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Submitted Literature

'The Conscious Notebook: A Narrative Human Ontology'

By Rakesh Biswas

Review

'The Conscious Notebook: A Narrative Human Ontology' by Rakesh Biswas, a professor of medicine from Bhopal is a book on medical fiction (labeled, the science and fantasy of medicine) recently published by Nova Science Publishers, New York to predominantly cater to the rapidly evolving specialty of Medical Humanities in US and Europe.

 

The author creates a fictional conceptual model of a human that is visualized in physical form analogous to a notebook computer that hides an infinite backend process of cognition representing the human mind driven by its consciousness.

 

This particular backend entity is labeled 'con' (shortened from a consciousness that is universal to all humans and other sentient life also sometimes represented simply as being) and is fictionally endowed with powers that enable it to run on multiple notebook computers (analogous or metaphorically morphologically indistinguishable from humans).

 

The biggest problem with this book is its length and the usage of concepts such as ontology that acts as a barrier for an average medical reader. However this is also a strength, as it prompts the medical reader to reflect on the ontologies that impact on everyday practice. The refusal to accept a dualistic mind body perspective requires the reader to make an effort to comprehend the non linear and even sometimes chaotic intrusions about mind and body in the narrative sequences in the book. Of course this is a major purpose of the book, to simulate the realism, the almost magical realism of everyday medical care and medical lives, if we open our minds and our hearts.

 

Once you open up your consciousness to the earthy poetic narratives, you become involved and entranced. There is even a graphic chapter which is highly recommended as a first read even before you read the first chapter.

 

'The Conscious Notebook' which weaves around the lives of two medical students representing two generations promises to touch our medical souls and bodies. On a first read it seems to have kept its promise (although a few more reads maybe necessary to grasp the entire significance of its portrayal of mind body duality and breaching that duality). It asks the reader to comprehend the multiple layers of reality and consciousness that interweave in our complex medical worlds, which influence our practice. This book should be read alongside medical journals in journal clubs and by medical students, as well as reflective practitioners.

Reviewed by Carmel M Martin, MBBS, MSc, PhD, MRCGP, FRACGP
Associate Professor, Northern Ontario School of Medicine,  238 Bruyere Street
Ottawa, ON K1N 5E3 for the "Annals of Neurosciences, India, Volume 16, Number 1, 2009

Key Themes:

  • Medical Training

Significant Quotes / Pages

Neonatal Antics…LCD Dreams

 

It’s one of nature’s great insults that she should prefer to put all her eggs in the basket of a defense less, incompetent neonate rather than the in the tried and tested custody of our own superb minds. But as our neurofibrils begin to tangle and that neonate walks to a wisdom that eludes us, we are forced to give nature credit for her daring idea.

Oxford handbook of clinical specialties

 

 

“What does Con see with his eyebrows contorted in his sleep, smiling even before he learns the social smile…is it like, he sees what he always wanted to? Things that were promised, that made him accept this defenseless puny body as his own?”

Having said this, the professor straightened himself on the ledge. He could barely manage a foothold on the precipice but he had himself anchored safely. He was also being belayed by one of his students most of who were climbing behind them looking like a host of geckos on a wall from a distance. “Whatever it is he sees it must be far better than those Nirvana days I am sure, better than complete darkness or a complete white out. All these years he had thirsted for a single color out of its myriad violet, indigo, blue green, yellow, red spectrum but no you have to accept the emptiness he was told for that was the absolute truth.”

All Humans are Born Physicians

 

The follow-up shock comes with a rush, bringing with it multitudinous questions, some of which have no answers today. There are not, as yet, any little doors to the brain that can be opened so that a clear view of the why, when and where of the billions of its functions can be seen clearly and perfectly understood. But reality is there in the form of a frantic human being begging for understanding and begging to be understood. Uncertainty is the most painful aspect of any serious illness. It leads to wild speculation and often too much undue grief.

Edwin B. Jelks.

 

 

June was perplexed initially as to how she should respond to Chris’s letter as her letter could be obviously labeled as that of a hypochondriac by contemporary medical school teaching but then she had also studied in a different school part time. Joatmon’s teachings in patient centered medicine always emphasized that all humans were born physicians by virtue of their ownership right on their systems. The role of a formally trained trouble shooter was simply to act as a facilitator in a global understanding of the nature of the human system and its afflictions. She wrote back…

 

As June watched Samsara’s body burning she could feel the molecules of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen ascending into the firmament. She figured they were accumulating in the clouds and would one day burst forth as rain. Samsara would burst forth on their little town once again or maybe further away from them who knew…Abraham didn’t have such time for introspection about June whose body had landed up in the city chimney. He had a busy OT list the next day. Thank Con for the work-alcohol that lets us forget the past without harming our livers or our careers.

 

In one pocket keep a message that says: `You are just dust and ashes.' In the other pocket keep a message that says: `The world was created just for you." Both messages are, I suggest, equally true.

Richard Smith,

 

Reference: Rakesh, Biswas. June 2009. 'The Conscious Notebook: A Narrative Human Ontology'. Nova Science Publishers, New York, June 2009

Reviewer

Mr Rakesh Biswas
Date Review Submitted: Wednesday 29th July 2009