I am a contradiction in terms: left to its own devices, my brain tries hard to work out patterns in the universe, but yet I am not particularly gifted at systems-thinking. When I first enrolled in college, I knew that my strengths were not in the sciences, but rather in the critically-based, creatively-powered field of the humanities. I therefore avoided at all costs math and science courses despite my parents’ insistence that I take some, if not for preparation for health careers, for the development of my critical thinking faculties and for the construction of a robust and unrelenting precision of mind.
The SEP program was a struggle for me initially: balancing the demands of an intense program with a format that was completely novel to me was, admittedly, somewhat uncomfortable at first. This discomfort pushed me towards formulating more precise reasons as to why I was completing the coursework if I was still considering multiple options. The solutions came to me gradually.
Although my brain spends much of its free time – hardly without much conscious effort – formulating solutions and discovering patterns – I realized that putting in good work in my courses would strengthen this capacity and elevate my thinking faculties and thereby facilitate critical thought about my other fields of interest.
Furthermore, I realized that although the mind may be where I primarily dwell, the condition of the mind is rooted in the state of the body. “There is more sagacity in thy body than in thy best wisdom,” Nietzsche once said. Much of our intuition comes from our physical states – from the feelings that we have, from the emotions we experience, and from much more. A gesticulating person may demonstrate her uncertainty in convincing her audience via her hands: although her words come with great assurance and precision, her body may say otherwise. Her hands specifically may forcefully form gestures that demonstrate her unfulfilled desire in convincing a stoic audience. A student sitting in a lecture hall with a hand supporting a drooping head clearly demonstrates his disinterest. We may feel sick before we realize we are sick.
Therefore, forcefully thrusting myself into the field of medicine means more than familiarizing myself with constantly evolving knowledge base, it means internalizing a system of thought that facilitates more precise modes of thinking, and realizing that we are not disembodied spirits seated in a physical machine. We are rooted in our viscera, a physical manifestation that determines the states of our minds and our hearts. Therefore, discovering the essence of the mind (and of the spirit) requires more than just introspection, it requires a broad knowledge base and an intuition about the one’s physical incarnation, the condition of which determines the shape of the intellect.