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A healthy dose of humility

If you look for it, you will find the phrase “more significant than was previously thought,” or some variation of it, everywhere. Whatever you’re reading about (let’s assume you are reading although you could just as easily be listening or thinking or writing) – be it science, politics, relationships, language, history, music, math, or any other area of interest, this notion will come up because it’s human nature to think we’ve got things figured out. From proving that the earth is round – the fact that the sun always rises in the east and sets in the west became more significant than was previously thought – to a perfectly innocent phone call – events that took place before and after became more significant than was previously thought – there is always more to learn.

I recently read a fascinating story of a Scottish woman who has managed to live to a genteel old age in spite of a remarkable inability to feel pain. Realizing her pain threshold was off the charts, her anesthesiologist asked if she’d submit to further study. Turns out she has a gene mutation known as FAAH that manifests in a happy demeanor and low anxiety. However, that’s not uncommon. But, in her case, after five years of study, scientists discovered a snippet of her genome had randomly been deleted; a snippet that had long been considered detritus. Once they put the puzzle together, that unimportant bit became . . . wait for it . . . more significant than was previously thought.

From climate change to Harry and Meghan, from ancient Mayan history to gossip you just heard from your best friend, there is always more to it. More to learn. More than meets the eye. More than we currently know. It’s important to keep in mind. Of course, taken too far, this approach can veer into conspiracy theory territory. But a healthy dose of humility and pause can go a long way toward a reasoned, balanced life. We don’t know everything – ever. And we never will. So, the best we can do is work with what we've got, knowing that our understanding, our fears, our certainty is limited. Pause. Breathe. Love.

And have a good week.

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