Updated: Jun 26
I needed some 'irrational input' about some upcoming life decisions in January, 2008. Closely reasoned arguments were getting me nowhere. So I consulted a psychic.
As I entered her incense-burning, jewel-bedecked psychic-atorium, she looked at me discerningly and said, ‘You’re a doctor…no, you’re a musician….no, a doc-,no, a musi-…wait, are you both?’ I affirmed her intuition in a sheepish tone, fearing that I was being somewhat disingenuous in representing myself as a musician.
' I never thought of myself as a "real musician"'
At that time, I’d been a physician for 25 years and had taught courses in two difference psychiatric residencies, guest lectured in others, did some research ('hey kid, there's this new drug called Prozac or some damn thing...go see if it's interesting'), did some writing and had developed some cautious confidence in treating patients. But even though I'd been playing the guitar for 40 years, I never thought of myself as a 'real musician'. The psychic then went on to say I would be asked to write about the experience of being both a physician and musician.
‘Well, that’s nice,’ I thought, and began to look to acquiring sufficient experience at this ‘both/and’ business that would afford me something intelligent to say in this article. But just one month later. I received a call from the President of the San Francisco Medical Society. He informed me that the next edition of their monthly magazine would be on the intersections of music and medicine. Would I write an article?
In the 12 years since I wrote that eminently forgettable article, I have come to realize there is a central common intention that forms the basis of the work for both musician and physician – that of facilitating greater interpersonal and intra-personal connection. After all, if healing involves 'making whole', then central to that endeavor is connecting previously ‘dis-connected’ parts.
'The first step in treatment protocol was to "call the musician"'
However, there was one point in western civilization where there was not only the overlap of intention between medicine and music but also the actual overlap in actual clinical practice.
At the Temple of Asclepius – 4th Century BC, the first temple of healing in ancient Greece (pictured, photo by Davide Mauro) – the first step in treatment protocol was to 'call the musician!' Doctors were summoned only after musicians played the right kind of music to patients more amenable to their ministrations.
It is my fervent hope that our collective connectionological sensibilities that make for a greater understanding of the healing mechanisms within music and medicine (as well as their potential synergy will continue to evolve to a point…where they were 2,500 years ago.
So this blog is about sharing my musico-physicianly fumblings as I try to further discover, understand and even apply the principles of connectionology. Perhaps in the end, we are all ‘connectionologists', given that one of the downsides of being human appears to be that of ‘disconnection, of being ‘fishes out of water’ that paradoxically inhabit the same ocean.
'We are all Gulliver among the Brobdingnagians'
At some point, we are all Gulliver among the Brobdingnagians, or, perhaps, Dante without his tour guide, Virgil. And if nearly four decades of being a doc has taught me anything, it’s that ‘disconnection’ – actual or perceived – isn’t just subjectively painful. It can be a core part of all sorts of neuro-immuno-endocrine cascades into illness.
So c'mon along with me on these fumblings. One way we are luckier than those guys is that we get to bring our instruments…and as Dante might have said to Virgil, ‘How cool is that?’
About the author...BRUCE S. VICTOR, MD Bruce was born at a very early age in Detroit, Michigan. More here...