Shakespeare’s Mortal Coil

this-mortal-coilTo be, or not to be: that is the question.  The famous opening of the soliloquy in Act III, Scene I of William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet.  But unless you’re an English major, chances are you’re not as familiar with what comes next:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: to die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That Flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there’s the respect that makes calamity of so long life.

Fay Bound Alberti uses this portion of Hamlet’s soliloquy for the title of her insightful book on the human body in history and culture.  “The separation of mind and body in Western Medicine is a problem not only from the position of the patient experience”, she writes, “but also because the system is struggling.”  Her book is essentially an homage to the field of integrative medicine which is better suited to the interaction of psyche and soma, and its chapters demonstrate that our bodies are products of the stories that we tell.

integrative-vision-therapyIntegrative medicine emphasizes complementary techniques that concentrate on health and healing in contrast with a biomedical model that concentrates on disease and treatment.   The holistic view of the self, and the relation between the body and mind,  emphasizes harmony and balance rather than conflict and control.  We’ve blogged about this before in the context of integrative neurology, integrative pediatrics, and integrative wellness in general.  I’m delighted to see that there’s an optometric specialty practice that has co-opted the term for its name – integrative vision therapy.


Booktowne, a quaint little store in the quaint little town of Manasquan, New Jersey, is a place where I often hang out on Fridays, and yesterday was no exception.  Rita Maggio, the store’s owner, has a spot in the corner where she leaves uncorrected proof copies of books for the taking.  I picked up a gem yesterday, The Longevity Plan, which isn’t due out until July 2017.  You could easily say that it’s author, John Day, M.D., was feeling his mortal coil, when he was attracted to integrative medicine.  A product of Johns Hopkins Medical School and the Cardiology Residency at Stanford University, one couldn’t find a more traditionally trained individual than Dr. Day who specializes in electrophysiology of the heart.  But after hitting rock bottom with his personal health Dr. Day, who is fluent in Mandarin, visited a village in China where his health care views were turned inside out.  You can get a sneak preview of Dr. Day’s journey  though his podcasts, and through this trailer about longevity village.

Longevity is often the cumulative effect of going about health care in a way that achieves, in Fay Bound Alberti’s words, the best harmony and balance for the individual.  Achieving harmony and balance is something that our staff discusses during our weekly case conferences.  It seems to come up frequently when we address patients burdened with negative visual stress.  What are the cumulative effects of such stress?



2 thoughts on “Shakespeare’s Mortal Coil

  1. Looks like a great store. In the metaphors of today, we are mortal coils. The metaphors are not necessarily the best as guideposts for living life. Vision therapy is the humanities of optometry. Vision is an emergent. Somehow it exceeds the parts of its mortal coil. And so do we.

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