The knowledge I am acquiring about medicine nearly equates the knowledge I am learning about myself.
I call it the “Confidence Paradigm”. Have you ever been bloated with confidence walking into a test, only to score wildly below average? Conversely, have you ever been so uncertain about a test that you were still cramming bits and pieces into your brain seconds before walking through the door? Personally, the latter describes my state before tests when I’ve score best.
Uncertainty usually precedes my success.
I’m noticing this lesson feed into my life in a constantly reoccurring, surprising new way: I am not always right. I am beginning to gain the clarity that is really only possible with the presence of a frontal lobe, and that development allowed my confidence bubble to pop. This was not a damaging event, but instead it was the necessary exposure to allow new growth and flexibility in my thinking. Those who hold the highest wisdom are those who listen to others’ ideas and embrace the fact that their own thinking may often be flawed. I, on the other hand, have a history of plunging forward with my ideas with terrifying pace and pressure, barely pausing to absorb other ideas or criticisms.
I am learning to bend.
“The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” – Aristotle
We criticize old blue carpet and glaring, orange-tinted wooden door frames. We buy food we don’t eat, and it sits at the back of our pantries until we finally throw it out during the move. We grumble at our cars, eyeing longingly at the glossy curves of others. We use sanitizing cloths to wipe a counter once before tossing it into a landfill. Every single day we mindlessly rely on shiny faucets and burning gasoline, but this not the rule.
We are the exception.
Most of the world doesn’t live in profusion. We forget these details of our realities are luxuries. What someone in the sweltering heat wouldn’t give for a smooth bar of soap or a freshly laundered shirt. Over 3 billion people survive on less than $2.50 a day – how would it be? To eat a lump of boiled rice and beans, happily realizing you’re empty stomach won’t keep you awake tonight? To carefully re-wash a filthy rag used to scrub the floors so you can use it in the morning to wipe the plastic dishes clean? To have only one pencil to trot to school with?
We truly cannot fathom, because these are not our lives. Industrialization has separated us by such an expansive terrain that we peer at these lifestyles – but we are incapable of real comprehension.
How would it be?
In one of my classes, we learned about DALY scores. These are basically mathematic equations to quantify the burden of specific diseases. A DALY score is calculated by morbidity and mortality, or in other words:
years living with the disease + years of life lost.
How does one compare living years while deaf vs. being blind? Is hearing or seeing more valuable? How does one numerically compare living 50 years with a permanent hangnail vs. 50 years without a leg? How does one quantify the quality of the years spent living with a disease?
If you had to choose, which would you prefer?