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When asked to describe editorial policy at the JRSM I have sometimes used the word eclectic. The dictionary says that eclecticism enables me to choose the best out of everything; it's the opposite of exclusive (or reductionist). This seemed a worthy standpoint until lately, when I saw ‘eclectic’ used as a term of abuse, implying internal contradictions and the lack of a clear sense of direction. But in medicine, of course, a coherent view remains elusive. The articles that follow in this special issue of the JRSM take us from a ward round in a teaching hospital, via reflections on molecular medicine, the uncertainties of Sir Humphrey Appleby, some poems and Chopin, to the proposition that we human beings are becoming discarnate, losing touch with the natural world and each other. The issue thus includes ‘incompatible discourses’ of the sort that give eclecticism a bad name, but I do not apologize.
When Sir Barry Jackson, the former President, asked me what the Journal might do to mark the RSM's Bicentenary I suggested a ‘time capsule’, addressing the reader fifty years hence. He thought well of the idea and we ran through a whole series of ways to select contributors—age, sex, specialty, geography and so on. All these were rejected in favour of brainpower and imagination. After consulting every Section of the RSM, numerous other friends of the Journal, and my editorial memory I made my choices. Of those whom I invited, all responded amiably and only two, for the best of reasons, failed to produce. For me, it was a lot of fun. Usually, my modest claim for the Journal is that every issue should contain one item that will intrigue the casual reader. On this occasion I can promise two at least. Eclecticism rules.rules.