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Q&A: Physician Gabor Maté

Dr. Gabor Maté was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1944 and came to Canada in 1957.  His eclectic career has…

By Erin Empey , in City , on December 8, 2008 Tags: , ,

Dr. Gabor Maté was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1944 and came to Canada in 1957.  His eclectic career has taken him from teaching high school English to treating patients to writing bestsellers.  For the last 20 years he has been treating people suffering from HIV and addiction as a physician in the Downtown Eastside.  And he wouldn’t have it any other way.

On why he prefers to work in the DTES:

People suffer for no fault of their own, and that’s not the kind of world I want to see.  There is my own addictive stuff, which makes me identify with my clients, and I see myself in them.  There’s the challenge of the medical work itself, which is really interesting work.  So there’s all that.  But anybody who works down there will tell you that its a really exciting and wonderful place to work.  So contrary to the question of why are you down there,  it’s like, why wouldn’t you be down there, with how rewarding and challenging it is?  And what makes it rewarding is the authenticity of the people.  It’s not that they don’t lie.  They lie and cheat and manipulate.  But they do it very authentically, compared to the rest of us.

Maté’s “audacity of hopelessness”:

Well nothing gives me hope.  I don’t believe in hope.  Hope is, from a certain perspective, really a useless commodity, it’s all in the future.  I’m much more interested in the possibility of the present.  So it’s not a question of having hope.  It’s a question of knowing that every person is an infinite possibility.  And connected with that, in the present, that’s the whole thing.  Now those are those moments that make the day completely worthwhile.  So it’s not about hope, for the future.  I have no idea what’s going to happen in the future.  What I do know is that any given moment every person has the potential for- to transform.  Not to be just their behaviours, not to be just their feelings, not to be just their thoughts, but a deeper essence.  But that possibility is not a hope, it’s in the present.  Hope puts everything in the future.  Nothing ever happens in the future.

Related: Writers explore violence against women


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