com);
Biology of Smell (fritz-kahn.com)
Fritz Kahn, "Biology of Smell" (1926)
or is our body like a plant needing
a gardener's care with sunshine & water
to bring a wilted flower back to life?
Body as Plant
The earliest metaphor for the body as plant is from Plato's Timaeus 90a (360 BC):
"we are a plant not of an earthly but of a heavenly growth, raises us from earth to our kindred who are in heaven.
And in this we say truly; for the divine power suspended the head and root of us from that place where the generation
of the soul first began, and thus made the whole body upright." The Flemish physician
Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564) wrote one of the most influential books on human anatomy.
In De humani corporis fabrica (On the Structure of the Human Body)
(1543), Vesalius noted that our teeth, nails, and hairs have roots; the spinal nerve is one of several with a root.
In Book 3 of Fabrica, the lower portal veins
were illustrated with rootlike, floral and branchlike in appearance. The heart and its surrounding tissues were
rendered as a cauliflower with surrounding leaves. Vesalius' terminology reminded readers of Fabrica of the plantlike nature of the body's parts.
Body as Plant
(uic.edu); Woman watering plant (masterfile.com)
Gardener watering flowers
Albert Schweitzer confides that physicians|
have no real power in curing their patients
but it's nature doing the healing with time.
Gabon C1, 200 francs airmail stamp
issued on July 23, 1960 to honor
medical missionary Dr. Albert Schweitzer
|Dr. Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) was a German-French theologian, organist,
philosopher, physician, and medical missionary. He received the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize for his philosophy of "Reverence for Life", expressed
in many ways, but most famously in founding and sustaining the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Lambaréné, now in Gabon, west central Africa.
Schweitzer was busy at his hospital and did not deliver his
Nobel Lecture until two years later in Oslo on November 4, 1954.
Schweitzer is one of my early spiritual mentors. It is through him that I got to know
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe who also inspired me greatly.
Schweitzer delivered the Goethe Bicentennial Address
in Aspen, Colorado (July 6, 1949). In reading Norman Cousins' biography Dr. Schweitzer of Lambaréné (1960),
I was surprised at Schweitzer's humility saying
that physicians don't heal their patients, but it's nature that is doing the real healing with time
Photo Source: Gabon C1 (numones.com)
He could repair skin wounds and broken bones|
but when natives complain about jungle fears
Schweitzer sends them to the village witch doctor.
Dr. Schweitzer of Lambaréné
By Norman Cousins (1960)
While physicians can treat physical wounds efficiently, mental problems require
a psychiatrist's care. The African witch doctor or medicine man can perform rituals,
chants and incantations that is as effective as Western psychiatrists. Schweitzer
understood this and treated those natives accordingly (pp. 37, 87-92, 148).
Quotes on African witch doctor from book "The rational-minded Westerner finds it easy to scoff at the hold
of the fetisher over many Africans. But before we give ourselves
too much credit, we ought to take into account the countless
millions spent each year in America and Europe on mediums,
bogus doctors, tea-leaf readers, numerologists, astrologists,... the witch doctors can point to
people they have treated who have become well again. The human
body has an amazing capacity for overcoming both natural illness
and mistreatment by those who profess to cure... the witch doctor
has had and still has vast power in many parts of Africa. And his
exploits are sufficiently dramatic for him to maintain the myth of his magic." (p. 88)
Photo Source: Dr. Schweitzer of Lambaréné (ebay.com)
edited extensively in Photoshop (wisdomportal.com)
Now I'm at a "Minds & Medicines" seminar|
at Stanford listening to Dr. Victoria Sweet
talking about her book God's Hotel
Photo Sources: Dr. Victoria Sweet (booksmith.com);
God's Hotel (cleveland.com)
Dr. Victoria Sweet
|I left Foothill College Middlefield Lab at 4 pm and took
Bus #35, Bus #22, and Palm Express Bus to the Stanford Oval. I got to Anthropology Department's Building 50 next to
Memorial Church just in time for the 5:30 pm talk. The "Cultures, Minds and Medicines" Seminar
in Conference Room 51A was packed with around 50 people. I found an empty seat at the long table to better take notes.
Prof. Tanya Marie Luhrmann
introduced Dr. Victoria Sweet, telling us that she studied at Stanford
as well as her father and grandfather. Her book recounts her observations at San Francisco's Laguna Honda Hospital
and also her spiritual pilgrimage to Santiago in Spain. Before her talk, Dr. Sweet asked me whether we've met
before. I told her that until yesterday, I had
no idea who she was or her book. I was fascinated by her article in the
Wall Street Journal about
Hildegard von Bingen, because I too was inspired by this 12th century mystic-nun.
God's Hotel (2012)
how she went to Laguna Honda Hospital|
for two-months and remained for 20 years
practicing slow medicine and patient care.
Laguna Honda Hospital (San Francisco)
In her talk, Victoria Sweet said that she didn't think of herself as a natural doctor,
and was not interested in touching sick people. At the end of her senior year at Stanford,
she read Carl Gustav Jung's autobiography
Memoirs, Dreams, Reflections (1963),
and decided to become a Jungian psychiatrist.
Laguna Honda Hospital
provides long term care and rehabilitation services to seniors and adults with disabilities
in San Francisco, CA. In the early 1990s, they offered her a 2-months position as Admitting Doctor. This 62-acres hospital had a bell tower
with turrets, wards like the Middle Ages. The 1170 patients were tough and hardy with every disease you could imagaine. They
were the fattest and skinnest, nicest and meanest. It was a challenge to take care of them that she stayed on for 20 years.
She learned that medicine is a personal relationship between physician and patient.
Photo source: Laguna Honda Hospital (nytimes.com)|
She learned from the 12th century mystic nun|
Hildegard von Bingen about viriditas
"greening power" & brewed her herbs to treat
Illumination from the Liber Scivias
showing Hildegard receiving a vision
& dictating to her scribe and secretary
Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179)
was a German writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, Benedictine abbess, visionary, and polymath.
She wrote botanical and medicinal texts, as well as letters, liturgical songs, and poems,
while supervising brilliant miniature illuminations. Hildegard also wrote Physica, a natural sciences text,
and Causae et Curae. Hildegard was well known for her healing powers
involving practical application of tinctures, herbs, and precious stones. Hildegard described
the natural world around her, the cosmos, animals, plants, stones, and minerals.
She combined these elements with a theological notion ultimately derived from Genesis:
all things put on earth are for the use of humans. She is particularly interested in the healing
properties of plants, animals, and stones, though she also questions God's effect on man's health.
One example of her healing powers was curing the blind with use of Rhine water.
Photo source: Hildegard von Bingen (wikipedia.org);
O Noblissima Viriditas (allmusic.com)
Hildegard von Bingen's music
O Noblissima Viriditas
Choral Songs (1996)
those patients at Laguna and they got well|
because she listened closely to their pains
and problems that speeded up their healing.
Nightingale Ward, Laguna Honda Hospital
After studying Chinese medicine and
Hindu ayurvedic medicine, Dr. Sweet stumbled upon
Hildegard von Bingen's Medicine
at Stanford's Green Library. This treatise on medicine was written around 1161 and catalogs 47
diseases according to causes, symptoms, and treatments. Dr. Sweet wrote a thesis on Hildegard's medicinal works
and received a Ph.D. in medical history. She used Hildegard's approach of viriditas
and even brewed Hildegard's herbal recipes to treat her patients at Laguna Hospital. One day, she saw Dr. Curtis rushing to
the Rehabilation Ward with a pair of sneakers. A patient recovering from a stroke was still in a wheelchair.
He should have been released three weeks ago, but Medicad didn't approve getting him a pair of shoes.
Dr. Curtis rushed to Wal-Mart and bought him a size 9 running shoes for $16.99 to give him. Dr. Sweet said
"It never occurred to me to buy those shoes for him." As Dr. Curtis rushed off he said "we have to care for the patient."
Photo source: Laguna Honda Hospital nytimes.com)|
She quoted Dr. Francis Peabody's talk|
to Harvard students "the secret of the care
of the patient is in caring for the patient."
Dr. Francis W. Peabody
|Francis W. Peabody
entered medical school in 1903 and almost at once was recognized
as an extraordinary human being. After a varied and exciting indoctrination in his profession, including
responsibility for children ill with the dreaded poliomyelitis, an extensive medical trip to China,
and an unintended role in the start of the Bolshevik Russian Revolution, he became the enormously
successful chief of a new Harvard unit at the Boston City Hospital. The expectations for a long
productive life were snuffed out by cancer six years later when he was only 45. Gifted in many spheres
and possessed of great courage, his especial compassion and wisdom in patient care have made Francis Peabody's
short life an inspiring legend for all time, an essential message for anyone who practices medicine, and an uplifting experience for any patient.
Dr. Peabody's lecture
"The Care of the Patient" to Harvard Medical students (October 21, 1925) closed with
these words "the secret of the care of the patient is in caring for the patient."
(The Caring Physician;
Photo source: Dr. Francis W. Peabody (ecommons.med.harvard.edu)
After her talk, I'm thinking of Buddha|
the greatest physician whose 8-Fold Path
ends suffering, that Emptiness brings bliss.
Buddha at Kamakura
(563 BC-483 BC)
When I first read about Buddha's Four Noble Truths that life is suffering. Suffering comes from excessive desires
and cravings. To end suffering, cease the cravings. The remedy is his
Eight-Fold Path: Right Speech, Right Action,
Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Concentration, Right Mindfulness, Right Thought, Right Understanding.
I realized that when a physician treats a patient, he or she diagnose the illness and prescribes medication
to end the illness. Since Buddha diagnosed our suffering comes from desires and cravings,
his prescription is the 8-Fold Path that will end suffering. By practicing meditation and
we realize that our true nature is not the body but Emptiness. We can say
that Buddha is the greatest physician
since he not only ends our pain, but brings us bliss when we realize our true nature. The sculptor
Galen Sharp has published a recent book
What Am I? A Study in Non-Volitional Living (2012)
that will bring us to a higher dimension when we have a sense of wonder and adventure.
He was inspired by the books of the Irish sage Terence Gray aka Wei Wu Wei (Archive)
as I have done upon reading his Open Secret in the Cornell Stacks.
Photo Sources: Kamakura Buddha (WisdomPortal.com)
that our body is a mysterious miracle|
a sacred shrine, home of the Real Self
wonder of wonders filled with rainbow light.
Photo Sources: Heart of Fire (alexrrey.com);
Rainbow Body of Light (kamakotimandali.com)
Body as Rainbow Light
Heart on Fire
|If we tabulate the enzymes, hormones, DNA, and neurotransmitters in the human body, the cost will exceed the "six million dollar man".
When we look at the myriad of protein interactions and chemical reactions in our body to sustain life, it is truly a miracle.
Saint Paul says "your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which you have of God"
(I. Corinthians 6.19).
Christ tells us "The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light."
discovered the organ in his soul that "outweighs ten thousand eyes, for by it alone is reality beheld."
Master Zi Sheng Wang gave a lecture "Tibetan Qigong"
at Stanford (4/20/2005). He told us that when
his Master Khenpo Munsel died
in a cave (1994), nothing remained of his body except
After his talk, Master Wang gave three copies of his Chinese book to the students. As I was sitting in the first row,
he gave me a copy and autographed it. There are 14 pages of colored photos in the book with many showing
of Master Wang during qigong healing. It's interesting to learn that our Real
Self is not this temporal body but the eternal Spirit filled with rainbow light.
Rainbow Body of Light
Peter Y. Chou
Mountain View, 12-6-2012
| Top of Page
| Silence Is Golden
| Poems 2012
| Poems 2011
| Poems 2010
| Haikus 2012 |
| Haikus 2011
| Walking Man
| Platonic Lambda
| A-Z Portals
| Home |
| © Peter Y. Chou,
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039