Our intrepid physician approaches St. Peter at the Pearly Gates. "Doctor, before I can let you into heaven, you have to answer one question correctly," St. Peter says. "Did you have a good time during your retirement?" Our intrepid physician, accustomed to those convoluted board exam questions, suspects that this was a trick question. He thinks hard for a few minutes and replies, "That depends on what your definition of time is."
St. Peter looks surprised. "That's an unusual answer," St. Peter says. "I'll have to check with the big guy to see if it's acceptable. You'll have to take a seat in the reception area." As the physician waits, his life passes before his eyes. He recalls a college physics lecture about the five scientific papers produced by Albert Einstein exactly 100 years ago, papers that ushered in the Theory of Relativity and rocked the scientific world. Time and space, Einstein said, are relative. Time itself moves faster or slower depending on the relative speed of the observer and the subject.
As he waits for what seems like hours, our intrepid doctor starts contemplating time. Time is something doctors know a lot about. Conditioning starts early in medical school on the importance of time. There's never enough of it. Running late is a given. Check that clock while running a code. Interrupt patients who take too long to tell their story. And, seemingly of ultimate importance, understand that a doctor's income is intimately associated with how many hours are worked.
But when our intrepid physician retired, he had started looking at time in a radically new way:
As our intrepid doctor was savoring these points, he saw St. Peter approaching. St. Peter was smiling because he knew that our doctor had been in heaven for sometime now, but had only just now realized it.
Louis L. Constan, a family practice physician
in Saginaw, Mich, is the editor of the
Saginaw County Medical Society Bulletin
and Michigan Family Practice. He welcomes
questions or comments at 3350 Shattuck
Road, Saginaw, MI 48603, 989-792-1899, or email@example.com.