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Knowing Can Help and Hurt Me


You don’t know what you don’t know.

I learned something recently.  Describing someone as a “real trooper” is spelled “trouper” and not “trooper.”  I didn’t believe it, so I looked it up on Merriam-Webster.  I expressed my surprise to a colleague and he said, “Living is learning.”

My response is, “What else don’t I know, and more importantly, what else do I have wrong?” I am sure it is a lot. Sadly, you don’t know what you don’t know.

Here are some things I’ve learned about knowing:

What I know can change. For instance, when I was in nursing school, I learned about blood pressure, what was normal, and what is cause for concern. The normal ranges have changed with less than 120/80 mm Hg as the optimal goal. Although more attention is given to the upper number (systolic), both are important. The risk of death from coronary artery disease and stroke doubles with every increase of 20 mm Hg systolic or 10 mm Hg diastolic among people from age 40 to 89.

I can be wrong. I can be wrong in so many ways. First, I can be wrong because I learned something incorrectly.  Second, I can be wrong because something has changed. Third, I can be wrong because I am not listening well, and I haven’t accurately understood the issue. And fourth, I can be wrong because I am close-minded. This is the worst kind of being wrong because it is born out of arrogance.  Being open-minded is a gift.  So is admitting when I am wrong, and trying to set the record straight.

 Learning is a lifetime process. Learning is the best way to be alive. I welcome the opportunity, even when I find out that I was wrong about something. Learning that I am wrong can be the best kind of learning, because it opens me up to countless wonders.

Not knowing can be magical. There is lots I will never know. Uncertainty can be a magnificent place to be. Rainer Maria Rilke wrote in Letter to a Young Poet:

“I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Want to know more about your health? Here are some more health tools and calculators for the curious:

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