My motto is “We are the fever dreams of the collective unconscious”.
I often write things, especially poems, that seem to come from my unconscious. I sit and look at it and wish that I felt what the poem says I feel. Forgiveness, for example.
In my first year of medical school, I started falling asleep. We were in the same auditorium for up to eight hours a day, five days a week. Thank the Beloved for laboratory but sometimes there was nothing to dissect or stare at while I fell asleep against the microscope. Sometimes it was a fifty minute lecturer, talking fast as hell, slides so it was dark, windows only in the black and the shades never raised once all year. There was peer pressure not to ask questions, as then the lecturer would go over fifty minutes. The floor was tilted, so if we heard the clink of a can falling over, we automatically jerked our back packs off the floor, because a tide of some nasty soda would roll down. Or coffee. This was in the dark ages when energy drinks had not been invented.
We went to the bathroom in herds during the ten minute breaks. We sat in the same seats, mostly, through the year. The second year we moved up one floor and sat in the same seats. The whole thing resembled everything I’d read about cults. “I’m joining a cult.” I thought. “This is brain washing, just like cults do.” Since I was raised suspicious, I watched for signs of cultdom all through it. I had gone to college a year late, because of my exchange student year, and I had worked for five years before going to medical school. i had worked at seven jobs by then, the most recent being two years as a laboratory technician at the National Institutes of Health in the National Cancer Institute under Steve Rosenberg, MD. He had camera crews following him around and coming in to the lab. The NIH Building Ten was a weird place. We had mice and rats on the North/South halls and human patients on the East/West. Try it in the mice and move on to the humans. It was continually overcrowded and the doctoral fellows fought with the medical fellows over inches of laboratory space. The hematology/oncology fellows usually won. When they showed me around the “old” hospital at the Medical College of Virginia, it did not look old compared to NIH, which was always undergoing construction. Most of the time NIH had warnings not to drink the water, because some lab was being torn down and revamped. The Medical College of Virginia looked pretty cush to me.
I started falling asleep in the medical cult lectures. I would fall asleep at 40 minutes in to the lecture. My copious notes, which I mostly didn’t reread, would trail down the page. I drank coffee at every break. I tried standing against the wall, fell asleep, and woke up sliding down sideways. My stomach hurt. I thought that falling asleep standing up in a lecture would be a stupid way to break my arm, so I said, fuck it. I’ll just go to sleep. I quit the coffee and quit caffeine, except for chocolate. My stomach felt better.
And I went to sleep for ten minutes in every lecture for most of the two years.
When we are asleep, the Jungians think our unconscious is connected to the conscious. Actually they talk about the collective unconscious, that is, that the unconscious is all one…. I access yours when I am asleep. Heh, heh. Now, don’t get all paranoid.
So this falling asleep ought to make me an awful doctor. I missed 1/5 of every lecture…. or maybe I didn’t. Maybe 1/5 of every lecture is in the collective unconscious and maybe I can access that. When I write the mystery order that I don’t write an explanation for and the next day it has solved the medical mystery, that might be my unconscious. And yours. And everyones’. What a delightful idea and what a useful talent. I can’t reach the infectious disease physician at UW, so let’s see, switch brain over to unconscious, it can access the infectious disease doctor and his colleagues anywhere on the planet, and write those orders. When my conscious brain objects, tell it to shut up, it won’t hurt the patient, just don’t worry your pretty little head over it…….
And then the multiple doctors who have been telling me that I “should not be taking care of myself” during my recent illness look a bit silly, don’t they? I told the last one that said that, “I’ve contacted eighteen doctors in the last 3 weeks and only two offered appointments and I’m scheduled August 5th, so I think I’ve tried damn hard to find someone to help. If no one will help, then I damn sure will take care of myself.” He was a little shashmushed, as my grandmother would say. I’m sure it’s misspelled, but it’s a Turkish word meaning sheepish and embarrassed and “I’ll shut up and think about that now.” A useful word.
I think it would be very helpful for humanity to learn to access the collective unconscious. How could we fight wars if we could access how the other person thinks and feels and they are us and we are them and we are all one? I think it is a good idea. There, I’m starting my own damn cult. And it is going to be really fun, so you should jump on the bandwagon now, come one, come all, no one excluded, no one discriminated against. The cult of the collective unconscious. Join it. Now.
this essay was rejected by JAMA though I can’t imagine why……