Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What Really Matters

Book Review: Teach Us to Sit Still: A Skeptic's Search for Health and Healing by Tim Parks

What happens when a person grounded in rationality and whose faith lies in science and technology, finds themselves face-to-face with a problem beyond the reach of modern medicine?

Tim Parks, a man who found it impossible to sit still, finds himself on a journey to a place he could not conceive or believe in his quest for answers. In Teach Us To Sit Still, he gives us a glimpse of that journey.

Tim Parks was in pain -- an insistent, intractable, undeniable pain. He went to doctor after doctor, underwent test after test. The professional opinion was that there was nothing really wrong with him; that is, nothing that would explain the pain. Procedures were suggested, not with any promise of relief but for lack of better options.

His experiences with medical professionals in different countries (England and Italy) echo my own in this country. The patient should do what he is told, the experts know best, and his friend the surgeon will wait until he comes to his senses. "There is part of me," he says in describing one procedure, "at these moments, eager to rebel. Yet I never do. I imagine it is the same at executions."

But slowly, reluctantly, he does rebel. Averse to anything he would call faith-healing, he dips his toes into various streams of alternative medicine, always keeping one foot firmly on the ground of logic. Even with his doubts and distrust of anything remotely mystical, the pain starts to recede. It is not any one thing that brings him back to well-being, no more than it was any one thing that made him ill to begin with.

Tim Parks is not proselytizing for any cure. This is not The Idiot's Guide to Prostrate Pain; it is not a self-help book with a checklist of do's and don'ts. Teach Us To Sit Still is the story of Tim Parks' "process of self-purification by self-observation." It is a help-full book, a tale of one man's re-discovery that the devil IS in the details - in the seemingly inconsequential matters that make up our daily lives. In our headlong rush to the next big thing we are missing the point of the journey. Tim Parks is sharing his.