You might ask why I have started with a photograph of Anton Chekhov; well apart from being a great playwright, author of among other plays The Cherry Orchard, Three Sisters and The Seagull, and a very fine short story writer, whose works I studied and loved in my last year at University, along with other favourites such as Samuel Beckett, he was also a practising doctor all his short and active life. But I promise to dedicate a whole post to him in the future in fact I was thinking of introducing a series of posts about writers who were doctors, and doctors who were writers. It is a very interesting vein to look into.
But there are other reasons that I start this post with a photograph of Chekhov. One of his famous quotes is-
“Medicine is my lawful wife, and literature is my mistress. When I get bored with one, I spend the night with the other”; it is a brilliant metaphor. Chekhov also used his medical practice to great effect in his writing. Medicine is about the careful examination of human nature in all its varied forms, and Chekhov used his observation of men and women in medicine to then transpose it into literature, and surely it was a two-way thing, his humanistic vision affected his medical practice.
I like this metaphor because it sheds some light ( in my eyes at least ) on what I do, what I am trying to do because it is still an open book; my aim is to learn more about medicine to be able to help those practising it with their English but the more I do this then the more I become interested in medicine per se. It is a fascinating and enthralling profession, which I have the great advantage of being able to look at from the outside. An outsider can see different things, looks at things with a different perspective, and perhaps help differently.
And another reason that Chekhov is here is a personal one, and that is that I have had the very great honour of being invited to lecture at his university – I.M Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University.
Anton Chekhov studied medicine there from 1879 to 1884, and I will be visiting the same University at the end of this month.
So now, let me elaborate on the title – ” Some thoughts on what I do and why….”. In general, it is part of human nature to want to know what the other does so the question “what do you do?” is one of the normal starters for “breaking the ice” when you first initiate a conversation with somebody. Sometimes for me it is a little difficult to try to explain what I am trying to do, so people straightaway interrupt me and say, ” Oh, so you are an English teacher.” That is easily resolved, you have been labelled, the box ticked off because that is what people are doing; labelling in some way, fitting you into their way of seeing things. People are curious without really being curious, or even really interested. It is a kind of reflex.
Albert Einstein, a man to go to if you need a ready quotation once said:
” I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” An understatement, perhaps! But one which says a lot. He is, of course, talking about a real curiosity, and this is one of the greatest gifts that you can ever have, or ever acquire. Being curious means that you are interested in people, and in life.
For me, there is no other way.
In my own modest way I am curious about medicine, language and many other things, and thus the change of the subtitle in my blog.
I try to base my work on this curiosity. It leads me to wanting to learn, and this desire to learn means that I wish to teach.
And please remember…..