Through the Window of the Mind or Portal of the Heart?

As I travel around the country lecturing on the health benefits of the Mangosteen, I am inevitably asked to comment on the “science” behind the fruit. As a result, I carry with me a large binder that is almost four inches thick. It contains many of the journal articles and research papers from schools of pharmacy and medicine where scientists have put the Mangosteen’s xanthones to the test under experimental conditions. The impersonal facts of the studies are set out in cold scientific terms that describe cell cultures, spectrometric analysis, and observations in laboratory animals. Exciting? Yes, but not really in any personal way, and not really with any immediate emotional impact.

Inevitably, however, in those same meetings, there are moments when true emotion is present. I am not referring to the Rah! Rah! enthusiasm of the motivators who help attendees glimpse the future potential of a limitless business opportunity and the financial rewards of perseverance and efforts. I refer, rather, to the silent moments when only one voice is heard, when listeners’ throats constrict with emotion and tears well up. These spellbound moments occur when someone, who has experienced relief from years of pain, or has seen a child snatched from the harrowing possibility of a lifetime of illness, speaks in a halting voice of personal experience so intense that it can scarcely be put into words.

I live for those moments; they touch my heart and strengthen my resolve to continue. As a physician and as a scientist, I know full well that the personal experiences which arise in the most intimate reaches of a person’s soul, a place which normally remains private and inviolate, amount to no more than anecdotal evidence, the least valued of all evidence, and of far less worth than the four inches of documents I may hold in my hand. But, as a human being, I am struck to the point of profound transformation by revelations, almost sacred, of hopes realized, of prayers answered. I am stirred in the best part of me and caught up in a type of pure emotion that I believe everyone must feel regularly to confirm their own humanity. I become a believer – I am convinced! It all becomes worthwhile.

At those moments, science, and all its vaunted objective evidence, is silenced by the overwhelming subjectivity of testimonies of renewed health, restored vigor, of disease and pain defeated. I have, at those times, occasionally found myself unconsciously tucking my binder and its scientific content unobtrusively under my chair, feeling, as a scientist, a bit like an atheist witnessing a religious miracle.

Science and emotion don’t mix. Yet both are necessary in this endeavor to convince the world of the worth of the mangosteen. And yet, had I my druthers, I’d quietly confine the science to a three-page handout distributed at the door as folks left a meeting of nothing but personal_experiences.

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