I just finished reading “Soul Made Flesh: The Discovery of the Brain – and How it Changed the World” by Carl Zimmer. I do think that the author does a fine job in presenting the historical context and accounting for the political and philosophical backdrop. However, I think he ascribes too much credit to Thomas Willis in medical revolution. I am not convinced of his great role in medical advancement though I am intrigued by how he contributed to science.
What disappoints me though in books such as these is generally the last chapter. Somehow, the way many non-fiction books on medicine, medical history, medical theory are summed up do not either bring closure to the subject at hand (which perhaps they shouldn’t as life continues) nor do they inspire. I’m disappointed in how they choose to summarize their work.
In a way this disappointment mirrors my own disappointment in the outcome (thus far) of my life. I cannot accept the answers given at the end of any analysis not just in these manuscripts but of myself. I need something unseen, radical, different that carries forth an idea.
The last line in my article for IBM on the FDA regulation of medical mobile devices perhaps gives insight into a conclusion I feel more satisfying. I wrote: “Mobile app developers who follow the FDA Draft Guidance will already be a step ahead of competitors who ignore it — and can save time, money, and ultimately lives.” The editor wanted to delete the last notion of why this article is important at all, which is to call attention to the fact that regulations are not made for the sake of making regulation and though the hassles of compliance are frustrating and impose obstacles, they have a purpose. Because the article was geared toward developers and business I inserted time and money. But my notes to the editor simply stated: “I really want to keep that last part about saving lives in.” I wanted to keep in the reason all of this matters and impress upon the readers the reason why they are doing what they are doing. The text I wrote in itself is not truly important other than a blueprint to follow regulation, to really encourage innovation I needed those last words – a summation not normally accepted as an ending in this genre of writing. But an ending I hope that does not leave one unfulfilled as do many of these I read.
Case in point. I’ve always been disappointed in my undergraduate honours thesis for the way in which ended. I did not find the research in itself particularly important. It was a project I was never in love with but completed at the behest of my advisor who did not encourage the path I wanted to take in exploring empathy. Regardless, I finished my thesis, I analyzed the data and gave a conclusion and maybe a suggestion for its implications. It’s as if nothing more need to be said about how people believe emotions, cognitions and behaviours interact. The conclusion remains unsatisfactory to me because it would never inspire anyone to continue the research to follow why these beliefs are important and how they impact our lives. No, as in these books, the final chapter ruins the entire work that precedes it because nothing consequential arises. An idea is presented at the beginning, the substance poured throughout pages of insight and careful research, only to be concluded with an end without meaning.
I feel my medical treatment is much the same. I present at the beginning a complicated case, I develop the means by which to address this case through scientific research, experience, intuition, introspection, and ultimately convey that as best I can through writing (as I fear my speech is never fully formed as to be persuasive, coherent, or comprehensive). I study myself as an anthropologist. Yet the conclusions I come to are not conclusive and I reach out to others to try to help me find answers I am seeking. Yet the conclusions of others, in particular medical providers, are not based on the work I’ve placed before them but on answers handed to them so that the chapter they are writing for me is final instead of inspiring or innovative. I know this is the case for too many.
I believe that all works of life and literature should not be final in themselves but continue to stoke the fire within us for change. The 296 pages I just read conclude with a brief history of the scientific achievements that built upon Willis’s work, but I feel as though they frustratingly end with a fact instead of an idea. How else can we attempt to progress, develop, improve, evolve, grow but through ideas? How else can our histories etch upon this world their importance for our future?