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February 17, 2019

What doctors and road engineers have in common

Art is an idea of human agency, which leads to the creation of an image or object through imaginative or technical skill. From this definition, art includes a broad and diverse range of human activities but much of the time when the layperson thinks of art they mean visual art, which includes the creation of images or objects in fields such as paintings or drawings. Abstract art is one form of art in which the composition created is to some degree independent of visual references in the world, that is the imagery does not have to be directly that of a dog or a person. The degree of abstraction can be partial or total, so that the person seeing the art has to work hard to figure out exactly what the artist meant in making the art.

Many people confronted with such art dismiss it as irrelevant and time wasting. This could mean one of two things: either the person is not clever or they are poorly educated and lack the language, the adjectives needed to describe situations encountered. In the case of art, a few adjectives borrowed from art critics can be of help. They use words like flowing, delicate, simple, bold, thick or thin to describe lines in the form of art. Movement is described as swirling or dramatic. Other points to note are if the art is symmetrical. Symmetry can be either a sense of proportion and balance or an exact mathematical self-similarity like a mirror image. A rectangle has two lines of symmetry when a vertical or horizontal line is drawn through its centre, while a circle has infinite lines of symmetry along any line drawn through its centre. In a sense these concepts describe the new beautifully painted link roads in Nairobi and also bodies of certain animals.

 Many sea animals like coral, jellyfish and sea anemones have a radial symmetry, that is, they are shaped like a disk with a top and a bottom but no left or right side. On the other hand, human beings, like most vertebrates, have a bilateral symmetry with the right and the left side mirroring each other. Two key differences between bilateral and radial symmetry in animals is the presence of a head or cephalization to get technical; and the presence of organ systems.

Animals with radial symmetry have their body tissues arranged regularly around a central axis, like the spokes of a wheel, however they lack organ systems. Inside the human torso, on the left side is the left lung, heart, main part of the stomach, spleen, left kidneys, and the descending part of the large intestines. On the right side is the right lung, liver, appendix, gallbladder, right kidney and ascending part of the large intestines.

So unlike the road where there should be perfect mirror symmetry, in the human body symmetry is only skin deep. This fact, that the left side is not the same as the right side is important if you ever have to visit the doctor.

 The symptom that often brings patients to the doctor quickly and urgently is pain. If you know what organs are on the right and which are on the left then you can to a degree tell if you will die soon or if the pain you are feeling is not so serious. A burst appendix has symptoms of severe pain on the right lower abdomen. A strong dull ache on the lower back either side of the spine accompanied with malaise, possible fever signals that maybe something is wrong with your right or left kidney. The stomach itself hardly ever has major problems, heartburn is felt somewhere just in front of the spine just to the left, within the lower ribcage. Pokey pain accompanied with gas movements means there is something happening in the large intestines. Usually the left side is more active because that is where most bacteria in the body live as migrant workers, packaging faecal matter for the export. When you do not give them what they need and want, that is roughage and water, they make demands, which at times can be embarrassing.

 The problem for the doctor, just like the road engineer, is that all too often we ignore the need to learn adjectives to adequately describe what we see and feel in order to say and do the right thing. Markings on the road are put there for our own safety. Admiring them then proceeding to ignore and disobey them is plain foolish. Almost in similar fashion being ignorant of where your basic body organs are is below foolish. Learn a little art, even if it is roadside art. It helps the doctor and improves health.

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