I was watching a movie last night in which the hero seriously upsets his lover. In his apology, he states, “I didn’t know what I didn’t know.” What a powerful statement! We live in a world where everybody is an expert. People surf the internet, assimilate what they read and then go out and regurgitate their knowledge in the form of strongly stated opinions disguised as fact.
Since their opinions carry truths backed up by Google searches, they stand by them and freely share them with whomever will listen. Since everyone is an expert and everyone assimilates his/her set of facts, conversations can become quite heated and deteriorate into arguments as each expert is sure he/she is right. The result is our society becomes more polarized than ever.
The most important lesson of my career as a doctor was entitled, “The Pyramid of Knowledge”. At the top of the pyramid, occupying the smallest part of the triangle, is what you know. The next portion of the triangle is what you know that you don’t know. At the base, occupying the largest part of the triangle, is what you don’t know that you don’t know. It’s what you don’t know that you don’t know is the segment that is most likely to hurt you and others.
One of the goals in life is to increase what you know. It’s the primary purpose of education. I had thousands of hours of study and lectures under my belt prior to practicing medicine (augmented by 38 years of practicing medicine). Despite my MD degree and knowledge base, there are things associated with new vaccines that I don’t know that I don’t know. In time, I’ll learn more as more vaccine is given. One of many examples is: when the measles vaccine was approved for use, there were things we didn’t know about it. Now, after years of use, I can tell you everything about it. I can say the same thing about all my vaccines. During my career, I can only remember one vaccine that was withdrawn from the market after initial approval.
“I didn’t know what I didn’t know” is a powerful statement! The next time you find yourself in a conversation that is heating up, hit the pause button and ask yourself, “Do you know what you don’t know (does he/she know what they don’t know?” The next time you find yourself believing that you are an internet expert in law, medicine, politics, etc., remind yourself that you probably don’t know what you don’t know and guard against the unknown as best you can. You have a right to your opinion! Your opinion is important. Don’t forget that your opinion may not be fact. Consider that there may be things you don’t know about the subject you’re discussing. When it comes to medical facts, rely on your doctor. A good doc knows what she/he doesn’t know and knows where to find it.
Here’s your joke for the day:
A man wonders if having relations on the Sabbath is a sin because he is not sure if doing so is work or play, so he goes to a priest and asks for his opinion on this question. After consulting the Bible, the priest says, “My son, after doing exhaustive research, I am positive that sleeping together is work and is therefore not permitted on Sundays.” The man thinks: “What does a priest know about having relations?” So, he goes to a minister who, after all, is a married man and experienced in this matter. He queries the minister and receives the same reply. Sexual relations is work and therefore not for the Sabbath! Not pleased with the reply, he seeks out a Rabbi, a man of thousands of years of tradition and knowledge. The Rabbi ponders the question, then states, “My son, it is definitely play.” The man replies, “Rabbi, how can you be so sure when so many others tell me it’s work?” “Because, my son,” said the Rabbi drily, “if having relations was work, my wife would have the maid do it.”