Shepherds of the Wind
Acts of Futility
Doctors- Shepherds of the Wind
From a layperson's point of view it is incomprehensible to see a man sitting on a wheelchair, barely able to catch his breath and in between whiffs of oxygen delivered via mask from a portable tank, he puffs on a newly lighted Marlboro, his face the picture of dyspneic contentment. From a doctor's perspective, this scene evokes the feeling of utter futility in his dealings with the man and his medical problems.
There are innumerable instances when doctors, faced daily with truculent and uncooperative patients have to ask themselves whether, as historian Theodore H. White would refer metaphorically to acts of futility, they have become "shepherds of the wind."
That doctors find themselves facing in their daily lives this vexing conundrum is certainly not unique. Other professions are similarly encumbered, and indeed some (politics readily come to mind) are replete with futile gestures that lead to futile conflicts and end in futile resolutions. Some say that it is the nature of human interactions that sometimes the end results are not exactly paradigmatic of unadulterated triumphs.
What does this mean to doctors in particular and to the human condition in general? Not much for doctors really except that this underline what have become obvious--that in dealing with intractable patients (as opposed to intractable medical problems), doctors must let go, so to speak, of the wind and let it find its own way towards its inevitable decimation. Doctor's quixotic attempts to deal with these patients could only increase their sense of impotence- one they could hardly afford to carry when they do move on to their other patients.
On the other hand, it is not as simple or straightforward when one correlates this to the larger issue of human existence. The dinosaur's extinction was not caused by any willful act on their part. On the other hand, man's truculence and willfulness could engender his ephemeral existence on earth; man's vanity could prove to be his undoing. There was nothing, arguably, as willful and vain as when the scientific community and political leaders of the time, proposed the practical application of Einstein's elegant equation E=mc2. They knew that it contained the seed of man's destruction because it would unravel the secret of the atom and its immense potential for devastation and death. Years after the first atom bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, death continued to stalk those who were unlucky enough to have survived the initial blast. For man to contemplate using them again, for whatever reasons, would be his ultimate act of futility.
The march towards technological nirvana, on the surface of it, could be considered man's ultimate destiny, for in it lies the potential for untramelled exercise of free will entwined with unhindered ego. The knowledge and creativity that would emanate from that could "sling-shot" man to his unbounded desire to explore the cosmos and untangle most if not all of its mysteries. However, I suspect that this ultimate destiny could come at a very steep price. The price of man losing his spiritual identity . Indeed, what good would it do him if he gains the whole world but lose his soul? Another act of futility... shepherding his wanton ego, and failing at it miserably.
I am not at all suggesting that man's appearance on the cosmological stage is futile. On the contrary, I am of the belief that man's creation is the ultimate act of utility (not futility) because without man or any other sentient beings out there, the universe would be un-perceived, un-witnessed and therefore un-appreciated. From God's perspective, I would assume, what would be the utility of His creation if there was no one who knows that it exist except Himself. Whatever one may feel or think about God, "shepherd of the wind" is not one of them.