Thursday, April 15, 2010

To consider oneself a physician

"Corridor in the Asylum" by Van Gogh

I listen to many people who express great distress over the behavior and attitudes of other people. If we all thought of ourselves as healers, that would help. It would help even more if we did not expect the world to be other than it is:

To think the world therefore a general Bedlam, or place of madmen, and oneself a physician, is the most necessary point of present wisdom: an important imagination, and the way to happiness.

-- Thomas Traherne


  1. Ellie, I was brought up on the grounds of one of the old Kirkbride type mental hospitals where my father was on staff. The Van Gogh painting really hit me. All "asylums" of a certain vintage, no matter the geographical location, have a certain sameness about them, don't they?

  2. I wonder if anyone who saw that painting while Van Gogh was painting it noticed how beautiful it is.

  3. This is VERY helpful to me. Rather than having my habitual knee-jerk reactions to people's behaviors, I really am trying to learn to see things in this light. Sometimes, there really appears to be no sense to anything and to expect order or predictability in this world is to bring utter frustration on oneself.

    annie c

  4. Yes, BooCat, I imagine that would be quite a trigger given your history. I've seen hospitals in the old days with corridors like this as well but haven't lived on the grounds of one.

    That was an interesting thought, Cathy. I guess you're wondering if any of the patients realized how beautiful it was. Personally, I would think they would be more likely to than the staff. Van Gogh spent time in a mental hospital himself - maybe this very one. (I don't know the history of this particular painting, however.)

    And I'm with you, here, Annie. This notion of seeing ourselves as physicians is really very illuminating, isn't it? It strikes me as a great approach to exercising restraint when we need to!


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