Saturday, November 26, 2011

On Cynicism, Skepticism and Pessimism

Oscar Wilde once said that a cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

What I’m going to say later about cynicism -- and its two cousins, skepticism and pessimism -- probably won’t surprise anyone. What I’m going to say next, however, may.

I am a skeptic -- and proud to be one. Don’t tell me something works and assume I’ll believe you; show me it works and tell me why. I am also, not so proudly, somewhat of a cynic. And my inner nature tends toward pessimism.

So, in other words, I’m probably the least most likely person to write an uplifting story of triumphing over adversity. I’m not a “rah, rah, go team go!” kind of guy. Of everyone in my work pod, I’d be the last choice to lead a pep rally.

In fact, writing this blog isn’t a natural fit for me. Initially, I struggled with the “voice,” if you will. That struggle arises partly from my desire to say something meaningful without sounding too confident/too authoritative (I’m not a doctor or physical therapist, after all, plus I am willing to accept the uncertainty of much of the knowledge we humans possess). But I also just find it challenging to find the proper tone -- my natural voice tends to be darker and more irreverent.

So why do I do it? And why did I write Saving My Knees in the first place?

Well, there’s something that motivates me powerfully, almost absurdly so, that enables me to overcome my natural shyness about talking about myself and my tendency toward negativity. And that’s a conviction that we must celebrate truth over lies, knowledge over ignorance, light over darkness.

When I succeeded in healing a pair of bad knees after traditional physical therapy failed, and doctors said I’d never get better, I had a few emotions.

Gratitude. Relief. Anger.

I was angry because I was confident that many chronic knee pain patients could benefit from using the same framework I used to get better, and benefit from the many things I learned (which weren’t in any “heal your knees” book on the market and which weren’t being said by most doctors and physical therapists in the field). So I said to myself: “I’m going to write this book. I’m also going to start a blog to open a dialogue of sharing.”

My passion for getting the truth out there is what motivates me, as well as my fervent wish that my message reach someone else who can be helped.

Which brings us full circle, I suppose, to skeptics, cynics, and pessimists.

If you want to heal your knees, go ahead and be a skeptic, though of the open-minded variety. While you should be willing to try things, and experiment, it's also okay to ask up front: Does this approach/treatment make sense? Why should it work? You have an optimal window to rescue your knees; there’s nothing wrong with trying to seek out the “best of class” of solutions for your problems, and experimenting smartly.

If you want to heal your knees, I’d say be careful of cynicism and pessimism though. If you distrust the motives of everyone, if you believe nothing will work because nothing has so far, don’t be surprised when, after half-heartedly “trying” a few things, you don’t get better.

The journey to recovery is a long one (it was many months for me). You will be tested more than once. You will need to be determined -- and you will need to draw upon optimism, to overcome the funks of negativity and doubt, and to enable you to push on with your plan to heal.

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