Saturday, February 04, 2012

Training to go Through the Keyhole

I am not usually a competitive person, at least not in respect to other people; although I do constantly compete within myself, striving to attain new goals and improve personal standards. However, my sense of isolated self-confidence took a thorough beating over the course of the New Year weekend. Indeed, ‘beating’ is probably not the correct word; I was, without an iota of doubt, comprehensively thrashed.

Finding myself in the position of ‘opponent’ for a game of glorified skittles, and then watching shamefaced as my challenger scored one ‘strike’ after another compared to my own one or two pins, was a humbling experience. The completion of my ignominious defeat was a round of golf, wherein I bounced from one bunker to another (when I wasn’t in the rough or hitting trees), whilst my competitor took hole after hole for a double-bogey (that’s two over par for the uninitiated). The problem was that I have never really mastered the art of ten-pin bowling or golf. Indeed, I have never previously played golf; the nearest I have been to a tee being a romp in the rough as a teenager (trying to find lost balls to turn into cash), and the occasional quick dash across a green as an adult, whilst negotiating an awkwardly placed public footpath.

There is worse to come, for I have more terrible confessions to make than the above. Not only was my opponent female (if you will allow me to be sexist in defeat), but she was considerably younger than my five decades. Indeed, she hadn’t quite reached her first decade. Oh, okay, I confess it; she was only four years old. There, I am totally chastened now; my morale has well and truly sunk below the horizon. I was decisively beaten by a debutante from a kindergarten.

By now you may well have guessed that all may not be what it seems. In truth, we were playing with games on a Nintendo Wii, with a television screen being the nearest we got to a bowling alley or the big outdoors. ‘Shame’, I hear you cry. However, before you castigate me for encouraging a child to waste valuable development time in front of a television screen, allow me to offer you the following for consideration.

In my daytime profession of medicine, the technical skills required in an operating theatre have changed beyond all recognition. Minimally invasive (keyhole) surgery has been one of the most radical changes since I qualified. No longer is there a need to operate through large open wounds for many procedures; including unblocking coronary arteries, repairing torn knee ligaments, removing gall-bladders, or taking a peek inside a bladder or the bowel. Instead, the surgeon often stares at a television screen whilst manipulating various gadgets, the ends of which have disappeared down small holes in the patient. Often life-saving miracles are seemingly performed by remote control.

The skills required to perform such procedures are feats of dexterity; dexterity which I clearly lacked whilst trying to salvage my ego from the skilful attack of a four-year old. The real problem for me is that I became an adult when such computerised games were in their infancy, and I have never made up for that short-coming. By comparison, today’s children are masters of such technology. Whilst I am the first to agree that children should regularly get outside in the fresh air for a spot of healthy exercise, I also have no doubt that they should be allowed to spend time in front of televisions and computer screens, playing entertaining computerised games. At such times, what they are really doing is learning valuable skills of dexterity and spatial awareness which may serve them very well in their professional adult lives. Achieving a balance between the two extremes is important, but I suggest that computer games are not necessarily the childhood evil they are often painted to be.

As for my four-year-old opponent, after the game of golf she went off to play with her toy doctor’s trolley. Who knows, perhaps I have just been witnessing a future brain-surgeon in the making.

(First published in the Scunthorpe Telegraph, Thursday, 12th January 2012)

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