Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Why I do what I do

It's been 4 years since I last ran this piece, and I think it's worth putting up again.

It ain't much to look at.

Two, maybe three pounds of grayish-white goop. It's not even solid in a living person. More like Jello that floats around in it's vault.

But it's amazing. From that sloppy goop has come remarkable stuff. It's sent a robot to land on a moon of Saturn. It's explored the bottom of our deepest oceans. Built the Taj Mahal. The Great Wall of China. Painted the Mona Lisa.

Go listen to the remarkable Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D minor". Not just the famous opening 30 seconds or so, but the whole 9-10 minute thing. That all came from the goop, long before it was heard or played on an instrument, it was just a series of electric signals jumping from nerve to nerve. The piece is over 300 years old. The mind that created it has been dead for over 250 years. And humans will likely be listening to it long after my great-great-great-grandchildren are dust.

The soul is there. The heart is amazing, but for all our romantic beliefs about it, who we really are is floating around in the goop. It's where hate, love, and everything in between comes from.

It's capable of terrible evil, such as the Holocaust, and remarkable good. Look at the outpouring of altruism that follows disasters. I love my dogs, but if something bad happens to a dog on the next street, they're not going to care. Yet the goop wants to help people who we've never met and have no direct impact on our own lives

My regular readers know I'm interested in maritime history. Why? I have no idea. It's just been a subject I've loved as long as I can remember. I've never been in the navy. The family military history consists of grandparents who served in the army, but never were sent overseas. I can only assume there is some particular molecular structure in my goop that makes me interested in it. Or that made me want to treat other people's goop for a living.

Twin and biological studies have shown that most of who we are is how we came here. Yes, life experiences and background count for something, but the goop is most of it. People with conservative beliefs raise kids who turn out to be liberals, and vice versa, no matter how hard they may try to pass on their beliefs.

Coke vs. Pepsi. Dogs vs. Cats. Mac vs. Windows. I suspect whatever makes us fall on one side or the other of these great philosophical issues is 95% or more in the goop, and we just come that way.

Everything you are, have been, and will be. Have desired, dreamed of, and done. Have felt. It all comes from a few pounds of goop.

And this fascinates me. Because, let's face it, we're just another part of the planet. A collection of complex molecules, electrical impulses, and chemical reactions. That's all people. Anatomically, all humans are pretty much the same. And we're not that different from other mammals. The difference in our genetic sequence vs. that of a mouse ain't much.

And yet that small amount of difference has led to amazing results. The ability to think beyond our own biological needs and to see the world around us for the beauty it contains. To watch a sunset and be in awe, even though we understand the science behind it. And to look up at the night sky, and wonder.

And that never bores me.


Marc Cabot said...

It is remarkable goop, at that. Quite extraordinary goop.

However, while your efforts to learn about and care for the goop while we still need it are appreciated, what I want is for them to use the goop to figure out a way to get us OUT of the goop. If the goop can make itself unnecessary, that will be the ultimate triumph of the goop.

Anonymous said...

I found the Fugue far more enjoyable than the more famous Tocatta. It's really something else.

Sallie B. said...

Thank you for sharing your perspective. It gave me a new way of looking at things. I often wonder why people choose the jobs they have, and I loved hearing about yours. I'm also happy to know that you are the kind of person who appreciates good music and beautiful sunsets and faraway stars!

Anonymous said...

Great post. I feel the same way about why I chose to go into psychiatry.


p.s. the goop is what enables me to prove I'm not a robot, so I can comment on your blog! Fascinating.

bobbie said...

A beautiful ode to goop ~

Steeny Lou said...

Eloquently expressed, Doc. Thank you.

Moose said...


ndenunz said...

And to think, such an elegant thing is made by unskilled labor!

brent said...

I don't understand. What does this have to do with herding yaks?

Sapphire said...

This eloquent piece made me smile and also brought me to tears. You have a true gift with words, and you can thank your goop for that. My heart (and goop) thank you for another bookmarked entry.
Write on, Dr. G.! :-)

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