07 January, 2011

thought feeling itself

The English Surgeon is a documentary about a neurosurgeon from England and his attempts to help a neurosurgeon in Kyiv, Ukraine. The Ukrainian is running a private practice and he's doing it in a way that the government does not like very much - performing risky operations, recycling equipment from England. The film depicts a faulty medical system that is controlled by a government bent on saving money. It's focus on a few individual patients and the general conditions of this clinic paints these two neurosurgeons as heroes. I would definitely recommend watching this film, but here is an interesting article if you are uncertain about committing the necessary two hours.

I'd like to share a few lines that really caught my attention.
  • The film begins with the English surgeon saying this: "It is difficult to know when one is being reckless and when one is being wise, when one is being brave and one is being a coward." He said this in the context of the risks a surgeon chooses to take as well as the risks they were taking by battling the Ukrainian system, but it certainly applies to many areas of life.
  • Here is another thought-provoker: "Everyone is equal. Everyone will get a consultation. The crowd should decide who gets to go first." This is what the surgeon said to quiet the mob of people waiting for a second opinion after being told their tumors were inoperable. But here, in the land of the equality and freedom, I have never seen such a system in place. It seems that we do not have enough confidence in our fellows, nor in ourselves, to handle such situations in a calm and polite manner.
  • Recently I've been trying to pay more attention to subtle techniques used in film, journalism, and literature. I hope to offer you more examples in the future. These two neurosurgeons are not ones that people are inclined to criticize and the film does, appropriately I believe, show them in a very positive yet human light. But if you watch this film, look for what I am about to describe while they are in the marketplace. The two surgeons have gone to buy common drill bits, which they will be sterilizing and using to drill through a man's skull. It is crowded as many people shuffle from one booth to the next, carrying their goods and bartering. The camera pans through the crowd and stops on a ragged-looking woman picking through a few coins in the palm of her hand. A minute later, as the doctors purchase the drill bits, the camera zooms in on the Ukrainian physician's well-endowed wallet. I am slightly puzzled by this because in every other sense he is shown as a modest, self-sacrificing man. Perhaps the director's aim was to show that this man is still comparable to the doctors of Europe and America in some ways, or maybe he wanted to ensure the viewer that this is not a saint, just another man with personal interests as well as good intentions and good acts.
             How do you interpret it?
  • One last, marvelous, captivating line. The two surgeons perform brain surgery on a young man, removing a large tumor from a completely exposed brain while the man is awake. As we see the brain pulsating, slimy, like a living organism in and of itself, the English surgeon says, "That is thought feeling itself." And that, my friends, is one of the great puzzles of life!

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