The Practice

An Essay

by William Carlos Williams
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I was attracted to this story because I am a retired physician, having been in practice for just under forty years. I must admit that, although I have only a faint recollection of this author's writings, I was completely absorbed by his story. I think it is because it reveals so many of the feelings and nuances that a physician encounters when confronted and challenged by so many people seeking his help in his daily professional life. As Williams accurately observes, his work inadvertently spills over into his private life, affecting the lives of his wife and children because of his preoccupation with other people and their problems. The insomnia he writes of is the inherent result and it feeds his preoccupation.

Medical academia teaches the idea of "professional detachment" as a way to subdue the subjective concern for the patient in favor of an extrinsic viewpoint. However, if you are even close to being as human as this author obviously was, and share a profound interest in some other activity--be it writing, sports, or cooking--then professional detachment does not apply and you can't escape personally identifying with this essay. For me, it was a peek into a former life experience, both poignant and pleasurable.

The poetry is there in the everyday. He ate the last of the plums, "so sweet, so cold." Listen carefully, he says, there is poetry in every man. To find those moments of insight and inspiration, each of us look where we can. One wonders what Wallace Stevens would have said about this essay.

I love the way Williams says what he means without trying to be too precise, without defining anything beyond allusions and intimations. In doing so, he conveys a sentiment, not an analysis.

A writer is everywhere, as is the comedian, the singer, and the physician. A writer can live in the lives of all three. Writing and reading is a personal experience appreciated long after something is written, as opposed to comedies, songs, or the help of a doctor. But none of those three are immortalized without the writer. That's the tragedy. I am thirty-two years old and a lawyer for seven years and after reading this essay by William Carlos Williams, I renew my commitment to my writing.

How beautiful, straightforward, and searching. I'm blown away by what Williams reveals in describing this ever-searching, never-capturing quest for being. It deepens my own understanding of what it's meant to be a social worker. I'm going to seek out a volume of this man's poetry!