All the Light We Cannot See- Anthony Doerr

Zero
7 August 1944
The Boy

Five streets to the north, a white-haired eighteen-year-old1 German private named Werner Pfennig wakes to a faint staccato hum. Little more than a purr. Flies tapping2 at a far-off windowpane.

Where is he? The sweet, slightly chemical scent of gun oil; the raw wood of newly constructed shell crates; the mothballed odor of old bedspreads—he’s in the hotel. Of course. L’hôtel des Abeilles, the Hotel of Bees.

Still night. Still early.3.

From the direction of the sea4 come whistles and booms; flak is going up.

An anti-air corporal hurries down the corridor, heading for the stairwell. “Get to the cellar,” he calls over his shoulder, and Werner switches on his field light, rolls his blanket into his duffel, and starts down the hall.

Not so long ago, the Hotel of Bees was a cheerful address, with bright blue shutters on its facade and oysters on ice in its café and5 Breton waiters in bow ties polishing glasses behind its bar. It offered twenty-one guest rooms, commanding sea views, and a lobby fireplace as big as a truck. Parisians on weekend holidays would drink aperitifs here, and before them the occasional emissary from the republic—ministers and vice ministers and abbots and admirals6—and in the centuries before them, windburned corsairs: killers, plunderers, raiders, seamen7.

Before that, before it was ever a hotel at all, five full centuries ago, it was the home of a wealthy privateer who gave up raiding ships to study bees in the pastures outside Saint-Malo, scribbling8 in notebooks and eating honey straight from combs. The crests above the door lintels still have bumblebees carved into the oak; the ivy-covered fountain in the courtyard is shaped like a hive. Werner’s favorites are five faded frescoes on the ceilings of the grandest upper rooms, where bees as big as children float against blue backdrops, big lazy drones and workers with diaphanous wings—where, above a hexagonal bathtub, a single nine-foot-long queen, with multiple eyes and a golden-furred abdomen, curls across the ceiling.

Over the past four weeks, the hotel has become something else: a fortress. A detachment of Austrian anti-airmen has boarded up every window, overturned every bed. They’ve reinforced the entrance, packed the stairwells with crates of artillery shells. The hotel’s fourth floor, where garden rooms with French balconies open directly onto the ramparts, has become home to an aging high-velocity anti-air gun called an 88 that can fire twenty-one-and-a-half-pound shells nine miles.

Her Majesty, the Austrians call their cannon, and for the past week these men have tended to it the way worker bees might tend to a queen. They’ve fed her oils, repainted her barrels, lubricated her wheels; they’ve arranged sandbags at her9 feet like offerings.

The royal acht acht, a deathly monarch meant to protect them all10this appositive helps the reader understand the significance of the acht acht where they otherwise would have glossed over it. It’s description helps the reader see the vital importance of these two unfamiliar words[/fragment].

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Diagnosing and Treating The Ophelia Syndrome By Thomas G. Plummer

The Ophelia 11 Syndrome manifests itself in universities. The Ophelia (substitute a male name if you choose) 2 writes copious notes in every class and memorizes them for examinations. The Polonius writes examination questions that address just what was covered in the textbook or lectures. The Ophelia wants to know exactly what the topic for a paper should be. The Polonius prescribes it. The Ophelia wants to be a parrot, because it feels safe. The Polonius 3 enjoys making parrot cages. In the end, the Ophelia becomes the clone of the Polonius, and one of them is unnecessary. I worry often that universities may be rendering their most serious students, those who have been “good” 4 all their lives, vulnerable to the Ophelia Syndrome rather than motivating them to individuation.

And so what? 5 Is it such a bad thing to emulate teachers? What if you are a student of biochemistry or German grammar? 6 Then you have to memorize information and take notes from instructors who know more, because the basic material is factual. There is no other way. 7 And this is a temporary condition of many areas of study. But eventually every discipline enters into the unknown, the uncertain, the theoretical, the hypothetical, where teachers can no longer tell students with certainty what they should think. 8 It is only an illusion, a wish of the Ophelias and the Poloniuses that literary texts have just one interpretation or that the exact sciences be exact. At its best, even science is a creative art. Hayakawa quotes his good friend Alfred Korzybski as saying,

Creative scientists know very well from observation of themselves that all creative work starts as a feeling, inclination, suspicion, intuition, hunch, or some other nonverbal affective state, which only at a later date, after a sort of nursing, takes the shape of verbal expression worked out later in a rationalized, coherent . . . theory. 9

Most of us have metaphors—either subconsciously or consciously—of our student experience. 10 I asked several of my students about theirs. One said he thinks of himself as a computer with insufficient memory. He is able to enter information but cannot recall it. One said he is a sieve. A lot of stuff goes right on through, but important pieces stay lodged. One said she feels like a pedestrian in front of a steamroller, and the driver will not give her any hints about how to get out of the way. Another described his metaphor as a tennis match in which he must anticipate his instructor‟s response to each shot. Another thought of herself as a dog jumping through a hoop. Another described himself as a mouse in a maze with no directional signs and no exits. Another as a child in a candy store where you can choose only one or two pieces to take home. These metaphors describe people at various stages along the way from Ophelia to individuation.

Talk is cheap. It‟s fine to say, “Learn to think for yourself,” and it‟s quite another to do it. A recent Fortune magazine article described the plight of middle managers in American corporations. Driven by chief executive officers at the top for greater profits and productivity, many are working 70 or 80 hours a week and sometimes more. The article reports that the corporate byword for urging these people on is “think smarter.” But since no one really knows what that means or how to think smarter, they just work longer. And people are burning out. 11

Learning to think while still in college has its advantages. It may mean shorter working hours later on. It may mean not having a mid-life crisis because you chose to study what you wanted rather than something that someone else wanted you to study. It may mean becoming your own person. 12 It may, purely and simply, 13 mean a much happier life. I want to suggest six things you can do—six things I wish I had done—to treat the Ophelia Syndrome.

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My Last Day As A Surgeon- By: Paul Kalanithi

My Last Day As A Surgeon

By: Paul Kalanithi, January 11, 2016

By the time we finished the repair and removed the compressive soft tissue, my shoulders burned. The attending broke scrub, offered his apologies 14 and said his thanks, and left me to close. The layers came together nicely. I began to suture the skin, using a running nylon stitch 2 Most surgeons used staples, but 3. I was convinced that nylon had lower infection rates, and we would do this one, this final closure 4, my way. The skin came together perfectly, without tension 5, as if there had been no surgery at all.

Good. One good thing.6.

As we uncovered the patient, the scrub nurse, one with whom I hadn’t worked before, said, “You on call this weekend, Doc?”

“Nope.” And possibly never again.7

“Got any more cases today?” “Nope.” And possibly never again.

“Shit, well, I guess that means this is a happy ending! Work’s done. I like happy endings, don’t you, Doc?”

“Yeah. Yeah 8, I like happy endings.”

I sat down by the computer to enter orders as the nurses cleaned and the anesthesiologists began to wake the patient. I had always jokingly threatened that when I was in charge, instead of the high-energy pop music everyone liked to play in the O.R., we’d listen exclusively to bossa nova. I put “Getz/Gilberto” on the radio, and the soft, sonorous sounds of a saxophone filled the room 9.

I left the O.R. shortly after, then gathered my things, which had accumulated over seven years of work—extra sets of clothes for the nights you don’t leave, toothbrushes, bars of soap, phone chargers, snacks, my skull model and collection of neurosurgery books, and so on.

On second thought, I left my books behind. They’d be of more use here 10.

On my way out to the parking lot, a fellow approached to ask me something, but his pager went off. He looked at it, waved, turned, and ran back in to the hospital—“I’ll catch you later!” he called over his shoulder. Tears welled up 11 as I sat in the car, turned the key, and slowly pulled out into the street. I drove home, walked through the front door, hung up my white coat, and took off my I.D. badge. I pulled the battery out of my pager. I peeled off my scrubs and took a long shower.

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