March 2, 2012 - Marc Patterson, M.D. Chair - Division of Child and Adolescent Neurology, Professor of Neurology, Pediatrics and Medical Genetics, Director - Child Neurology Training Program Mayo Clinic. Dr. Patterson is board certified in psychiatry and neurology (with special qualification in child neurology and in neurodevelopmental disabilities). Dr. Patterson is on the Scientific Advisory Board for the National Niemann-Pick Disease Foundation.
At some point or another, most of us realize the frailness of the bark upon which we sail. For many, steeped in a cultural denial of death and blessed with good health, this realization comes late. But, in the realm of rare diseases, the awakening to pure vulnerability often comes at an early age and well before the 72 years Hunton had secured when he wrote this verse. When this awakening comes, it often appears as an “unknown tide” – in waves of unanswered questions and grief. Then, it is vital, not to sink into hopelessness or denial, but as another poet sets it, “to take arms against a sea of troubles.”1 In our species, we first take up arms against the dark and unanswered troubles by naming them and pushing away speechless sorrow. The great botanist and father of classification, Carolus Linnaeus, was called “God's registrar” and he wrote about the significance of classification, which always begins at the boundary of the unknown deep:
“The first step in wisdom is to know the things themselves; this notion consists in having a true idea of the objects; objects are distinguished and known by classifying them methodically and giving them appropriate names. Therefore, classification and name-giving will be the foundation of our science .” (Systema Naturae ,1735. Trans., M. S. J. Engel-Ledeboer and H. Engel (1964), 19.)