I feel numb

I feel numb May 27, 2015

This excerpt from Steve Garber’s book  Visions of Vocation is reprinted here with the kind permission of InterVarsity Press.  Stay tuned as we continue to occasionally publish excerpts from the book here at Visions of Vocation the blog.  And get the book from IVP at this link!


person-451713_640Written by a former MIT professor, Alan Lightman, The Diagnosis is the tale of a businessman who day after day takes the train from suburban Lexington to downtown Boston, where he works for a company whose motto is the maximum information in the minimum time. The story begins on the train, one more day watching people open up their laptops, talking into their cell phones— plugged into the information age before they even get to work.

But this day is different. He notices; he cannot stop noticing. Beginning to feel strangely uncomfortable, he starts to feel a little warm. So he loosens his tie , and takes off his coat— and then his shoes, and his shirt, and finally his pants. By the time he is downtown, he has forgotten his name, where he works and where he lives. He is lost in the cosmos of Boston.

Knowing that something is wrong, he eventually finds his way into a hospital’s emergency ward where he is finally brought into an examining room for a diagnosis. With highly skilled physicians and a brand new machine, he is hooked up and test results are on their way. But when the doctors leave the room, so does he. And he wanders the streets with no name and no idea where and how to find his way home. After hours of futility, he walks by a big building and the doorman greets him, with the kindness and familiarity of someone he knows.

The good news is that he gets home that night. The bad news is that when he wakes up the next day, his fingers are numb— which is a problem for someone who works for a firm that lives by its ability to process “the maximum information in the minimum time.” He finds that he cannot use the keyboard as quickly as he must to keep up with the flow across his screen. Others begin to notice too. As the days pass the numbness grows, moving through his hands to his feet, limb by limb, slowly immobilizing him.

And so more tests are done. Massachusetts General Hospital offers its diagnostic tools, results are sent to the Mayo Clinic and Duke University’s Medical School. Each reply with the same, sober response: there is nothing wrong. A new round of tests is called for, this time with psychiatrists and psychologists; if it is not his body, is it his brain? Hours are spent in conversation, but each skilled professional offers the same diagnosis: there is nothing wrong. But of course there is. There is no happy healing at the story’s end. Inch by inch the man becomes numb, from head to foot— no longer able to move or to talk or to be the human conduit for the maximum information in the minimum time. I feel numb.

The artists get there first.

Taken from Visions of Vocation by Steven Garber. Copyright (c) 2014 by Steven Garber. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL  60515-1426. www.ivpress.comVoV

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