(written in 2005)
One of my student's parents, a very serious reader, was a guest in my classes on Friday, and he left us with some valuable thoughts. He told us, for instance, that he doesn’t “like” all of his patients, but that he tries to appreciate their worth as unique human beings. He said the same is true of his reading: he doesn’t love every book he reads, but he does try to appreciate their literary value and the wisdom they may hold. I’ve often talked to my students about that very difference, between liking a book and appreciating it, so I cheered a little when he said that. He also said that life, to him, is like an infinite hallway with an infinite amount of doors leading off from it. When he reads a book, he opens one of the doors, and that door in turn leads to countless other doors, which lead to more and more doors. He can’t possibly open all the doors in this hallway, but he tries to remember that each book he reads can lead to an endless number of discoveries. Each book, in that sense, is the beginning of a new life for him. Finally, he told us that, when we read, we must try to make the book “ours”. Until we get completely “in” the book and truly make it ours, it remains just a gathering of words on a cluster of pages. He said if we make it ours, by annotating it, taking notes in a journal, talking to other people about it, or just reading it with care and keenness, a book can literally transform our lives -- words of wisdom from a full-time physician and part-time devoted reader.