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A Piece of My Mind
April 11, 2012

Subjective Case

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois (rober@northwestern.edu).

JAMA. 2012;307(14):1495-1496. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.424

Several years ago, my family and I participated in a stargazing tour. The bubbly tour guide was enthusiastically pointing out constellations when a group member politely corrected her after she had misidentified Libra. Unflustered, the guide suggested that they were both right. “That's the wonderful thing about constellations. They are whatever you want them to be.” Our daughters found this notion rather unsettling. It didn't seem to us that constellations were matters of opinion. We dismissed the guide's statement as amusing nonsense and filed “whatever you want them to be” in the silly section of our family lexicon, quoting it often. However, a recent experience forced me to reconsider. Rather than lightweight nonsense, is this notion actually heavyweight insight?