I listened to the following conversation last week as I was driving. It was very touching and contained the kind of deep wisdom that adds something genuine to life and living, especially in an age of sound-bites and the superficial.
Krista Tippett talked to Rachel Naomi Remen in 2005. It was a truly wise and insightful conversation. Remen is a leading figure in the field of integrative medicine, bringing together the best of modern knowledge, both scientific and spiritual. As a clinical professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco's School of Medicine, she's drawn attention to the emotional needs of both patients and physicians. Living well, she says, is not about eradicating our wounds and weaknesses, but understanding how they complete our identity and equip us to help others.
Krista Tippett: You say that the pursuit of perfection has become a major addiction of our time. I mean, we throw that word "addiction" around a lot, but I've never heard anyone talk about our pursuit of perfection as an addiction.
Dr. Remen: Well, I think perfection is the booby prize in life, actually. It's very isolating, very separating, and it's also impossible to achieve. So you're always struggling to become something you're not. But, you know, this is one of the great — it sounds funny. I was going to say the great joys of working with people on the edge of life. The view from the edge of life is so much clearer than the view that most of us have, that what seems to be important is much more simple and accessible for everybody, which is who you've touched on your way through life, who's touched you. What you're leaving behind you in the hearts and minds of other people is far more important than whatever wealth you may have accumulated.
Krista Tippett: Now, what is your understanding of why that simple truth that we've all heard said, and it makes so much sense; why is that hard for us, for human beings to take seriously before we get to that edge of life, or for many of us?
Dr. Remen: I think we get distracted. We get distracted by stories other people have told us about ourselves, that we are not enough, that we will be happy if we have material goods, that material goods will keep us safe. None of these stories are true. What is true is that what we have is each other.
You will find the interview here.