A classmate of mine committed suicide a few weeks ago. Though I’ve heard the harrowing statistics about physician and trainee suicide rates, to be honest, I never expected to personally encounter such a tragedy. The small classes at my medical school allow for a strong sense of community in which we all know each other, celebrate important life milestones, and happily reconnect when we’re together after clinical rotations scatter us throughout the hospital.
How could I study for my next exam instead of focusing my energy on the crisis around me? Was I selfish for still worrying about doing well in school while others died alone in the hospital on a ventilator? In these moments, I found respite in “Learning in War-Time,” a sermon delivered by C.S. Lewis to the students of Oxford in 1939 just as World War II began. In this timely sermon, Lewis addressed the chief concern on students’ minds: Why continue to study philosophy or science “when the lives of our friends and the liberties of Europe are in the balance?”