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Limitations of medicine

The idea for this week’s blog came from a book - Man, The Unknown - authored by Alexis Carrel. He was a French surgeon and biologist who was awarded the Noble Prize in Medicine in 1912 for pioneering vascular suturing techniques. Although the book was published in 1935 (& a best seller then) yet some of the profound truths shared by him are relevant even today.

In the chapter on Remaking of Man he made the following observation, “There are, as we know, two kinds of health, natural, and artificial. Scientific medicine has given to man artificial health, and protection against most infectious diseases. It is a marvelous gift. But man is not content with health that is only lack of malady and depends on special diets, chemicals, endocrine products, vitamins, periodical medical examinations, and the expensive attention of hospitals, doctors, and nurses.

He wants natural health, which comes from resistance to infectious and degenerative diseases, from equilibrium of nervous system. He must be constructed so as to live without thinking about his health. Medicine will achieve its greatest triumph when it discovers the means of rendering the body and mind naturally immune to disease, fatigue, and fear. In remaking modern human beings we must endeavor to give them the freedom and happiness engendered by the perfect soundness of organic and mental activities.” (pp. 289-290).

We are aware that in the modern times medicine has made rapid strides in addressing issues pertaining to the degeneration of the body. However, in the process, the health of the mind has been largely neglected maybe because its workings remain beyond the defined boundaries of laboratory experiments. As a consequence, we are witnessing, globally, sharp rise in health issues pertaining to the mind. During the pandemic it has become all the more evident. Hence, there is a growing realization that holistic living should comprise more than adequate dose of ‘medicine’ for the mind as well in the form of mental drills like meditation, breathing exercises, yoga and a renewed quest for finding meaning in life rather than chasing mundane goals defined in terms of power, position and asset-heaviness.

Therefore, instead of waiting for the invention of a magic pill to be popped-up for achieving natural ‘immunity against disease, fatigue, and fear’ we should start the journey on our own in the right earnest.


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