How to have an open mind? What caused the Black Death of Childbed?



How to have an open mind?

In the early 18th century, a fever popularly known as the Black Death of Childbed was on the rise in Europe. Getting pregnant became risky. It is scientifically known as Puerperal fever. Everyone was worried as the disease spread like wildfire. A mothers' death was imminent within 48 hours after delivering the baby.

However, Oliver Wendell Holmes, an American physician who would turn out to be one of the most prominent Chief Justice of the United States, was an unsung hero. He published an essay, "The Contagiousness of Puerperal Fever" in 1843, which considered the doctors and midwives responsible for the Black death. The infuriated, narrow-minded doctors disregarded his opinion. 

Holmes mentioned that the doctors who were carrying out autopsies of dead mothers in the morning were the same doctors who spread the disease. In the afternoon, these doctors were responsible for carrying out birth procedures. Holmes suggested that these doctors wash their hands before doing their job in the afternoon. 

His essay was widely criticized and his view was held unfavorable. It was only a select few who actually established and proliferated his opinion. One such man is Ignaz Semmelweis who established the principle of sterilization of medical equipment.

Instead of providing you with the hard and fast rules to have an open mind, I believe it is crucial to let you know what can happen if you are not open-minded. The black death wreaked havoc for more than 30 years even after the solution was provided by Holmes. It was primarily the infection in the woman's genitals due to the unhygienic way of delivering babies.

How to have an open mind? Practice Shoshin.

Soshin is a concept in Zen Buddhism that we must surrender or let go of all our preconceptions and opinions, and be open to learning. In the words of Zen master, Shunryo Suzuki,

"In the beginner's minds, there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few."

 How to embrace Shoshin and have an open mind?

I am glad you have asked this question. Now, with an open mind get ready to embrace Soshin!

You are an idiot.

Oh no, I am sorry to hurt your ego! However, I do mean something else. Whenever you are learning something new or even discussing a piece of research with your friends, you must assume that you are an idiot. Why does this absurd assumption help?

There is so much to know that we cannot know everything. I doubt if we even know a percentage of anything! This assumption will help you to respect others' wisdom and get wiser. Let go of your ego and assume that you are an idiot!

You can never win an argument.

You may feel proud of yourself when you win over an argument with your colleagues or with your spouse. You feel yourself at the top of a mountain! You fail to realize the most fundamental truth- you have hurt someone's feelings and undermined his/her respect.

It does in no way mean that we have no right to rectify a person. For instance, if a person opines that 2+2 equals 5, we cannot question his authority or wisdom even when you know that the person is foolish. However, you can present your own opinion without trying to rectify the person. 

Winning an argument may seem wonderful, but the loser always backfires in the long run. 

Be a good listener.

You have two ears for a reason. There is a difference between hearing and listening. Listening is hearing with concentration, and following it, or taking some action on hearing it. Listening helps the speaker feel comfortable and ready to pour some valuable insights into the conversation.

We are always excited to share what we know and feel forgetting that the other person is just like us. We all love to share. If you interrupt with "I know this" phrase, the speaker will get a hit. Not listening affects the speaker as well as you!

How does it affect you?

Assuming you have 98 percent of the knowledge in that subject, you have to work for the rest 2 percent. How do you gain the rest of the knowledge? Of course, by listening! The speaker will repeat most of the things you know. However, you need to have good attention to catch the unknown facts- the rest 2 percent facts.

Get out of your comfort zone.

Listening to others' opinions is not as easy as it sounds. It requires patience and even anger management skill! Just by hearing someone say 2+2 equals 5 can make you chuckle or get angry. It happens quite often in your workplace when your boss tries to shove down his opinions in your throat. 

However, getting out of your comfort zone is crucial to deal with facts. Even if 60 percent of something is false, the other 40 percent is true. It is not only about hearing uncomfortable things but also about trying to do uncomfortable things. Having an open mind will always push you to try new methods or change your opinions for the better.

Shoshin is not hard to embrace once you are self-aware of your narrow mindedness. Without having an open mind, you will get suffocated within the four walls of your wisdom room. The doctors were considered gentlemen who could not be doubted in their "sophisticated" methods of treatments during the Renaissance era. 

It is vividly evident that we must have the courage to look upon ourselves, and we can do that only with an open mind!

Open the doors of your mind to infinite wisdom.

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