I am not a trained philosopher, though I took a number of courses in philosophy while I was at the university, and have an interest in how our ideas impact our world and our lives. For those of you who have a bend for this type of thinking, you probably have a better grasp than I do of the debate concerning thought and consciousness in the human mind, often referred to as the mind-body problem. Descartes tried to solve this problem with his dualistic views regarding mind and body, which holds that the mind is non-physical, and therefore, a non-spatial substance. He equated the mind with consciousness and self-awareness, separate from the brain, which is the source of intelligence. Many since have challenged this dualistic viewpoint, and the recent emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) has added more fuel to the existing controversies. As a rank amateur in this arena, I hold little sway as to who has the best insight into the true nature of the conscious mind. I am, however, attuned to and in harmony with the words of Maria Popova, a writer of some insight, who recently said, “scientists have begun uncovering what poets have always known — that spirit is woven of sinew and mind of marrow. The body is the place, the only place, where we live — it is where we experience time, it is where we heal from emotional trauma, it is the seat of consciousness, without which there is nothing. And yet we spend our lives turning away from this elemental fact — with distraction, with addiction, with the trance of busyness — until suddenly something beyond our control — a diagnosis, a heartbreak, a pandemic — staggers us awake. We remember the body, this sole and solitary arena of being. The instant we remember to reverence it we also remember to mourn it, for we remember that this living miracle is a temporary miracle — a borrowed constellation of atoms bound to return to the stardust that made it.”
I will now swerve into a totally different lane, and speak from my perspective as a physician. In practical terms, we have to care for, respect, and pay attention to this physical vessel which is the only home we shall ever possess, at least in our earthly lives. Being a doctor, I am most aware of the need to service this instrument properly, keeping it properly tuned, and not ignoring its warning messages of fatigue, pain and psychic distress; to do so invites significant dysfunction and potential total breakdown. Proper diet, exercise, periods of rest is just as important a prescription for your health as are blood pressure medicines and drugs to lower your cholesterol. In this pandemic crisis, it serves well to remember to take those precautions, such as wearing masks, avoiding unnecessary travel, and maintaining social distancing, which can help keep us healthy at least until an effective vaccine becomes available. I have too many friends and colleagues who have contracted Covid-19 and are now suffering significant disability, while a few have sacrificed their lives. Be well.