Health & Wellness November 2020

The Blind Man’s Lantern

Symposia Medicus faculty member and Martial Arts Grand Master 8th Degree Black Belt Dr. Michael Foley shares a story and insight surrounding the challenge of healthcare provider burnout.

One evening after a Martial Arts class, a blind student approached the Master to request a lantern for his journey home.

On hearing the request, the Master—who knew that the student had memorized every rock and irregularity on the narrow trail from the school to the front door of his home—asked, “Why do you need a lantern to light your path? You’re a blind man and darkness will still prevail.”

The student respectfully responded, “The lantern will allow others on the dark path to see the light and keep from bumping into me.”

The Master, recognizing the wisdom of the student’s request, lit the candle in the lantern and sent the student on his way.

Midway home on the path, the student bumped into another traveler and was knocked off the trail. The student picked himself up and asked the traveler, “Why did you bump into me? Didn’t you see my lantern lighting the way?”

The traveler, embarrassed by having accidentally knocked down the blind man, said apologetically, “I am sorry that I bumped into you, but the candle in your lantern had blown out. I think you should relight your candle.”

Are you wondering what this story has to do with your life? The universal truth this story reveals begins with the candle in the lantern. Think about it. What did the candle provide? Light. Yes, light.

Martial Arts philosophers often refer to light as a metaphorical representation of life force, passion, and energy. The universal truth addresses the value of maintaining a focus on keeping your lantern lit as you progress on your path of life. Without this light of life energy and passion, you are invisible to others and are easily knocked off your life’s path to success and fulfillment. In other words, you literally get burned out.

With the stresses of the pandemic, job layoffs, economic situations in general, and work/life balance concerns, many of the candles in our lanterns are flickering and burning out. Are you like the blind man on the path? Are you invisible to others because your lantern has lost light? Are you burned out?

Sometimes you may have to bump into something or encounter an obstacle to realize that you are moving invisibly along the path of life without the fire that sparks your energy, your passion. Some of the greatest positive changes have occurred when one door closes and another then opens.

We must focus on why we do the work we do. Our light emanates from the reward we receive from the relationships we create, as well as the way our companies and organizations facilitate learning and accelerate performance. As we keep our lantern lit, our path will be illuminated as we navigate the obstacles encountered in our everyday practice.

Has your candle flickered out? Light it! Rekindle the fire of passion and energy that made you choose your profession, your friends, your life partners, the place you live. Do you remember?


Dr. Foley is a Professor and Chair of the Department of OB/GYN at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. He has taught martial arts free of charge for over 30 years at The Center for Humane Living. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona.