Rachel Naomi Remen, M. D.
I have had this book on my desk for months, reading only a few pages at a time. The book is a collection of stories, each only a few pages long, about the author’s life and her experiences counselling patients with cancer. Rachel Remen started her career as a pediatrician. Realizing that more than medical care is necessary for people to heal, and frustrated by medicine’s goal of profession’s separation between patients and doctors, she changed her goal to filling this gap. A review cannot do this book justice. It must be experienced. Its power is in how you feel and think when you read it and how those thoughts stay with you. As a flimsy substitute, I offer the following, which risk sounding trite out of context.
The foreword to the book was written by Dr. Dean Ornish who borrows a quote from Dr. Denis Burkit: “Not everything that counts can be counted.” Medicine focuses on facts, but facts do not provide meaning. Stories provide value and meaning and show how we are similar and connected.
“Many of us do not know our own story. A story about who we are, not what we have done. All stories mix fact with meaning. Facts bring us knowledge, but stories lead to wisdom.”
“I am no longer inspired by expertise as I once was. Perhaps the worth of any lifetime is measured more in kindness than in competency.”
“A belief is more than just an idea. It seems to shift the way in which we actually experience ourselves and our lives. According to Talmudic teaching, ‘We do not see things as they are. We see them as we are.’”
“Objectivity is not whole. Life is the ultimate teacher, but its usually through experience and not scientific research that we discover its deepest lessons.”
“I suspect that the most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention. And especially if it is given from the heart. When people are talking, there’s no need to do anything but receive them. Just take them in. Listen to what they’re saying. Care about it. Most times caring about it is even more important then understanding it. Most of us don’t value ourselves or our love enough to know this. When we interrupt what someone is saying to let them know that we understand, we move the focus of attention to ourselves. When we listen, they know we care.”
“The power of a personal sense of meaning to change the experience of work, of relationship, or even of life cannot be overstated.”
“Sometimes the messages we convey unawares may be even more coherent and relevant to the needs of others than the messages we consciously devise.”
“Healing requires a certain willingness to hear and respond to life’s needs.”