HAVE YOU EVER heard of a man named Paracelsus?
He did a very good thing for you and me. In the year 1500 AD,
the doctors in Europe studied the work of a man named Galen.
His works had been respected for 1300 years. That's an incredibly
long time. You talk about well established! What he wrote became
like sacred doctrine. If Galen wrote it, it was so, and that's
all there was to say about it.
Now a lot of the things he wrote were accurate.
But a lot of it was garbage. For example, supposedly inside each
person were what were called the Four Cardinal Humors. Humor
comes from the Latin umor meaning fluid or moisture.
The four Humors were Phlegm, Choler, Blood,
and Melancholy. In order to be in good health, so the theory
went, a person had to have a proper balance between these humors.
The whole thing sounds pretty humorous, don't you think? But
if you didn't have enough of one of these humors, or if you had
too much of one, then you were sick. That's what disease was.
So to make you well, the doctor's job was to restore the balance.
Galen also believed that each person had
a certain balance that was just right for that particular individual.
Therefore, each illness in each person was unique.
So the doctor, with his special knowledge,
might find you had, say, too much of one of your humors, like
blood for example. And he would treat you by making you bleed
for awhile. One of their techniques was to attach leaches to
your body to suck out some of your blood. And then you would
be well. Now this sounds like a good Monty Python gag, but here
were well-respected authorities, diligently studying for years
to get their "Doctor of Physic" degree so they could
go out and make people sweat and purge and bleed and vomit, and
thereby supposedly make them healthy. A lot of the time, as you
can probably imagine, the treatment killed the patient. But after
1300 years, this was a very well-established status quo.
Then along comes a rebel by the name of
Paracelsus, who came up with the scandalous idea that something
from outside your body, like smoke or germs, could make you sick.
What a radical! He was viciously attacked by the medical profession
so he never stayed in one place very long, and he lived his life
But he never gave up. He felt pretty sure
he was right, and he knew if he was right, it would have an enormous
impact on the health of everyone.
Since he had no Doctor of Physic degree,
he was never allowed to publish his ideas including his
studies of people who worked in mines who all seemed to die of
the same thing (now called Miner's Disease) which seriously put
in question one of Galen's "sacred" ideas that all
diseases were unique.
It wasn't until a couple of decades after
Paracelsus died that his work became known and published. He
turned out to have been right, and although he never knew what
he did, he opened up the way for a whole new approach toward
disease, and doctors dramatically increased their effectiveness
because of that persistent rebel.
Now some people might consider themselves
a failure if they lived a life like Paracelsus in poverty
and scorned and all. But there are more important things in life
than just winning or getting everyone's admiration, or collecting
and spending a lot of money. Nothing wrong with these things.
Not at all. But there's at least one thing that's more important:
Being true to your own aspiration.
If it stirs you, if that vision captivates
you, if the ideas for that invention haunt you and won't leave
you alone, if you have a goal that may even seem petty to others,
but it's something you feel is good and right, and you want to
try...then do it, no matter how long it takes or who thinks you're
a fool. Never give up on something that matters to you.