Razor Thin Edge

Mon, Mar 04, 2002 11:48PM -0600

About a month ago, before winter quarter finals, I made this topic map of most of the medically significant bacteria that I need to know for Step 1 of the USMLE. It fit on a piece of legal sized paper and the lettering is just on the verge of requiring a magnifying glass to read. I drew it in pencil since I figured it would be provisional at best. (I suppose I need to scan it in so you can see how convoluted and detailed it is, but that'll have to wait until later.) In any case, some of my friends saw it. The following statement is basically a summary of their collective reaction: "I don't know whether this signifies that you're a genius, or whether it's proof that you're insane."

After finals, I went home to L.A., took the topic map with me, and re-inked it in pencil. My dad got a glimpse of it, and having just recently watched "A Beautiful Mind," he remarked that it reminded him of something that Russel Crowe's character John Nash drew in the movie. (In case you know nothing about the movie, it was based on the life of John Forbes Nash, Jr., a mathematician who basically designed the principles of game theory, and who was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia.) I jokingly suggested that maybe I should get an MRI done, and maybe even a SPECT to make sure I don't have large ventricles or hypofrontality, but he just nodded thoughtfully, not getting my sarcasm at all.

They (my clinical neuroscience professors) say that insanity before the age of 35 is usually psychosis, while insanity after the age of 50 is usually dementia. (I'm not sure what goes in between.) So I've got five more years before I'm statistically safe. Still, I've always maintained that there's a fine line between insanity and genius. Not that I think I'm a genius. But somehow, I may have subconsciously cultivated this persona of being one, to the point that people tend to overestimate my mental abilities. In any case, while I've sometimes romanticized the idea of going crazy, the flip side is that it would make everything I'm doing now kind of a waste. Oh well. It's all out of my control anyway.

If for some reason I have to be institutionalized some day, I only ask one thing: make sure that the caretakers don't molest me. And as I said to one of my friends the other day, it doesn't matter if I might grow to enjoy it, it's just the principle of the matter.

Yes, I know, we're sick, sick, sick, and very macabre. I suppose medicine is just replete with dark humor, though.

e-mail: aswang@earthlink.net

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