On Curiousity

“Monday Musings” for September 21, 2013

Volume III, No. 40/134

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Curiosity

 by Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*

As “Monday Musings” approaches another year of life, we have added a celebratory note for its raison d’être. Of course, we have had a mission statement since the conception of the project. We also added a vision. But now we are adding the mood of celebration. The purpose of “Monday Musings” is to encourage curiosity and bridge the gap between basic sciences, the arts and the humanities. The more one broadens the base of knowledge, the higher one can elevate it…  “MM” seeks to build higher towers of knowledge by broadening the base. We are starting the new chapter of the life of “MM” by celebrating medicine, the arts, intellect, ideas, and curiosity. Some readers have strongly suggested that we should add education to the mix. We agree.

For millennia, humans have struggled with the complex issues of faith, belief, reason, the dualistic juxtaposed soul and body, deductive and inductive observation, and even right and left brain. Finally, at the beginning of eighteenth century, the birth of enlightenment, which lasted about 200 years (roughly the birth of Voltaire in 1694 to the early twentieth century the birth of aviation 1903), brought hope that faith and reason can co-exist.  And folks like Scottish philosopher David Hume (born 1711), and a generation later, caustic British cleric, Jonathan Swift (born 1745), can live together within the same century, disagree with each other vehemently, yet have good things to say about each other.

Enlightenment gave mankind the gift of idea, skepticism and curiosity. It permitted us to question things. It brought us the delight of being seekers, doubters and eternal students and learners. Romanticism followed enlightenment in the twentieth century. It deepened our abilities to be better seekers, and heightened our potential to become better students of science. The first theologian/philosopher/poet/existentialist/romanticist who ushered in the age of Romanticism was the Dane, Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855). There were other romanticists such as Byron (1788-1824), Shelly (1792-1822) and Keats (1795-1821) who fanned the wonderful ember of romanticism. They wrote about the beauty of the soul and man’s ability to fuse with mysticism.

In the 21st century we have the best of both. The faithful readers of this space recall our sharing the most recent contribution of science to finding solutions to the brain disease known as schizophrenia. We have the poetry of Rumi, Saadi, Baba Taher Oryan, and Romantic poets of Europe (see names above) to help our transcendence into amorphous ether of tomorrow. We will continue to assist the seekers and students of transcendence by providing recommended list of the writings of people of consequence, such as Saint Augustine of Hippo (his most celebrated book, The City of God, written in Latin, around 410 AD, and The Confessions) and other kalendars (Dervish) such as Khahjeh Abdollah Ansari’s Monajat,poems, written in Arabic and Farsi in 1245 AD.

As one enters the temple of transcendence, one finds many dwellers and many seekers of wisdom who use the same language, the language of love. Polyglossia and the Pentecost are eloquent testimonies that difference in how we speak and how we articulate thoughts and feelings are unimportant. Like music, the language of love and elevated spiritualism and deep connectedness of humankind are the same no matter where you go, and no matter who is speaking and in what language it is spoken.

One of the most intriguing words in the English lexicon is “curiosity.”  As physicians, we must remain curious and continue to learn as much as possible about our profession. In medicine, mere competence is NOT good enough. We must be excellent in what we do. We must be engaged in continuous medical education, keeping up with cutting edge research, medical literature, and read peer-reviewed journals. This unending curiosity is not only desirable but necessary. Yet, we cannot be curious by experimenting with drugs and wondering how they affect us and our brain by partaking some! Therefore, one form of curiosity is an integral part of practicing proficient and good medicine, while the other form of curiosity is a detriment. Also, being curious about other fields of knowledge expands our mental and cognitive capacity, and in many instances, brings us joy and fresh insight. “Monday Musings” is privileged to encourage curiosity, facilitate expansion of cognitive capacity, and elevate the majesty of human soul….

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*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He serves as a Visiting Scholar and lecturer on Medicine, the Arts and Humanities at his alma mater the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health.

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