Monday, July 23, 2007

Practice Your Profession

Carle P. Graffunder headshot by Carle P. Graffunder

This is a story I dreamed last night — as much as I can remember.

In my dream I wanted to become a medical doctor. The dream probably came about because I had been considering the years' long unremitting and debilitating pain of a close friend. During the course of the day I had had conversations about pain with two nurses and, independently, with my friend's primary care physician and medical insurance company. So perhaps it was the attendance on these that allowed the dream to become expressed.

The dream centered on a written examination that, if passed, would grant me my medical degree and a license to practice. When, in the dream, the examination paper, a rather copious document, was returned to me, there was a mark on the left quadrant of the page in the margin. It read "42." I took note of the scribbled number with some apprehension. I did not at once grasp the significance of those figures. Then I noticed that they referred to Part One of the exam. That part of the exam took up about two-thirds of the first page. The remainder of the sheet referred to the rest of the exam; in that margin was written "43."

Drawing on my previous experience with grading, I had assumed at first that my grade was "42" for the entire exam, a mark that meant "failure." My spirits, however, perked up when I saw a second score; for I began to add the two scores together. My elation was immediately dashed. A total score of "85," although adequate to pass, was hardly acceptable to me since it indicated a score that was not in the range of "best." That, in turn, meant I could count myself as hardly a notch above "mediocre" as a student. Furthermore, from such knowledge, I could predict that I would be not much more than an "average" doctor, perhaps even "good" but by no stretch of the imagination one of the "best." Chagrined, downcast, and embarrassed, I was inwardly ashamed.

Out of my vision, I gradually became aware in my dream that my major professor who was also my mentor was approaching me. I turned slightly to find him at my elbow. "This is so humiliating," I told him. He looked slowly into my eyes and said, "Someone will always surpass you in one thing or another. Your grade is better than 95 per cent of those who took the test and better than 99 per cent of all practicing MD's. Your job from now on will be to learn the difference between honest ignorance and flim-flam. Take your degree and your license and practice your profession!"

I think the dream was an expression of deep intuition. In my waking life I had given my best for a very long time to find a way to lessen my friend's excruciating pain. I strongly felt the discouragement of failure to do that. But my profound self was letting me know that attempts to penetrate ignorance, even though unsuccessful, are more to be honored than pretense.

1 comment:

psyber-artist said...

Isn't "42" the answer to every question in the known universe? At least according to the laws set down in A Hitchhiker's Guide (and who can argue with such an authoritative text?)?

Of course, the unknown universe(s) may operate according to totally different principles - who can know? There, "42" might be equivalent to the "You're wrong!" buzz on Jeopardy, or a thundering "Moron, Idiot, Fool!" from Mt. Olympus (along with a lightning bolt and sizzle of burning flesh). Or, "42" might be meaningless, a buzz of sound in the noisy chaos.