This is a microscopic picture of the esophageal lining, composed of a layer of flat lining cells (squamous cells), and beneath them, supporting connective tissue. It's remarkable to consider that each cell's existence is dependent on adjacent cells and the supporting tissue below, which lends structural support and delivers blood, oxygen, and nutrients. Together, these cells make up a living lining of the gut, which allows us to eat, to live, and to thrive. In a similar way, we are all linked to each others' existence, and in many cases, happiness.
As intensely social creatures, the interactions (big and small) that we have with each other have a cumulative effect. We are also intricately linked to the physical world, which continues to wield so much power over us. The air we breathe into our lungs each second is the result of the metabolism of innumerable plants, which are dependent on energy from the sun. And despite all of our technological advances, there is little we can do to stop natural disasters from occurring; we can only try to avoid them.
As doctors, we face this dependence head on. Notwithstanding advances of modern medicine and the remarkable tenacity of our bodies to heal and survive, it's obvious that we are fundamentally fragile. Young or old, we are all only one step away from a life-changing diagnosis or psychological event.
Our culture places such a premium on independence, which can sometimes feel like a competitive prison. It's paradoxically freeing to realize that we are held up by 100,000 puppet strings each day (a recent Just One Thing excerpt). It takes the edge off to realize that we're dependent, simply because everyone else around us is too. It's incredibly humbling to realize just how much we depend on the world around is.
I like to take a moment to realize, and be grateful for, the millions of things that have to happen like clockwork each second to keep us alive and thriving. This includes internal and external events, prior and future experiences, positive and negative....we're all in it together.