Wednesday, November 30, 2005

It must be me

There's no other explanation for the fact that every train I've been on has been over five hours late getting in.

Of course, the freight company Union Pacific owning the rail lines over which Amtrak travels, and them prioritizing freight over passenger trains, and them ripping up the second set of rails on most routes (something about maintenance costs) has nothing to do with it.

I heard from an engineer deadheading on the train that the only reason Union Pacific still keeps Amtrak in some semblance of life is 'cos employees of both companies are in the same pension plan, which the govt heavily subsidizes (for Amtrak).

Gratuitous pic of the day - the scene in Winter Park, Colorado, right around where they shut off the heat for a while on the train.

On another note, continuing on the previous post, here's a little something I wrote on the train...

Okay, so it wasn't quite as much of a blood-bath as I claimed in my last post. Apparently the surgery resident I overheard has a bit of a reputation for... exaggeration. And I kinda got carried away.

Still and all, there was something ghoulish at my friend's attitude to the whole thing. See, here's how I would take it if I'd just spent more than a day awake working, and suddenly I had blood-spattered trauma victims to operate on, some with multiple gun-shot wounds, one with a bleeding ventricle in the heart for which I'd have to cut open his chest without anesthesia to do a cardiac massage and try clamping the leak, after which he died anyway - I'd be shaken at the very least. My man, on the other hand, could be best described as exhilerated. He got to perform procedures that he would rarely otherwise have been able to. As a fellow resident said to him, "You really hit the jackpot."

On the gripping hand, I guess while my surface reactions are squeamishness at the gore of it all (not that I saw it, but the descriptions alone make me feel sick... there's a good reason I didn't join med school), and also at his clinical detachment from the outcomes of two of the cases (death - I heard and saw the reactions of family members wailing release), but a day on, what sticks the most is the pleasure he derived from his work.

A bit simplistically (call it sleeplessness), I'd called it selflessness a while ago. It's probably more accurately described as pure selfishness, in an Ayn Rand/Howard Roark kinda of way. The kind of animal joy he seemed to be experiencing is something I feel only occasionally, like when I've proved a really good result, or experienced something (maybe triggered by a movie or book or conversation) that was like intellectual manna. Basically, done something I'm proud of at a personal level.

I have the pleasure of knowing several people whom I call friends who seem to have the capacity to experience such passions, and, more importantly for me, to share them. People handle their passions differently - some recuse their lives in the hands of a Higher Being, other throw themselves into Family. I suppose there are many paths to the Buddha , but the people I enjoy hanging out with the most are the ones for whom Joy is least cloaked with externalities; the act is enjoyed in itself and not tempered with the outcome. I feed on their emotions; it's a personal reaffirmation that there's a reason to live, and I'm not alone in thinking so.

While it's not a rule, such people seem rarer in the real world than in the ivory tower I inhabit; rarer with age than with youth; rarer back home than in the States. And yet, lookit where I'm going...


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