human behavior

Guilty pleasures. Hidden fruits.

Posted in Habits & Manners, Health & Medicine, Sydney by humanb on October 9, 2010

I can recall with some amusement a conversation among senior doctors during morning rounds at a major pediatric Intensive Care Unit in Sydney. We were half-way through reviewing the children in ICU, when someone brought up a recently discharged patient. The head of ICU couldn’t recall the patient immediately, but then remarked:

Ah, that’s the case I got called in for that made me miss American Idol!

The other senior doctors gently teased the boss for his unabashed enthusiasm for the show before one admitted:

Well I never miss Dancing with the Stars. We all have our pedestrian pleasures, I suppose.

I’m not sure ‘pedestrian’ is really the right word for such pleasures, but his point is noted.

I was surprised by their tastes – I’ve never watched either show – but really, I shouldn’t have been. Being a doctor hardly makes you culturally sophisticated. And if you graduated from my medical school in Sydney, it means you’ve studied little of the arts – philosophy, history, sociology, language or literature – and may have little respect for their importance.  For many med students at my uni, there was only one word for an arts degree: useless.

As an American, I was raised in a country that values a pre-professional liberal arts education, so I’ve studied the arts for as many years as I’ve studied the sciences. And while this means that I respect the arts as much as the sciences (if not more), it hardly makes me any more culturally sophisticated than Sydney’s ICU pediatricians. We all have our guilty pleasures…

Mine is Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan fiction, and just typing that out makes me feel a little ridiculous. I’ve probably read several hundred stories on my iPhone during med school. I would sneak out my phone to read fan fiction on the bus to uni, between lectures in the auditorium, during lunch at the hospital, and at night before bed. I would know a lot more medicine if I had spent half that time reading my textbooks. To my profound relief I’ve just passed my exams anyway, so I’ve spent the last two days celebrating with everyone’s favorite blond heroine.

No one has any respect for my pastime, and in truth, it would be pretty hard to defend if I read the more creatively lazy and ungrammatical stuff that accounts for the bulk of it. But I read the best of it, thanks in large part to my very useful liberal arts education helping me to distinguish the good fic from the bad. So I’ve had the pleasure of reading writers who I’m convinced would be more widely respected if they’d picked a less campy subject. And because I read the work of talented, creative and well-informed writers, I find my guilty pleasure bears hidden fruit…

I’ve learned a fair bit about Cockney slang, a modest amount about 19th century London, a little about punk music, and a lot about human behavior.

And I’ve been introduced to some truly glorious poetry.

I knew about Pablo Neruda, but I can’t recall ever having read any of his poems until one was artfully weaved into the fictional seduction of the one girl in all the world chosen to defeat the vampires.

It’s even rekindled my interest in improving my Spanish. How’s that for useful?

I present this piece of poetic magic as evidence that even the most unsophisticated of past-times can inadvertently broaden the mind.

And stir the soul.

♦       ♦       ♦       ♦

Sonnet XVII

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I do not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

Pablo Neruda

♦       ♦       ♦       ♦

Soneto XVII

No te amo como si fueras rosa de sal, topacio
o flecha de claveles que propagan el fuego:
te amo como se aman ciertas cosas oscuras,
secretamente, entre la sombra y el alma.

Te amo como la planta que no florece y lleva
dentro de sí, escondida, la luz de aquellas flores,
y gracias a tu amor vive oscuro en mi cuerpo
el apretado aroma que ascendió de la tierra.

Te amo sin saber cómo, ni cuándo, ni de dónde,
te amo directamente sin problemas ni orgullo:
así te amo porque no sé amar de otra manera

sino así de este modo en que no soy ni eres,
tan cerca que tu mano sobre mi pecho es mía,
tan cerca que se cierran tus ojos con mi sueño.

Pablo Neruda

♦       ♦       ♦       ♦


For my foray into the world of BTVS comics, see this post.


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