The Discernment of Patch Adams
Hunter Patch Adams is the main character in the film Patch Adams. Hunter was lost and confused when he checked himself into a mental hospital after trying to commit suicide. Plagued with the uncertainties of life, he realized that he needed to get medical help. Throughout the movie it is easy to see how his character grows and uses the discernment process to bring meaning to his life as well as others he came in contact with.
At the mental hospital Patch is able take the time needed to make a clear choice on what he will do with his life with his head and his heart. Arthur Mendelson, one of the patients at the hospital, shows Patch how to look beyond the problem to find his answers. Later on that evening he helps his roommate Rudy kill the imaginary squirrels. It is at that moment that Patch realizes the answer that he has been searching for. He realizes that he wants to, help people, learn about people, and listen to people . Rudy and the other patients at the mental hospital helped him to help himself. He was able to forget about his own problems while helping others forget about theirs. He checks himself out of the hospital to fulfill his dream.
The discernment process consists of four basic principles; incarnation, to give and be given up, universality, and communion. The principle of incarnation and death reminds us that not to waste time but to manifest our love here and now because there may not be another chance.(Wolff 125) Giving and being given up is exactly that, giving evrything possible to improve the human condition while accepting others and being able to serve them with a truer love.(Wolff 125) Universality is being able to view all humans regardless of race, ethicity, and background as equal. The last principle of communion embodies unity. When we as human being unite, it is then that we can love everyone.
Patch clearly shows us how he was able to incorporate the are four criteria of the discernment process. Patch was able to accept other people around him as they were. At the hospital and with his classmates, he treated everyone with respect and dignity. He gave to all who needed help even when he needed. He opened the clinic with the help of Arthur but sacrificed being paid and his sleep and study time to help the sick. This helped Patch to be in communion with his world. He was able to feel apart of something special.
Patch clearly demonstrates the principle of agape. He was doing and working for the good of others and himself indirectly. When he starts to visit the patients in the hospital at medical school, he helps the sick patients feel better by helping them forget about their sickness and pain. Patch s passion of helping people leads him to decide that as a doctor he wants to improve the quality of patients lives while under his care. His stay in the mental hospital and the experience with the doctor showed him that there was need for a doctor who actually cares and listens to his patients. He knew that after helping Rudy that he had the ability to help people. He then decided to go to medical school to begin his journey.
Listening to his heart is also something that Patch did well. He shows this when he goes to the hospital and sees the woman being denied to see her daughter because she has to fill out medical forms. This encounter causes Patch to imagine Gesundheit , a hospital where treatment is free, and humor is used to heal pain and suffering, a community where joy is a way of life and love is the overall goal. Patch was authentic with his intentions, because of this he was free from bondage of worldly possessions and any attachments. He wanted to help people without concern for money and status that comes with being a doctor. Through helping others Patch was able to experience bliss and joy, feeling apart of something bigger than himself, and God s wisdom.
Patch faces a challenge when Corinne is murdered and decides he wants to leave because he feels that he is a failure. This demonstrates the fleeting emotions felt by the shock of her death but then realizes he must stay. A qoute from Thomas Aquinas sums up the emotions felt by Patch, The real good angels sometimes frighten people by their coming, but their presence very quickly becomes a source of consolation and strength .(Wolff 47) Patch then asks for a sign from God, he sees the butterfly and realizes that he can t leave because Corinne is in his heart and God has a plan for him to continue. Corinne s death did give Patch the strength he needed to continue to pursue his dream. When the Dean tries to expel Patch from medical school for his extreme happiness , Patch puts up a fight. He had the strength to tell the doctors that they to needed to show a little sensitivity and caring towards their patients to. Despite the challenges, Patch prevailed because God and Corinne helped him.
Patch s ability to use the discernment process allowed him make a fruitful choice for himself so he could help others. Although, he had a unique way of expressing himself, Patch had a special gift of helping others. He touched everyone he came in contact with and brought meaning into his life as well as the patients at the hospital, his classmates, the nurses, and his friends.