Dr. Meir Yoeli discusses medicine
BROADCAST: 1969 | DURATION: 00:54:26
It is not enough to just treat a disease, explained Dr. Meir Yoeli. Dr. Yoeli said there needs to be a bridge for both science and for the truth of the heart. Also a poet, Dr. Yoeli reads a poem in English and then in Hebrew.
Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.
Studs Terkel Ever since the atom has been split for better and for worse, there seems to be another split, too, in the minds of many. A great deal of talk has been going on in all circles for the past 10 years or so, certainly, about the split between the humanities and science, and C.P. Snow, his celebrated lecture became the book "The Two Cultures", and yet every now and then a man of science comes along and says, "This talk really is based upon a false premise," that the humanities and the science are related. And I am delighted to have as our guest this morning Dr. Meir Yoeli, of Israel who is now a lecturer of Jerusalem, are you not, originally, who is now a lecturer at preventative medicine at New York University and who is an authority on tropical diseases and has recently by Michael Reese Hospital been awarded the Maimonides Award for his contributions to the tropical ailments. But Dr. Yoeli is also a writer of children's books in Israel. Doctor, this theme. What are your thoughts about this whole idea of this, we hear more and more of this split between science and the humanities?
Dr. Meir Yoeli It is a very deep schism nowadays. And to those that work both in the field of science and the humanities, the problems are acute and a bridge is needed to bridge these two worlds. Science has soared so high these days that it thinks it will reach the stars, and without need for any of the elements of compassion or soul. On the other hand, both in the technical sciences and in the biological sciences we come in the end of our work to a wall, or better say, we come to a misty area where science cannot penetrate, and one must I would say accept certain feelings, certain conceptions of the soul as the last element, as I would say the truth of the heart, which is much stronger than the biological truth.
Studs Terkel I'm looking at an excerpt from your address when you won the Maimonides Award, Dr. Yoeli. It says, I'm quoting the Doctor, "It is left to every physician to build alone or the bridge between the scientific truth and the truth of the heart. A physician as a healer requires both, for a subject matter is life."
Dr. Meir Yoeli Yes. I thought much about it, and I think that in my wanderings I have spent many years, six years in the war, and I have left a country, Lithuania, as a youth and moved to other countries and at this stage of my life I really can look back at this aspect and say that as a physician, one needs this approach because we are alienated from people and though we progress in the sciences of medicine, vaccines, ultramicroscopes, electron microscopes, and that it seems to us as if we break through all the mysteries, it is in a way an illusion, because we do have at the end stands the mystery of life, and as such we have to have it in our own minds when we approach our own science and when we approach the patient, for it is not enough that we can cure a disease. It is not enough that we will say we will make vaccines against any of the infectious disease. Modern man in his environment is more exposed to so many factors against which vaccines cannot be made. And it is in a way for the physician to be the interpreter of life. In a way, a physician, more than any other human being, is close to life as he sees life in the beginning, the birth of a child, throughout life, and he sees it at the end, both in peace and on battlefields. Therefore, it is for him to interpret that life to the patient, to the human beings. And when you go in in the subway and you see, for example, fingers pointing out and say, "Cure leukemia. Cure cancer. Help to break through a single target." As a physician and a philosopher of life, one would say that such conceptions and such targets are not hitting always in the right point because, in a way, we must educate the public from school to see the harmony of life and to see the reason of life which is like an ocean. The single life that comes and goes, the single wave that comes and goes, and the life, at the ocean of life remaining.
Studs Terkel Dr. Yoeli, obviously a doctor speaks like a poet, and you speak of the ideal circumstance, the ideal doctor, yet why is it, this is a question that often arises today, in the mid-20th century, with all the medical and scientific discoveries, there seems a feeling among a great portion of the non-medical population, that the doctor, no matter how good he is in his field, is alienated, is a man who lacks certain compassion, a certain understanding of the heart. You feel this, don't you? You've heard this, of course, quite often.
Dr. Meir Yoeli I have heard it and I've come across it. But there are several aspects to this problem. One is that modern medicine has moved from the home to the hospital, and on the wards of the hospital, in the corridors of a modern hospital, pain has being tranquilized and the anguish is in a way softened in this modern--from the modern cushioned floors and also in the environment so that in a way it is an illusion. The mother that loses a child cannot cry. It is not done. The person who is anguished must put on certain play. We play, a social play, life in a modern hospital is not all reality in a way because it does not follow the instinct and the feelings to be realized. And perhaps this suppression of the natural feelings and the pseudo dignity that is given--
Dr. Meir Yoeli Yes. Has, in my mind, and I am expressing my own mind, as you know, brings a sadness that is beyond what one expects. People carry away this sadness home, they have not been allowed to cry of the sorrow. But the other aspect is that a physician, a great physician has to have, in a way, he is a split personality, because he needs to be an observer of the first class and to be aloof. He cannot diagnose, he cannot diagnose and he cannot treat if he will enter with all his compassion into the patient and like an artist will merge with the patient. He has to be an observer and he has to be a scientist.
Dr. Meir Yoeli That's one aspect of his life. On the other hand, in order to treat the patient and in order to heal him, he has to consider also his soul. And then as I have said in my talk, he needs to be the great writer. And, so, when you think of a man like Sir William Osler and who was the greatest physician in modern times, you have both elements merged in harmony for others. It just, they have to be taught ,and it is one of the aspects of a new medical school that this element, what we call humanism, should be given as part and parcel of the training. It has not been done. If you take him to the medical schools of our times and our days, medical students move between RNA and DNA and cell wall physiology, and he moves then to the clinic. Nobody has taught him where he has to, how far he can go near to the soul or how aloof he has to be, and he cannot learn it from textbooks. There are two ways a student can absorb it. One is from classical literature, great literature: the Bible, Homer, Tolstoy. I speak of Tolstoy because when I was in Tobruk, during the siege of Tobruk I was the first seven months there.
Studs Terkel That's how you learned English, wasn't it? When you were in the foxholes? Self-taught?
Dr. Meir Yoeli In the way. I've seen an officer who was wounded, I had to give him first aid, and he said to me, "Yoeli, look! Look at the clouds. I've never seen the sky"--He was very, very severe wounded, he had never seen, he said, the sky so serene. I looked at him and I thought, "Did you ever read 'War and Peace?'" Said, "No." I went back to Prince Andrei, in the battle of Borodino, the description of Tolstoy, and I found the same words in him, that this officer expressed the words of a great writer word-by-word, and I think, therefore, that in great literature there is also this duality of a person in which on one hand he is the great writer is an observer, on the other hand, he is deeply immersed in tragedy of men. I will give you another example from a classical in Homer. If you remember the father of Hector?
Studs Terkel Priam.
Dr. Meir Yoeli Priam. Goes to Achilles, the gods are bringing him by night to the tent, and he goes in there and embraces the knee of this great killer of men and ask to be given--
Dr. Meir Yoeli Yes, the body of his son to recover. And of course if Homer was a mediocre writer, he would have hold, allowed the old man to hold the whole time the foot of this conqueror until he gives him the body, until he releases, but Homer is a genius, a very great writer. And you see Achilles says, "I'm preparing dinner. Would you share with me?" And the aroma of the meat comes to the old man and he seats, and they both enjoy the dinner though the body of his son is there. And after he has eaten, he cries again, and that is life, you see? Homer observed life as a great surgeon, but also as a great poet.
Studs Terkel Of course, Dr. Yoeli, during the scene you just described from Homer, perhaps in that moment in that scene of Priam and Achilles, Priam in the midst of his agony enjoying the meal, the specific material food, you probably described art in its noblest and richest form that this the human being.
Dr. Meir Yoeli Right.
Studs Terkel Well then, it occurs to me, you spoke of artists and poets, who, what better example of the physician/observer yet participant in humanity, than Chekhov, I suppose, who was a doctor, wasn't he?
Dr. Meir Yoeli Yes, that's right. Chekhov, Schnitzler, Somerset
Studs Terkel And John Keats was a medical student.
Studs Terkel In your, in your--
Dr. Meir Yoeli Yes?
Studs Terkel Very eloquent and beautiful paper here on the life and poetry of Shaul Tchernichovsky, who was whom?
Dr. Meir Yoeli Shaul Tchernichovsky, was, with Bialik, the two greatest modern Hebrew poets of time, and each one represents another aspect. You could say that Bialik held a torch and a vessel full of tears. They both stand there guarding the soul of their people. But Bialik holds the torch, the future, and the vessel of tears, Tchernichovsky, on the other hand, holds sun rays and flowers of the field. You understand?
Studs Terkel Yes, of course. The reason I introduced his name in your paper here, 'cause I see this excerpt of your comment, medicine, you're talking about medicine, the physician as a poet. You say, "It is not easy to detect the hidden sources of a poet's creative art. Such stimuli reach back to early childhood. Others emerge in the formative years, others from external environment. Of course, Tchernichovsky was a medical student, wasn't
Dr. Meir Yoeli He was a physician--
Studs Terkel He was a physician.
Dr. Meir Yoeli And a surgeon in, on the battlefields during the First World War. He was in the Tsarist army, and had seen death, and in a cycle of magnificent poems, my dear friend, David [Kuselovitch?] translated this love, this outstanding cycle of sonnets, perhaps the greatest in modern time, into English and I would quote you the first one. It starts, it is called, "To the Sun", it's called this and he said, "I am into my Lord as a Hyacinth or an Adonis, like a golden stalk of wheat on a field of ripening grain. He fed me mountain mist and draught of warm rain, symphonies of light and shade and scarlet [blues?] that vanish." Now, of course, people think that Hebrew, Modern Hebrew poetry is all about the Talmud and is all about the Beth Medrash, that is, the synagogue, and the darkness and shadows, but in the Hebrew literature, in modern Hebrew literature there have flowed so many streams of from Jewish life which has unfortunately [part of?] been extinguished. And you see in it the fields of Bessarabia, the forests of Lithuania, the prairie of Crimea, as beautiful described in some of the idylls of Tchernichovsky, so that in a way it is a microcosmos the Jews living for hundreds of years, sometimes even live a thousand years in a country, have absorbed, perhaps more than the native population, the mood and the soul of that country, so that, for example, not only, too, have we had greater interpreters for Russian, German, English writers among us, because we felt it but also in the literary aspect which was expressed in Hebrew or in Yiddish. Like for example, some of the ballads of Itzik Manger in Yiddish or Leyvik. You have the mood of the countries which they have left, more than in their original native language.
Studs Terkel And our guest is Dr. Meir Yoeli, who is lecturer of preventative medicine at New York University, authority on various tropical diseases and parasitology, has just been awarded the Moses Maimonides Award by the Michael Reese Hospital Medical Center, and as you're listening, obviously you hear a poet as well as a doctor. The reason I brought up Tchernichovsky, because there's another piece here about your tribute to him. You're speaking of the medical student, you know, he says, "Who must carry a philosophy of life with him. It carries within its own core," medicine, you say, "the signs of healing must carry a deep humanism: the nobility of compassion, altruism, and equanimity." And here's the part that most affected me in the reading of it. "The young student absorbs not only the knowledge of the biological sciences, indeed, they all do today, more than ever, and the clinical disciplines, as they do more than ever. But he is in constant contact with a world of suffering," and thus it is this dilemma in which it seems the modern doctor finds himself as you describe the hospital earlier.
Dr. Meir Yoeli Yes, but I would like as well to speak not just of the hospital and of that humanism which must be brought to medicine as a global to global medicine, as in the global science. And this is the field which I know there are great and demo-epidemic diseases of the world, which in our great urban centers, healing centers, we think as something far away, remote from us. They are not remote. Three-quarters of the globe are still occupied. Not only that, tropical diseases hunt, they got to vast territories of our world as one disease, for example, sleeping sickness in Africa. The tsetse fly is the supreme ruler of an area nearly as big as half of the United States. There can be no settlement, that can be no agriculture, no husbandry, so long as we will not be able to conquer. There are other diseases which have to do with, could we conquer if poverty would be conquered? For example, South American trypanosomiasis, both, the same type. It is caused by a protozoan, but the vector that, there is a bug that transmits it. The disease, like many or most of our human diseases, are not human. They are zoonoses, they're infectious--
Dr. Meir Yoeli Zoonoses. Infections of animals which are transmitted to men and develop into human diseases. All of them, even the malarial fevers, sleeping sickness, the typhus fevers, Leschmania, the spirochetes, the relapsing, they are all infections of animals and infections of poverty, infections of war, and siege. Why? Because crowding. Because walking barefoot. All these, I will give you the example of South American trypanosomiasis. The same bug exists in Texas as it exists in Mexico and in South America. But the bug, which is called the "kissing" bug because it bites on the face, it bites the sleeping child that lies on a mat on the floor. It will not develop and not breed when you have a cement floor. So it is a disease of poverty. The same applies to other. But we must understand and our medical education must be towards a global problem, because the plane, the search for new agriculture as for mines, for ores, brings in contact men from his sheltered urban areas with those diseases. He brings them back and it is in the mutation of microorganisms that there is the great danger. For example, you take plague. Plague starts as a zoonosis. It's a disease of wild animals, wild rats and others. It starts as bubonic plague, by the bite of a flea. The flea, that jumps off from the dying rodent and bites man, but then it is transmitted in a different way. It changes, the parasite changes, the microbe of plague changes and develops into a septicemic, like in and pneumonic, and does not need any more the vector, the flea and, so, a tremendous epidemic may start. This danger has not disappeared. This is, and we must be aware of it and medicine must nowadays, now modern times, have the aspect of global medicine--
Studs Terkel Doctor--
Dr. Meir Yoeli Not of urban protected. We are sheltered here and we cannot go farther.
Studs Terkel Dr. Yoeli, obviously you are touching upon what is the core to the great benightedness of the world, and I speak of the urban so-called civilized world. You use the word "global," this probably is the key you speak. These are the diseases, then, of poverty. So often we forget, as we speak of affluent society, that two-thirds of the world, perhaps more--
Dr. Meir Yoeli Goes
Studs Terkel Goes barefoot and to bed hungry, and even in our cities, you mentioned rats, sir, if we can mention the Black ghettos of the various cities in which obviously there are these, more than hints, there are these cases throughout, but even in our urban affluent so-called city--
Dr. Meir Yoeli Yes, but here there will be more controlled. But there is another aspect because you have mentioned before Maimonides, and it gave me really great pleasure to go back and to when I knew of this happy tidings that I was awarded this, I thought it was, it was only proper that I go back to these sources. My childhood.
Studs Terkel Perhaps I should explain this one thing, Dr. Yoeli. The award, the Maimonides Award, was conferred by the Michael Reese Hospital and The College of Jewish Studies, jointly, but many of the audience may not know about Moses Maimonides, who lived 800 years ago, perhaps this man and what he represents
Dr. Meir Yoeli Yes, yes. In a way, the figure and the personality of Maimonides is very near to me, though it is 800 years ago that the man lived. I have started reading Maimonides in Lithuania, where I spent my childhood and youth, in [Yslabotke?] Yeshiva, if I may say so, and in the high school. But at that time, it was a serene period of my life and I still was at home, and I did not appreciate the depth and embrace, the world embrace of his thoughts. When I came back to him, I found him to be a modern genius. Now, his life, Maimonides--
Studs Terkel He lived about eight hundred years ago.
Dr. Meir Yoeli Yes. Rambam ben Moshe Maimon or Maimun, lived in the time in the Crusades. He was born in Cordova. His father was a noble rabbi. At the time that--
Dr. Meir Yoeli In Spain, but under the Moors, under the Arabs, which at the time had very enlightened rulers. But then this rule of enlightenment changed, and the Almohads, who were fanatics, conquered that part of Spain, and the rule was, those that will not go over to their Muslim religion will be killed or must leave the place, and Maimonides, like many in Hitler's time, had to run from place to place. Not by Christian, the Inquisition, but through Arab.
Studs Terkel The Christian Inquisition came a bit later.
Dr. Meir Yoeli It was later. It was the Arab, the Almohad, and he went to Morocco, and later to Acre, and in the end he settled in Egypt, where the great Saladin was at that time, the sultan who conquered by the way the Crusaders said, you know, he was--his greatness was in two ways. He brought in light into the confusion, or into the sea of the Talmudic law, he brought rule and enlightenment. He regulated a stream that really was in a way thought to be that you could not control, because the Talmudic literature was so vast and long, but he brought in the leitmotifs for a nation. That's in one way. And of course, his great treatise in philosophy. He was greatly influenced by Aristotle, and acknowledges this, that is one of the wonderful things that you see within our nation and within our religion, that it did not stick only to its own, but that it has absorbed the methods of study and methods of reasoning, of pure philosophy from others, the same as others have absorbed the faith and I say the heat, and the moral heat from Judaism. As a physician he has, we know about him and his daily life as if he were sitting with us today. In a letter that you wrote to one of his students who translated the "Guide for the Perplexed", Ibn Tibon, who wanted to come to see him and to go over the translation to see if he approves of it, Maimonides, in his olden days, he died when he was 70, that he must have been around 62 at the time wrote to Ibn Tibon, and this letter was preserved, and he writes to him of his daily work, the following: He said, "My dear Son," he calls him son, "I rise with the sun and ride to the palace." To Cairo, because he lived outside. It is about, must have been about four miles riding. He visits the Sultan, the sons and the harem, giving his medical advice. He does not eat the food of the Sultan, so he arrives back home to his home at about two, three o'clock, when he sees his anteroom and his place full of waiting people of all parts of the population, rich and poor asking for his help. He takes a tiny bit of food and starts as a healer to this masses of people needing him. And that goes on until night. He describes, "I write my recipes exhausted lying on my bed."
Dr. Meir Yoeli And then after everybody is gone he can dedicate part of the night to his
Studs Terkel What you had said earlier about Maimonides, thinking now about the--How he's alive today so much of, earlier you were saying before we went on the air about at the same time he did not seem to show any outward compassion, and yet it does appear
Dr. Meir Yoeli Yes.
Studs Terkel This is that interesting dilemma,
Dr. Meir Yoeli Yes, because he was, you must understand that he was also in a way a product of his time, and he was aloof, in a way thought that most of his writings are for, not for the masses, but for the elect. And it would seem that he was aloof, but he was not. He was, really was not aloof because by giving to the people, the Jewish people, the outline of a moral guidance in life. He cared for the preservation of a culture, of an ethic, of a religion, not for the very high, but for the simple people, that is a guide. And of course his aspects in medicine are absolutely modern. I will tell you why. He had the--he has taken the conception of harmony of life, of body and soul, as the basis of his treatment. He wrote a very wonderful manual of advice to the son of Saladin, of the king who later ruled for a short time, who was in a way an invalid, and in this prescription for daily life. He speaks of, to take of the good in little, in little quantities. He speaks of the exaggeration as of everything as degenerating life. On the other hand--
Studs Terkel He was a good psychiatrist.
Dr. Meir Yoeli Yes, absolutely. He speaks of, to understand, to heal the soul, to take away the worry by music, by looking at landscapes like Leonardo da Vinci, in a way. And another aspect which struck me as very, very modern. We know nowadays that, for example, in our studies of neoplasma, of cancer, of the disease this enormous vast area of unknown that they may be caused by internal factors like hormones. They may be caused by external factors, radiation, chemicals and so forth. Maimonides' conception of the harmony of each can be applied nowadays to the harmony of the cell. See, it's from embryonic life cells have their own reason the cycle. They know where they are as single individuals within a community of cells. And when you cut yourself, for example, you see that it heals up to a certain place. It forms a healing, but it does not go further because there is a breaking factor, a kind of a consciousness in the cells that it is to this point that they have to grow. When this I would say memory, the inner memory of cell is destroyed, you can say the DNA or the RNA has been destroyed, that is, in modern terminology. If we study more, perhaps we will know that it is a fraction of that. But the conception of it, that if this so-called harmony and the sense of belonging of a single individual cell is destroyed, it runs amok, berserk, and you see this tremendous proliferation. It is then develops into what Hermann Hesse would call "Steppenwolf."
Studs Terkel Half
Dr. Meir Yoeli Yes, that it will have got only one idea, to grow, to proliferate, divide without looking at anything else. The same concept could be applied to of harmony, to most of mental diseases. Maimonides' concept in the sense that the harmony of the individual in which he understands his own place in the universe, in the community of man, that is what we would call a personality concept. When this is broken by external factors, by fear, by suppression and the psychoanalyst will say by such factors as in the subconscious, it is not important what factor, but the fact is that the harmony of the internal structure of man, call it his soul, why to be afraid of this word, an eternal word, if that is destroyed and men does not finding his place in the universe, then the boy who picks up the telephone when he has been brought up on the streets, and his mother said, "Get off the phone," he runs amok, he take the shotgun and shoots his own mother. Suddenly there is a blackout in him, and he forgets his place in the universe within family, and part of our modern mental disease, the diseases of the mind, or the great part of it, is due to this destruction of harmony, chemical. The biochemist may find it's schizophrenia an element, the psychoanalyst may find another, the concept though of Maimonides remains valid. It is both in the cellular structure and on the human level it is the harmony and the memory which is in every cell and within our own culture that keeps men as human beings. Dr.
Studs Terkel Dr. Yoeli, this is, perhaps, one of the most poetic descriptions I've ever heard of illness, mental and physical, and in a sense of the world, too, and the key word, the recurring word used here was "harmony," or perhaps the poetry of the cell, of the man, and of the world, and the boy grabbing to shoot his mother--
Dr. Meir Yoeli But with this must come the responsibility. The sense of responsibility, and that sense of responsibility must be imbued in the physician more than in anyone else. Maimonides in one of the chapters of "The Guide for the Perplexed" speaks about prophesy, and he divides the world of man into two prophets and others, and he speaks of people that have in them both the vision and the great vision and also the balance of the mind. He speaks of politicians and he say the statesmen have got division but have not got the balance of the mind, so that they may be pulled away by their visionary power without balancing it. In medicine, you see, we have to teach our students that balance between both aspects that brings to the sense of responsibility.
Studs Terkel As you're talking, Dr. Yoeli there, obviously this is a terribly moving commentary you're making, and actually the thought, the fantasy I have is, were all physicians like Dr. Meir Yoeli, there'd be no problem with the world. In fact, I should say, were all statesmen like Dr.--we come back to the question of this man, this doctor, so many to ask you, yourself, you yourself aside from your work in tropical diseases that is so much a part of your life and philosophy, the poetry you've written, and literary criticism. At the moment you are working on a novel in English, aren't you?
Dr. Meir Yoeli Yes, but it is, you know, it would be strange that one would speak about Tolstoy or anyone else say, "Tolstoy has just gone to Borodino, because he is writing 'War and Peace.'" I'm not belonging to a modern generation. I do not go to myths and to write a book on myths and life. I would rather see the novel that when it will appear as a live thing and you will give your review. But I would like to say something about Hebrew. I, as you said yourself, that this award has been both by the Michael Reese Medical Center by The College of Jewish Studies, and it has for me been a very moving thing that these two crowns have been given to me, and I like to make some statement to you about my feeling. I think that the Hebrew culture and the Hebrew language are more than just a language. It is a well of life that you move into, and when you know it, you see that a life is much deeper. It goes back so much farther, and the effect of this language upon other language and thought is so enormous. I know a number of languages, and I play around sometimes with words. I found not only that other languages have borrowed concept and words of practical, and but a word like "tuga," which is sadness in the Bible in Hebrew has been borrowed by Slavonic people, and you have the same thing, the deep tuga of the prairie, of the steppe, in Russian is also called "tuga." Now, I feel that the--in Hebrew, in modern Hebrew more than in any other language, there has been an attempt to pour the greatest poetry of the world, the most noble poetry, into Hebrew vessels. And I would say that the Jews pride, those that know Hebrew, can pride themselves that they have stored the world poetry in the most wonderful way in Hebrew vessels. It is in a way this way I learned English, because I didn't learn it at school, and I myself tried--
Studs Terkel Self-taught during the war, then.
Dr. Meir Yoeli Mostly, yes, and I translated a number of poems, some were published, some not. And I would like to read to you a poem English which I translated and I thought it is a beautiful poem and I want you to see how it sounds in one language and another, if you give me a moment's time.
Studs Terkel Dr. Yoeli, you found that poem you were looking
Dr. Meir Yoeli Yes, yes, it is a poem that I found during the war and I had took, I loved it very much and so I tried to--
Dr. Meir Yoeli William Butler Yeats. The name of the poem is, "The Lake Isle of Innisfree", and I will read to you and show you that you can, in modern Hebrew, translate it and even have the, not only the words, but the melody the same. It start like that: "I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, and a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made: Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee; and live alone in the bee-loud glade. And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow, dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings; there midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow, and evening full of the linnet's wings. I will arise and go now, for always night and day I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore; while I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey, I hear it in the deep heart's core." I translated it, and I think that the mood was just, it came out beautiful in Hebrew. It was just good luck. In Hebrew it is like the following: "[Hebrew]." Now you see, it finishes with "core," and by sheer good luck, I would say fortune, I finish it with [Hebrew].
Studs Terkel Dr. Yoeli, what's so fascinating about this is you've chosen the great Irish poet of the century, W.B. Yeats, who has Druidic blood in him, and into Hebrew. Fascinating. Two people here, you might say, the Irish and a certain poetry into what you feel is Hebrew on its own--it seems to be almost a similarity here, a connecting link--
Studs Terkel Between a culture though disparate--
Dr. Meir Yoeli In a way Hebrew, a Semitic language does not have the, I would say, the fog. The mystic between the lines. However, if you know well Hebrew and you have imbued both the Haggadah, both the legend and the Bible, you can find in it also not the stark Semitic Mediterranean clear outline as you have it in French or in Italian poetry, but also the mystic thing.
Studs Terkel The mist in the fog. I'm curious to know how this would have been even re-translated back into Gaelic, I wonder this might have been a very fascinating--
Dr. Meir Yoeli As you see, Hebrew is not an easy language in many to translate, because it lacks like Semitic languages the diminutive. Because in Semitic languages, the growth, you see, you cannot say like "una casa", "una casetta," "una casalinga," "[casalaccia?]," like you have the diminutives like in Italian or in Russian, but for rely on there are eight different names of growth. You see, still, if you love both language and the original, you can pour it. But we have to go back to medicine, otherwise I will lose my job as a physician.
Studs Terkel The fact is, Dr. Meir Yoeli, our guest is, the audience can gather, a most poetic one. Though you say you're going back to medicine? We've been with medicine all the way, even this is medicine, too. Isn't this what you are implying, too?
Dr. Meir Yoeli Yes.
Studs Terkel That the poetry itself has a healing power.
Dr. Meir Yoeli It's true. I was in Paris last year, no, this year, in June, the 6th of June, there was the centenary commemoration of the birth of Charles Nicolle, one of the most illustrious and noble scientist of France, Nobel Prize winner, who was the man who has discovered the transmission of typhus, leishmania, toxoplasma, in a way as great as Pasteur, who was a poet and in the same time a great scientist, and I felt at the time that we need, we need such people in science today, too, because Charles Nicolle speaks in his "La Biologie de l'Invention", "The Biology of Invention", of knowledge is one thing, but the visionary intuition that a scientist must have for discovery, and the world of suffering, the world of disease cannot be conquered just by machinery--
Studs Terkel Or by the technician.
Dr. Meir Yoeli That by technique. Yes, they should serve as servants for the scientists. They should know the electron microscope, the chemistry, the physiology, a servant, but God forbid, as we see nowadays, that the scientists develop the hero worship first and the slaves of the technique, so that they must be above them and use them for it. And that especially that medicine has not conquered everything and that life, even when conquered, life will still need for the world the measure of compassion which medicine must give.
Studs Terkel Don't we return again, I can't let you go yet, Dr. Yoeli. Don't we return again to that theme at the very beginning, you said the scientist must have a vision, just as an artist, and since he must think like an artist, he must have what Dr. Bronowski calls "the leap of the imagination."
Dr. Meir Yoeli Yes, but as I said, he must be--have a twofold soul, to be within life and time but at the same time not be swallowed up by life.
Studs Terkel The observer, inside and outside.
Dr. Meir Yoeli Absolutely.
Studs Terkel The, how can you put that, the involved man, at the same time detached--
Dr. Meir Yoeli The aloof man, yes.
Studs Terkel Both.
Dr. Meir Yoeli Yes, yes, yes, it is within that splitting of himself to go in within the object of his observation as an artist and as a priest. But at the same time, remain the aloof
Studs Terkel You were saying before we went on the air that in ancient days--
Dr. Meir Yoeli Yes.
Studs Terkel The priest, the shaman, he was the doctor and he had this quality, did he not? I mean outside the community, at the same time in.
Dr. Meir Yoeli Yes. At the time, you see, society, the primitive society had strong-held beliefs, and therefore fear, and the fact that this ancient physician according to him stood near the gods and that he was the messenger of the gods made his stature in society higher. Nowadays it cannot be. It has to be the measure of knowledge and dedication instead of being given a, I would say, a document that he stands near the gods. It's only through his dedication and knowledge that he can achieve that measure of respect from men.
Studs Terkel Dr. Meir Yoeli, our guest at the, earlier, sometime earlier in the conversation you were talking and most poetically, too, about global medicine and how we think it's something removed from us, the tropical disease, something exotic, just you're talking about the doctor, the physician, the scientist as an individual must also be part of the world, so must one society be part of the world, too.
Dr. Meir Yoeli And let me say something. I belong now to America, the United States. I been teaching for the last ten years in an American university. My children are brought up here. The United States has taken upon its shoulder not only the responsibility for the security of the world from the time of colonial powers have gone, but also the responsibility for the health of the world. The tropical institutes of France, of Belgium, Holland, even Britain have gone down. It is for the United States to introduce a renaissance in this field and by building a Central Institute for Global Medicine with outstations in the tropics in which the native talent would collaborate hand-in-hand with American genius so that would bring relief, that would bring knowledge in the tropics, not to give as a philanthropist equipment, but to work hand-in-hand on this great problem--
Studs Terkel This
Dr. Meir Yoeli And to share, because America cannot escape this, the United States cannot escape this great responsibility which she has taken upon herself, and global medicine is one of the most important aspect--
Studs Terkel By this very act of global healing, then this society, that it is a part of, may in a sense be also healing itself in that out of it will evolve a respect for other societies as well, as you say, a handing down.
Dr. Meir Yoeli A respect for man, a respect for man wherever he is.
Studs Terkel Respect
Studs Terkel For life. Perhaps that's the phrase, then, to say goodbye right now to Dr. Meir Yoeli, who has just won, and as the audience can judge, quite justifiably, just in hearing him, the Maimonides Award from Michael Reese Hospital and The College of Jewish Studies, and we'll look forward one day to reading your novel, too. And the obvious phrase to say goodbye, the most appropriate one, would be "Shalom."
Dr. Meir Yoeli Shalom.
Studs Terkel Peace.