(I wrote this piece as a meditation for the students I mentor in the Professional Practice of Medicine course at the USC School of Medicine. All of them will soon begin anatomy class – for many of them, their first close encounter with death. Someday my body will be a cadaver for an anatomy lab. Here’s what I hope the students will ponder:)
I would love to know what you discover as your scalpel cuts into this body I once occupied. I wish I could see what you will see! I never got a chance to examine this body as you will. Go for it! Learn as much as you can! I imagine being alongside you as you start this adventure.
As you open the chest, can you see any sign of the thrill that burned there when I looked into the eyes of my newborn daughter for the first time?
Can you find a pathway in the nervous system that channeled the energy that roared from my thighs up through my spine and out the top of my head when I
made love with my wife? Can you see any physical consequence of my sublime experiences of mystical communion with ultimate reality, beyond my ability to describe or name? Do the feet give any hint of the many trailsnI hiked through glorious wilderness landscapes? I don’t expect you to answer these questions. But I do hope you will honor the endless mystery of this body, and of all bodies you encounter in your career, and of the body and soul of the universe as a whole. Let this dissection be the occasion for asking the most profound questions about reality, about life, about what matters and what does not. Go deep with your scalpel, but go deeper in your soul, down to the source and center from which you come, and to which you return.
You are becoming a healer, enabling your fellow human beings to experience wholeness and fulfillment, not just cures for diseases. You will learn much by exploring this body. You will learn more as you open your heart to your patients, discovering their needs and yearnings. Let your sacred work begin!