The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good
Voltaire’s “the perfect is the enemy of the good” is about the high-water mark of my philosophical or theological oeuvre. I lack the patience and perhaps intellectual capability to achieve the standards required in those fields. Seeing a glass as 1% empty when it is also 99% full is too frustrating for me.
The famous passage in Theodore Roosevelt’s “Citizenship in a Republic” speech, given at the Sorbonne in 1910, resonates better.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Yes, we all know it as the “man in the arena” speech and guess which figure I prefer: the critic or the doer of deeds?
I am drawn to those who are trying to contribute, especially if they are not awaiting permission. Maybe they won’t get it absolutely right the first time, but they will surely advance the effort and contribute along the way.
Meet Lucy McBride.
She is a practicing internal medicine physician in DC, who trained at Harvard Medical School and Johns Hopkins Hospital. Her 20-year outpatient medicine practice is founded on the concept that mental health and physical health are intrinsically linked–and that patients benefit most when doctors treat mental and physical health in concert.
Over the last four weeks seeing patients with COVID-19 and realizing the enormous public appetite for medical AND mental health advice from a physician, she has been using her medical voice to help an expanding audience manage COVID-related stress.
A few weeks ago she started sending a daily newsletter to patients, and suddenly they have gone “viral,” which has thrust her into a more public-facing role, educating thousands of people about the role of mental health in medicine, specifically during the pandemic, and arming readers with fact-based real-time medical advice and guidance on coping with stress, fear, and loss that we all are experiencing.
According to Lucy, “The pandemic is not just a physical health crisis, it is a mental health crisis, too. It is an opportunity for all of us — and especially doctors who treat the ‘whole patient’ — to raise our voices and help shape the future of healthcare, where mental and physical health are considered co-equal.”
Try her website lucymcbride.com. Try her email newsletter. I am glad I did.
Lots of things are going to change when we come out the other side of this and some of the best ones seem likely to result from those creative enough to explore problems in new ways.
Carry on Lucy. Teddy Roosevelt would have been proud. Heck, he might even have referred to the woman in the arena.