Mind, Body, Anus: A Probing of Rectal Philosophy
Given these classic and idealized settings, it came as no surprise to me that my grand insight into one of the worlds classic philosophical problems came while I was shoving my finger up an elderly man's asshole.
(You may be familiar with the Mind-Body problem, as described and philosophized heavily by Descartes. Briefly*, this philosophical area explores whether there is a separation between our conscious mind and the body that it is associated with. Descartes held that there was a separation between Mind and Body, whereas much of the subsequent philosophical arguments attempted [rather successfuly, as far as I can recall] to demonstrate that Descartes' arguments were a bunch of poo, pun intended. But anyways, if you are actually curious, read more here.)
This being my second rectal exam of the afternoon of my first full day on the wards as a third year medical student, the novelty of it all had worn off (rather quickly I might add) and I was getting tired of coming into such close contact with wet and juicy excrement. I carefully rubbed the KY jelly over the glove area covering my pointer finger and quickly inserted said finger into an elderly gentleman's asshole. The warmth of his rectum heated my finger, easily the most disgusting part of the exam for me, while the brown stains started spreading over my latex glove. Then, suddenly, I had a quick succession of thoughts, which shall henceforth be known as the Rectal Corollary to the Mind-Body Problem:
1. This is fucking disgusting.
2. My finger is warm and surrounded by shit.
3. If only I could cut off my finger, I would no longer feel this sensation of shit.
4. I cannot cut off my finger because I am a pussy.
5. If only I could figure out a way for this finger to no longer be a part of me, I would no longer feel this sensation of shit.
6. If only I could convince myself that the finger inside that man's asshole was not mine, but someone else's, I would no longer feel this sensation of shit.
7. If only I could convince myself that the finger, and all the sensations being brought to me courtesy of it's placement, was all in fact a delusion of the Mind and that the finger was not actually represented in my Mind even if it was a part of my Body, then I would no longer feel this sensation of shit.
8. When placed in a truly horrible situation, I could will myself to believe anything if doing so would get me out of the horrible sensation.
9. A rectal exam is that horrible.
10. If only I could will myself to believe that my finger was not actually a part of me, my essence, my Mind, then I would no longer feel this sensation of shit.
11. Given that I am in a situation that horrible, I can will myself to believe that my finger is no longer a part of me, and therefore I no longer feel this sensation of shit.
With this simple progression of thought, I managed to separate my Mind, which believed itself to be in such a horrible situation it was ready to accept any form of delusion to extricate itself from said situation, from my Body, part of which was currently driving up the Hershey Highway without a map. And with that, everything fell into place, the prostate was felt, the finger was pulled out, and my Mind was off somewhere else, daydreaming about Natalie Portman and trying to figure out just how awful my Penis to Vagina viewing ratio was now that I had examined about 10 penises that morning and afternoon (to any ladies out there who would like to help me adjust this ratio, please let me know).
However, philosophy is not that simple and my argument is likely filled with a vast array of holes that need to be addressed (feel free to tear it apart - but please be nice, this post is less about philosophy as it is about...ass). Despite this, I first walked away from the patient preparing my Nobel speech, having just conqured an age-old philosophical question. However, I noticed something funny. When removed from that stressful situation, I found that the finger, that was part of my Body but no longer part of my Mind, kept following my around. Turns out, it was still attached to the rest of my body. And my Mind couldn't deal with that. Crap. Literally.
It took only another rectal exam for me to then realize that I had forgotten the key part of the Rectal Corollary, which in fact demonstrated that the Mind and Body cannot be separate, at least when it comes to rectal exams:
12. The powers of delusion are temporary at best.
13. The sickening sensation of heat emanating from a finger that has been up someone's butthole lasts indefinitely.
14. Given the factor of time, the Mind cannot forever ignore the sensation of heat coming from the finger (the Body), thus reestablishing the connection that it tried so hard to destroy.
Well, folks, there it is. Three rectal exams into my third year, and I have already proven that the Mind cannot be separated from the Body. Give me two more days to discover the cure for the common cold, and in one week I'm sure I'll have explained why I can't find a nice, good-looking, single Jewish girl. That is, if I have time to spare when I'm not washing my hands excessively. Seriously, it's been four hours and I can still feel the warmth. I think I'm going to throw up.
It may occur to you that I forgot one final step, which would read something like "14. I am the biggest loser of all time for even wasting 30 minutes writing this up". And you'd be right. But one thing I'm learning about medical school is that we all have ways of coping with the craziness we are thrown into on a daily basis, and mine just happens to be thinking about utterly absurd stuff like this. And if you have a problem with that, find someone you don't really know and stick your finger up his or her butt, leave your finger in there for a couple of seconds, poke around in there, pull your finger out, and then think long and hard about how you are going to look at yourself in the mirror in the following morning.
*It is really hard to encapsulate this area of philosophy in a sentence or two, as it has filled volumes and volumes of books over the course of the last few centuries. And, lets face it, it's not like I remember a whole lot about it despite taking a whole bunch of philosophy classes as an undergraduate. I would like to thank my $120,000 private school undergraduate education for making that previous sentence possible.