It’s time to reenter.
Vacation is over and normal life looms large. Before diving back into matters medical, I need to reflect on a day trip my family made in Washington, DC. It wasn’t an easy place to visit. But it was important. Education always is.
I’ll tell you about it in a few paragraphs. First, allow me to reflect on why I’m typing these thoughts.
I’m thinking themes. A blog should have themes. Maybe the words meander some, but it seems best if things tie together—an adhesive perhaps?
For me, one such glue is humanness. Humanity strikes me; it draws me in and gets my attention. You too, right? Humanity is right there, not just in the exam room, the ICU or the EP lab, but also on the drive home, out on the bike, and surely in history books.
I try to notice humanness—and learn more about it. This means seeing not just the good and joyful, but also the blemishes.
It’s why I agreed with my wife when she suggested that we visit the US Holocaust museum. It’s why I read In the Garden of Beasts and then the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. It seemed right to know more about this horrible chapter of humanity.
Before the negative, let’s lead with the positive:
Mostly, humans impress me. Goodness seems innate. Our default setting mostly stays set on virtuous. Really, I believe this strongly. It’s why the honor system works so well, so much of the time. As an optimist and a trained observer, I also believe that we–as a society–continue to grow in our goodness.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t scars from the past. History, in particular, tells us rough stories. If we dare look back, human history can be chilling and frightful.
When my family walked out of the Holocaust Museum, we looked at each other with blank faces. No words were spoken, but the question was obvious: How could this have happened? How could humans have behaved like this? Why? How? WTF?
Likewise, I had to read certain passages in the Rise and Fall numerous times. This happened in Europe only one generation ago? They thought what? And a sophisticated people did this?
I can’t understand it.
Is it even understandable?
Now… you know that a heart doctor born decades after the fact doesn’t have anything new or profound to say about the horror and tragedy of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. That’s not my aim.
Only this: The most obvious step in learning the most from our mistakes is to not look away. We must study these worst cases, these never events. The harder it is to look at, the more we should study it.
For the tragedy becomes more tragic if we fail to learn from it.