House and Me
I started watching “House” – really watching, not only viewing it in a distracted way – when the “Pilot” aired in a rerun on the Portuguese TV. The first thing that caught my attention was the medicine, more specifically the way the show portrayed the logic reasoning behind the diagnostic process. My father is an Internist and he always told me that the diagnostic was the heart of the medical profession.
The second thing was the character of House. Here was a fictional character like no other I had ever seen on television before. He was a cynic, a misanthrope, an extremely rational person,with a bleak view of life and of the human nature, but we could see that he was also a man struggling in his loneliness and suffering. This was a character that had a soul. A character who was deeply introspective, concerned with truth, with justice, with finding a meaning for Life. In short, here was a man that was not only a doctor, but a philosopher as well. Obviously, I lovedhim from the start.
Throughout the running of the show, I watch him struggle with pain, physical limitations, drug addiction, loneliness, love, changes, the randomness of life. I was his companion in this journey, and during this time, he changed me as well. He inspired me to be bolder and not to be afraid of expressing my views. He also made me think more logically and warn me about the traps of common sense. These were the small changes that I noticed in my behavior since I started to watch the show. The gift of Gregory House to me. But this was not all.
The show and the character are important to me on a deeper level.
A few years ago, almost 10 years now, I was hit by a car, in Lisbon, and broke an ankle and an arm. I was taken to the hospital. While I was lying on a stretcher, in a corridor, waiting, in a kind of numb state because of the antibiotics, a stranger came to me. It was an old woman, avolunteer at the hospital. She saw that I was alone, and grabbed my hand and started talking to me. She talked about her grandson and other things that I don’t remember anymore. I barely paid attention to her. But she kept me company for a long time for no other reason than pure kindness.
Time passed, I healed. The memory of that moment faded almost completely until Isaw “Lockdown”.
And what a surprise… in that episode I saw a situation that in some way mirrored what had happened to me: a man was alone in a hospital, in pain and a stranger was keeping him company.
The scenes that showed House talking with the patient stroke a chord in my heart. Despite the script, despite the fact that those were actors playing a role, despite of what was actually being said, something very like the Truth appeared, like some uninvited guest, in those moments between House and the patient, and suddenly the essence of the human condition appeared naked before us. A man was dying, another man was keeping him company. What can be more simple and profound than this?
And I was moved to tears. Because I saw my own experience being portrayed in those moments. And because I remembered something that I had long forgotten. I remembered that old woman at the hospital in Lisbon. And for the first time I realized the importance of what she had done. The solace she gave me by just being there. And this remembrance made me realize something: that, in this selfish age, the right way for a person to behave is to be open to others, to the suffering of others. Once I realized this I swore to myself to try my best to honor the old woman’s kindness towards me by helping, even in a small way, other people in need.
So, while I was watching “Lockdown” and thinking all of this, something changed in me. Something deep and subtle at the same time. This change is the everlasting legacy that “House” gave me, and specially Hugh Laurie because it was he that directed the episode and because it was his performance, his silent moments, the way House looked at the patient in some particular moment of their conversation that made me think about my own experience. This is the power, the magic, of acting. Through a make believe to strike at something eternal and truthful and meaningful.
For all this, and much more, Gregory House will always live in my heart. And I am thankful to David Shore for creating him and to Hugh Laurie for portraying him and giving him a soul.