Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I've had two great loves in my life: Medicine and the martial arts.  I've found the dichotomy fascinating and enlightening.  Creation and destruction.  Healing and hurting.  Ultimately the goal of both is to protect life, allow life to thrive.  They're just different ways of doing it.  In my dreams, I was a physician and a warrior, a doctor and a samurai - trained to both take life and save it, to undo even the worst mistakes.  I was the person with the greatest discretion.  I would know for sure whether to use deadly force because I knew how much of that injury would be temporary and how much of it would be permanent.  I would never have to feel guilt at using force because I could responsibly attend to my adversaries.  I could meet them with both honey and vinegar.  Open hand and closed fist.

Learning the one has always made my appreciation for the other that much greater.  I've often wondered why the two aren't more often taught in concert.  Why shouldn't a police officer be able to give expert medical comfort to a perpetrator he's just shot?  His goal isn't to kill, simply to stop. Why shouldn't a physician be trained to hurt and restrain someone who's agitated or violent?  Who else could do it better and more safely than someone who knows the human body inside and out?

The Western conception of the world is dominated by binaryism and dualism, no where more prevalent than in the mind-body dichotomy that is anathema to philosophies of the East.  Separate things are kept separate so that we might objectively contrast them with one another to better understand them - that is the Western thinking.  Contrast that with the symbol of yin and yang: dualism in the East always considers that opposites contain parts of each other that cannot be ignored or deconstructed.  If you go far enough east, you'll end up being west of where you started; very old people have as much difficulty walking as very young people.  Very different things have important things in common.

I wanted to bridge these gaps in hurting and healing and bring something new to the world in doing so.  I wanted to show that the pursuing one doesn't undermine a credible pursuit of the other - rather they complement each other, defining a new level of commitment to both, a deeper sense of responsibility and prudence.  I remember once listening to a farmer answer a question about how he could be so casual about causing the death of so many animals for the benefit of humans.  The man replied that there was nothing casual about it.  He said that to focus on the taking of life at the end of a cycle is to ignore the lifetime of commitment to growing, nurturing, rearing, and supporting life, animals and plants, that happens day by day on his land.  He said that nothing could be casual about ending life when you've invested so much into creating it.

This farmer spoke as if he was privy to a knowledge that most of us can never touch.  He embodied the idea that you can't truly have understanding without exploring both north and south, both mind and heart, both good and evil.