I can't believe THAT!" said Alice.
"Can't you?" said the Queen in a pitying tone. "Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes."
Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said, "one can't believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why sometimes I believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast!"
- Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
In the early years after my stroke, people used to recommend various 'doctors' who could do impossible things. I know Napoleon said that impossible is a word in the dictionary of fools but these guys' claims used to be beyond the boundaries of credulity. I knew that the people were trying to help me in whatever way they knew so I had to tread the fine line between appearing like a smug jerk and being a doormat. But the quacks themselves couldn't be given such a consideration. Whether they were True Believers or con artists was difficult to determine but both are avoidable.
Many of them seemed to know less about the brain stem than me (I had not heard of the brain stem before my stroke) but that did not prevent them from blithely stating that if I had been brought to them immediately after the stroke I would have been walking within three months. If something sounds too good to be true then it is probably not true. They will poke different parts of my body as if they were buying vegetables and make inane comments like 'His body is warm' or 'His blood circulation is good'. They delivered their bogosity with a lot of seriosity which used to remind me of what Gratiano told Antonio in Merchant of Venice:
There are a sort of men whose visagesDo cream and mantle like a standing pond,And do a wilful stillness entertain,With purpose to be dress’d in an opinionOf wisdom, gravity, profound conceit;As who should say ‘I am Sir Oracle,And when I ope my lips let no dog bark.’
I was supposed to jump with joy on hearing their ludicrous promises. Like those folks in Tennyson's Light Brigade, mine not to make reply, mine not to reason why.
They will try to bolster their tendentious claims by giving anecdotes about patients with incurable diseases getting cured. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, said Carl Sagan who has given us a Balony Detection Kit. How about showing me some documents which would tell me what they suffered from and what their treatment was? There lay the rub, as Hamlet would have said. They will give me various reasons why I cannot confirm the existence or non-existence of their star patients. For example, they will say that the person is currently in Germany and they don't know his address.
Many of these people were practising in vague places that I had never heard of. Nobody seemed to know anything about them except the person who brought them. Patrick Swayze was right when he said :
If anybody had that cure out there, like so many people swear they do, you'd be two things. You'd be very rich, and you'd be very famous. Otherwise, shut up.