“Grace,” according to Dr. Paul Mazur, “is the ability to tolerate ambiguity.”

When Mazur’s wife, Juliet Baker, retired in 2007, the two moved from Boston to a house in Bayside that had been in his wife’s family since the 1950s. Originally a summer home, the house had been rebuilt and winterized.

He worked for about two years at the Togus VA Medical Center before coming to Waldo County General Hospital in April. A primary care physician, he sees adults of all ages, and is particularly interested in chronic disease management and the long-term effects of drugs used to treat mental illness.

Many of Mazur’s patients are elderly, and he has worked extensively with patients who are homeless, mentally ill or addicted. He was first exposed to medicine in the mid-1960s, when he was drafted into the Army and sent to Vietnam as a medic. After his discharge, he decided to go to medical school.

He and Baker attend St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Belfast, but Mazur came late to the Episcopal Church, brought in by his wife. He grew up in a devout Polish Catholic family in Pittsburgh, and spent time working in a steel mill as a young man. He also recalled working as a teen at the monastery next to his school, and taking in what went on around him.

Mazur said he’s attracted to the mystical, iconic quality of medieval and Renaissance art, and still feels an affinity for the Roman church. However, he appreciates the “rich liturgy” of the Episcopal Church, as well as that the church “has room for your brain.” Rather than seeing any conflict between faith and science, he regards them as complementary ways of approaching similar truths. “There’s so much in the natural world,” he said, “that confirms that creation is an ongoing process.”

In addition to drawing spiritual nourishment from worship, Mazur meditates twice a day, which he was careful to distinguish from prayer. Meditation, he said, is more of a resting in the presence of the ineffable. For him, spirituality is larger than the set of rules, beliefs and practices that define a particular religion.

Mazur, who said he sometimes prays for his patients, also acknowledged that sometimes they are “messengers” for him about unresolved questions or conflicts within himself. He said he is interested in the stories patients tell, particularly the ones they tell themselves, about their lives and their bodies.

* * * * * * * * * *

Just before I talked with Paul Mazur, I saw part of a film in which he was interacting with some of the people he treated in Boston, who seemed to be mostly older, homeless and mentally ill. He listened in a way few doctors have time to anymore, in the age of 15-minute appointments, book ’em and bill ’em. Not only that, he came to them — in their subsidized apartments, on the street, or wherever. And for the time of their conversation, those people were the only ones in the world for him. During our interview, he said he had loved his work in Boston, and that was easy to see in the film.

I wonder how much healing might happen if all patients felt their doctor had all the time they needed and was totally focused on them during their appointment. In our over-hurried, multitasking world, who really listens anymore? Who listens to us? Who do we listen to? The simple gift of our undivided attention, freely given, can do wonders. To prove it, you have only to think about the times you have been listened to in this way. Just remembering them will make you feel better.

And beyond the healing that could be engendered simply by listening, think of what doctors and other healers might hear if they took the time to draw patients out, to elicit their trust, to find out more about them than their symptoms. I’m all in favor of “results-based” medicine, but I don’t think the best results will be achieved with a better drug or more sophisticated technology.

It will take the kind of real, fully attentive listening I saw Mazur doing and the tolerance for ambiguity that he called grace.