Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mountains Beyond Mountains

Anthropologist, doctor, infectious disease specialist, professor, husband, father, co-founder of health project.... and the list goes on. Mountains Beyond Mountains: Healing the World: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer
by Tracy Kidder tells the incredible story of a single man and how his passion transforms the world.

I've been bothered lately by the force of pragmatism in the world. Nobody seems to have ideals which withstand the ravages of life. Not only does Dr. Paul Farmer have high ideals and expectations, he lives them even in the face of extreme adversity.

He visits Haiti as a young man trying to decide the direction his education will take. Does he follow his passion of anthropology or his passion for medicine. He decides that he can't separate the disciplines and his love for all things Haitian is entwined in the mix.

Kidder spends quite a bit of time with Farmer as he goes back and forth between Haiti, the US and eventually other health projects around the world. He obviously spends a considerable amount of time talking with him and Kidder leaves us with the impression that he comes to know and respect Farmer immensely. Unfortunately, as a reader, I still don't think I come close to knowing the intricacies of such a complex person. However, I admire him and his devotion to his passions.
Paul Farmer is dedicated to providing medical service and resources to the poor. During a discussion on political correctness he and some friends discuss the importance of appearance.
The goofiness of radicals thinking they have to dress in Guatemalan peasant clothes. The poor don't want you to look like them. They want you to dress in a suit and go get them food and water.
Because of his ability to see the large picture and his success with major health projects, he is pressured to give up his Haitian practice and concentrate on the big issues of world health. However, he says that he hears the voice of a Haitian saying, "My child is dying." He seems to need both outlets, big health projects and rural Haitian clinic.

I don't agree with all of Dr. Paul Farmer's philosophies, but I found myself challenged by his life choices. I admire his refusal to see "common sense" when dealing with poor Haitians. He believes that they deserve the best he and the world can give. He doesn't need to be practical in parceling out resources, he just has to save lives. One man has changed the world.

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