Fri, 22 Apr 2005

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the exhaustion of self

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So I just finished reading "The Mask" by Stanislaw Lem, which is in his collection entitled Mortal Engines and I was thoroughly haunted by it. (SPOILERS to follow) The story is about a robot built to assasinate an enemy to the crown. The robot is ensconced in the body of a woman, whose purpose is for the enemy to fall in love with. Prior to consummation of this passion, the robot frees itself from the fleshly disguise and, despite a rebellious disposition, is forced to run along with its programming to kill his target.

I will leave it at that.

While it does get into the interesting maze of Godelian incomplete thoughts regarding free will and how do we determine whether or not we really live in the Matrix, for example, what I found entrancing was the initial sequence where the robot, finding itself a woman, is conflicted by the false, implanted memories and her desire to determine the truth about her existence. The way that she believes herself a stranger in her own skin, most peculiarly like how some patients with neurological deficits can feel (as described in some chapters by Oliver Sacks in The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.

The way that, at times, especially when I was growing up, I felt like a stranger in my own skin, ill-at-ease to be myself.

The way that I am uncertain whether I am merely playing my role in the Great Game, or whether I have any say in which direction I go.

And then in the end, it doesn't matter. We are all programmed to some extent, but to grow up means being able to overcome the limitations of programming.

Or, I suppose, something trite like that.

But what drove me into this soliloquy are these tortured reflections of a medical student unsure whether or not a particular path is the right path. And the sad fact of the matter is that I think that you will not know until you get there—at which point it is kind of late.

I suppose my decisions were easier. If anything, I was born into this role. In some ways, this is my heritage. I knew nothing else. I don't think it was until I was 16 when I realized that it was possible to have a career entirely outside of health care. Oh, sure, before I crossed that final threshold, I had my doubts. One question was: if I don't do this, will I wonder for the rest of life until my dying days? The other question was: what if I'm not good enough?

And through various mundane trials and tribulations that millions before me have experienced, here I am, carrying the (now much lighter) yoke of 80 hours/week (give or take), and basically trying not to kill anyone.

While I do sorely miss having more time to myself, more time to think, to ruminate, to reflect, I realize that, due to the nature of our society, I have to find some way to pay the bills whether I want to or not. And if I'm going to be working, I'd much rather be a physician than some sad sack pushing around papers behind a desk, knuckling under the stifling confines of corporate culture.

I suppose, in life, as in medicine, sometimes you have to choose between what sucks, and what sucks even more. You might call it settling, but there is something to be said about succeeding at mediocrity. It is much better than failing at excellence.

In other words, this is called solipsistic self-rationalization and sophistry. (I love alliteration.)

Hell, I like my job anyway, even when it is a serious pain in the ass.

21:47:55 22 Apr 2005 > /soul > permalink > 21 comments

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