Our daughter started a reading group online. Every Thursday I receive an automated notice, asking me what thoughts were triggered by people, situations, descriptions in the books I am reading. And since I am a parallel reader, have about 30 of 40 books going more or less actively at any time, I have plenty to choose from. And each time I find connections between books that no one would have guessed. I suppose as you get older, the cacophony of voices and chaos of happenings is no longer as deafening or overwhelming as this used to be because the essential elements are starting to come to the foreground. The background clutter is slowly absorbed into the foreground themes, or simply discarded.

I don’t always respond to the prompt because I am too busy. This is one of those themes, clutter and busy-ness. But I still have a long way to go before the themes merge into one big one, as I see in the books I read – authors have distilled everything into one big theme.  I have a fantasy of writing a book about my experiences in working in public health over the last 40 years but the one theme I need is still elusive.  I keep reading and listening to webinars from people who have figured things out. I sometimes feel sorry for them since they now have to apply their grand theory of everything to everything. I, on the other hand, can cherry pick all the elements that I like – I borrow from this man and that woman and weave these nuggets of wisdom and insights into my practice. And so my journey zigzags along those this one grand theme, or maybe not.

The zigzagging is intellectually satisfying but difficult to match with our organizational practices at headquarters, which aren’t as fluid and look for standardization. I try out new ideas with colleagues and find much resonance, more so with younger folks and with women. The metaphor of atherosclerosis sometimes comes to mind. Or, as I learned during my neuroscience journey this year,  the brain-derived-neurotropic factor (BNDF) gene that provides instructions for making a protein (found in the brain and spinal cord) that promotes the survival of nerve cells by playing a role in the growth, maturation (differentiation), and maintenance of these cells.

So this would be one of the ways I might respond to the weekly prompt – a mishmash of partially developed ideas, surprising metaphors and stimulating conversations.

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March 2018
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