I’ve written sporadically about my life transformation back in 2001 and the lessons I’ve learned. Today, I’m reminded about what we call knowledge, i.e., what we think we know vs all there is to know. The two things are vastly different.
When I consider my own particular knowledge, what I know is a not even a submicroscopic particle of a mote in the universe. Most of what I think I know, I learned from someone else who told me it was real, true and correct, in other words, conventional wisdom. Unfortunately, most of what we, as humans, consider conventional wisdom turns out to be not only even marginally conventional, but is rarely wisdom; it’s merely someone’s belief system developed over a lifetime of listening to someone else imparting their belief system. Enough years of this pattern and we assume that we are pretty smart about a lot of things, thus closing ourselves off to the possibility that other information (of which we are generally unaware) may be more appropriate and accurate. This reflection comes about as a result of my recent foot surgery.
To succeed in today’s world of Western medicine, doctors must learn a staggering number of facts to make skillful, reliable diagnoses of daily patient complaints. Usually, they have answers, but sometimes (as we all do in some areas of our lives), they fail miserably, with consequences ranging from mere inconvenience to fatality.
Sure, the surgeon successfully removed the bone spur and ganglion cyst from the top of my left foot, but after five weeks, the wound has stubbornly refused to heal. The first two weeks went as anticipated (although my only post-op pain relief consisted of bags of ice tied to the top of my foot to soothe the incision underneath). The wound appeared to heal nicely until the day the surgeon removed the stitches. Not paying much attention to her dressing my foot afterward, I failed to notice the little yellow strip of Xeroform™ (petroleum infused gauze) placed over the incision.
A few days later, with greatly increased pain and swelling, I cut the dressing off. Sure enough, the little yellow strip had produced a severe allergic reaction. Conventional medical wisdom teaches that petroleum aids wound healing, but some of us are highly allergic, as noted in my chart. The surgeon missed it. A steroid cream initially helped a little, but yesterday, after another miserable week, I gave up in disgust and decided to do a little research into wound healing in “folk” medicine.
According to many anecdotal reports, honey is a wonder wound healer. I thanked my inner skeptic for her concern, told her to scram, and proceeded to the kitchen, where I dribbled half a teaspoon of Amish pure wildflower honey over the incision. Covering it with a sterile gauze and tape, I went to bed. For the first time in weeks, I awoke without pain this morning. Removing the dressing, I could see that the inflammation was gone and the incision looked “normal.”
While I’ve increased my knowledge by one tiny factoid, I’m still painfully aware that it isn’t so much what we don’t know, but what we don’t know that we don’t know that will trip us up. We must be open to possibilities, but not blindly accept the first thing that comes along presenting as truth. The only “truth” here is that we cannot assume that what works for us is necessarily going to work for someone else; this lesson applies not only to medicine, but to life in general.