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Human need for a sense of order


Beneficial spirituality
Sherwin Nuland Surgeon
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I've had the good luck to have an intense sense of spirituality. One of the early books I read, which was called the Wisdom of the Body, in hardcover, and then the publisher decided to call it How We Live in paperback.

It's a book introducing the biology of the human body… to a general reader, and when I had written all of the chapters about the cardiac system and the nervous system and the gastrointestinal system, I wrote a section about what I called the human spirit, which I really felt was a genetic response… to 200,000 years of human evolution. You know, Homo sapiens appeared on Earth about 200,000 years ago, and my sense was that… spirituality was of benefit… to a biological creature, and as time went on, as in all evolutionary processes, those genetically favoured with a sense of spirituality survived, and this is why the human being has it. And I had what I thought of as evidence for it… primarily from the world of art, from the aesthetic sense. From music, particularly. Music seems to me to bring out my sense of spirituality more than anything else does. Sometimes reading some very wise moral philosopher will do the same thing for me. Sometimes, discussing issues, that old, old issue of why we are the way we are, which has intrigued me forever. Sometimes discussing that gives me a tremendous spiritual sense.

Sherwin Nuland (1930-2014) was an American surgeon and author who taught bioethics, the history of medicine, and medicine at the Yale University School of Medicine. He wrote the book How We Die which made The New York Times bestseller list and won the National Book Award. He also wrote about his own painful coming of age as a son of immigrants in Lost in America: A Journey with My Father. He used to write for The New Yorker, The New York Times, Time, and the New York Review of Books.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is a London-based television producer and director who has made a number of documentary films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and PBS.

Tags: Wisdom of the Body, How We Live

Duration: 2 minutes, 36 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2011

Date story went live: 04 November 2011