Sunday, September 18, 2005

Surgery as the Marines

I've always heard that the whole premise of military training is to break you down and then build you up in the military mold. That through backbreaking work under adverse conditions, subject to the stricted edicts and capricious whims of your superiors, your individual nature can be crushed into a powder that can be reconstituted, reproducibly, into a generic soldier.

I've always thought this unlikely. The military people I've known have always seemed individuals to me, with identical haircuts. I'm sure it's all hyperbole...that whatever it is that makes a soldier is to some extent the ability to subjugate self to mission, and that this skill, like any other, can be laid to the side when the time comes to be your own person.

I very much hope that this is the same phenomenon that is happening to me, as I go through my own boot camp to become a surgeon. Each day, I feel more and more as though I am becoming a machine, designed to work within a narrow tolerance and without a view of anything beyond the medical. Everything I see becomes filtered through that light. I diagnose people on the sidewalk. I eat foods that will best replete my elemental amino acids, and count calories without even thinking of it. My humanity falls to my considered homo sapienism.

A week ago, I would have said that I had lost something of myself, some spark of creativity, that I would never be able to reclaim. Now, though, I have been off from work for several days, and I feel it coming back, in a welcome rush. Not replenished, but enough to make me think that I might just survive this all intact enough that with a bit of work I'll be able to be a person again when its all over. But that's a long time to wait.

1 comment:

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