truly, madly, deeply know it?
I love it when I read something that applies not just to its stated topic but rings true in other ways, Here, Gawande lays out a common metaphor. "Death is the enemy. But the enemy has superior forces. Eventually, it wins." Too often the sick person has to be a warrior in the battle against a disease, and surrender is seen as weak, as a shameful thing, a giving up. But Gawande is honest about death always winning, and some illnesses and injuries are fatal. Why not be reasonable about that?
He expands the death metaphor this way:
And in a war that you cannot win, you don't want a general who fights to the point of total annihilation. You don't want Custer. You want Robert E. Lee, someone who knows how to fight for territory that can be won and how to surrender it when it can't, someone who understands that the damage is greatest if all you do is battle to the bitter end.
In that kind of conflict, I can still honor the argument and live a life based on my own observations, principles, and beliefs without engaging in a hopeless battle unto obliteration-of-relationship. Indeed, "the damage is greatest if all you do is battle to the bitter end." It's sometimes tempting to engage, so not to appear "weak" or lacking in principles, but it's a temptation I must resist! Thanks, Gawande, for your insights on death, on conflict, and on life. And for alerting me to this guy,** who's in Being Mortal and The Washington Post. A doctor/thespian. On a Random Coinciday.
*Called "Making Love to General Robert E. Lee," published in Poems & Plays
**Dr. Bill Thomas