Pan Pals Chat: The Mysterium Tremendum!

Thanks to everybody who attended our PanPals Chat on the Mysterium Tremendum today! Our special guest Dr. Julie Kutac invited us all to engage in a conversation about awe, fear and the unknown in medicine. She ultimately led us towards a radical welcome by stating, in the words of religious philosopher John Swinton, “It is good that you are here.”

Click here to watch the Mysterium Tremendum Chat in full!

Highlights include:

Dr. Kutac assuring us that healthcare providers are not required to approach the Mysterium ALL the time, but that we would benefit from having language and skills to help us acknowledge when the great mysteries are present.

Historian of science and medicine Dr. Jason Glenn proposing that the acknowledgement of pain and suffering may do its own work towards alleviating suffering.

Dr. Stevi Shively, historian and medical humanist, calling on us to consider the structural causes of physician burnout.

San Antonio writer Taddy McAllister defining bravery!

Philosopher and artist Bill Nichols telling stories from his own stay in the ICU, both critiquing the depersonalization of medicine and also showing how simple acts of care and kindness can buoy the human spirit. (He also attributed his survival to “God and Dr. Ruth Berggren!”)

Caravaggio, Saint Jerome Writing, ca. 1606

Were you able to attend the conversation? Did you leave with questions to ask, stories to share, or points you wanted to make about the compelling and terrifying mysteries of life and death? Please continue the conversaton by commenting below.

It is good that you are here!

-Pan Pals

4 thoughts on “Pan Pals Chat: The Mysterium Tremendum!

  1. Thank you for this event. I’m not sure if this was discussed but some care givers have printed pictures of themselves without protective gear to wear on a lanyard so patients can see what they look like.
    Seemed to help in making a connection.


  2. Dr. Nichols’ comment about wanting to be treated like a small child reminded me of my mother who in her final days wanted to be hugged and touched. I believe many people who are making this transition desire to be touched and/or to hear a kind voice. As family or caregivers it is often hard to bridge the barrier caused by technology and reach across the wires, tubes, or masks and simply hold a hand.


  3. Dr. Nichols’ comments about wishing to be treated as a small child when he was critically ill caused me to think of my mother, who is in her final days, wanted to be held and touched. I believe that people who are making this transition often wish to be touched and/or hear a kind voice. It is sometimes difficult for the family or caregivers to bridge the barrier caused by technology and reach across the wires, tubes, or masks and simply touch a hand.


  4. Is it necessary to have a belief or faith in a higher power or is this where “it” is discovered?
    Without a belief or desire to enlarge our consciousness, we have nothing else to count on but fear. There’s a moment of grace between awe and fear that can be easily missed if we have only ourselves. I pray that we each discover that joy can and needs to be found in all moments of life. I love J.R.R. Tolkein’s description of a turn of events between impending doom and joy – eucatastrophe – the sudden happy turn of events which brings tears of joy. These tears are possible even at moments of death, and the peace that death can bring.


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