On Knowledge & Impotence

I am enjoying the company of old friends during a trip in Oklahoma. I know; it’s weird. While enjoying a bowl of delicious pho, one of my friends told the table the full account of her recent child bearing process. Suffice to say it was eye opening and not at all the nice, pleasant experience one would hope for. Now, I won’t go into the full story because it is not mine to tell and I respect my friends’ privacy. Let’s just say that it was a complicated birth with trauma. Hearing her story led to a conversation between myself and another friend (we’ll go with S for this one) about birth experiences, the effects of modern medicine, birthing practices, etc. This is not a post about whether I, as a man, should speak on the subject of birth or who has authority to have that conversation, but more on the reason(s) behind the reactions my friend and I had to hearing the story.

I was ignorant to the full nature of my friend’s pregnancy and birthing of her child. The friend I debated with was not, however that only partially influenced her response. Whenever I am faced with information, knowledge, or obstacles, my immediate response is analysis, planning, and execution. I truly believe that information and knowledge is important to figuring things out and responding accordingly. S’s immediate reaction is to defend her friends and loved ones before facing the new obstacles. Neither one is better. We simply react differently.

In this case, we were both unable to do our standard practice since the events had passed, so we transferred those reactions into the conversation. The impotence of action on our part was not quite enough to deter our attempts at responding and fixing the non-existent problem we were facing. It is what we humans do in order to cope with trauma, even if it is not our own. Yet, ultimately we both knew our anxiety was for nothing as we could do nothing and the moment passed.

How could this energy, anxiety, and concern be channeled into something more fruitful? Would we have been better off not having known the actual experience our friend went through considering our inability to help? How significant is knowledge without even the remote chance of action?

Not really sure if there are any answers to these questions but would love to hear your thoughts and own queries in the comments below.

2 thoughts on “On Knowledge & Impotence

  1. I think it’s better to know what she went through, even if you couldn’t/can’t help. You get a much closer account of the trauma. Your understanding of it improves. You may not be able to act on that information now, but next time you’ll encounter the subject of birth and such you’ll have better understanding.

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