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  • Writer's pictureKevin Graham

Another twisted journey into allegory

Hint: This is not about my knee.

I have a bad knee. For a while, I wondered if perhaps it is just not well suited to my constitution, and should be removed and replaced. I have concluded, in the end, that my knee only suffers from my lack of attention, and from my willful ignorance, and from my outright arrogance.

After many years of complaints, my knee compelled me to seek a second opinion… by which I mean, an opinion other than my own. Living under universal health care, I had no excuse not to ask. I was dispatched for the necessary tests and a visit to an orthopedic surgeon. The good doctor decided that my knee had been ‘well used’. I thought ‘traumatized’ would have been more accurate. As he described, the medial meniscus was thinning from the non-stop asymmetric pounding of life. Did he just call me bow-legged?

And yet, although osteoarthritis had, indeed, taken its toll, I was not a candidate for surgery. Not knee replacement. Not even a little touch-up scoping inside. The issue, he decreed, was a soft tissue issue.

According to him, this ‘bad knee’ was my own fault, and the solution was mine, too, if I was willing and able to take responsibility for it. I needed to bring my knee back into alignment. I needed to protect, support, and strengthen the systems or institutions that framed the role of my knee and held it properly in its place. What he didn’t say was what that meant. This, apparently, was also my responsibility.

I went away disappointed that the doctor had not offered to fix my problem for me. After all, that’s what he’s paid to do, isn’t it? For a while, I remained in denial. How could this be my fault? And if it wasn’t my fault, how could I be responsible for fixing it? Why couldn’t he just cut out and replace it with a new one. As I saw it, my bad knee would simply be gone and forgotten. Let’s gather up and unify what’s left and move on!

Eventually, I stopped sulking long enough to ponder on how I might approach the imposing task of self-correction. I’m not big on self-correction. I came to understand that the creation of a more perfect union between my knee and myself would require big-picture, little-picture thinking. The more I read, the more I studied, the more I realized that my knee was the little picture and had little to do with causing my problem. My bad knee, it seems, is merely a symptom, the residual of many problems located elsewhere. It was ‘allowed’ to happen. My knee, I learned, is a classic case of referred pain.

My knee bone, I’m told, is connected to calves, to hamstrings, to quadriceps and to glutes that glue everything together, top and bottom. It’s even connected to hip flexors that, to be honest, I didn’t know existed. It’s connected to adductors and abductors that prevent me from swerving too far to the left or too far to the right (it seems that, in best form, I’m a centrist). And it’s connected to back muscles that, if weakened, place excessive demands on all the muscles and joints encountered en route to my knee.

It seems that the knee bone is connected to everything else in my body. Except my brain, of course. Why did it take so long for me to understand that my ‘knee’ problem was more of an ‘all body’ problem? I could not just pay a surgeon to get rid of it. Replacing the old knee with a new one won’t magically solve my problem.

My fitness ideology needs a re-think. I need to take stock of my whole body and pay attention to the whole picture. I need to study, to learn, to piece together a strategy for safe journey from pain to a more perfect union. I need to be more aware than a frog in boiling water. I need to understand and accept the fragility of my body, and the balance of so many moving parts necessary to the survival of my knee… indeed, to the very survival of my whole system.

If my knee is to make a sustained positive contribution, I need to protect the functional integrity of that knee. To accomplish this, I need to better understand and protect the founding institutions that allow my knee to play its role… and not to fall out of line. I need to build a much better system of education that enables all participants to work together in service both of my knee and of the whole. I need to better understand and protect my underlying constitution, and where necessary, make amendments to that constitution. I must confess that, as I share these ruminations today with those nearest to me, serious consideration is being given to the 25th.

I am currently being held accountable for an entire history since my founding. Only through accountability can I hope to protect and promote the whole system going forward. Without accountability, my ignorance and inattentiveness will someday discover yet another knee in need of disposal. There is much to mind here.

The system is flawed. If it were perfect, of course, we wouldn’t need to exercise or nurture or correct or adapt. Here’s the crux of it. I was led in the era of my youth to believe that I was invincible. There were challenges, of course, but the system held together not too badly… I thought. Like the frog in boiling water, I was oblivious to the price of life sitting idle for so many years. In short, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

Success is one of the best predictors of failure. Complacency, self-assurance, pride, laziness. All of these creep in from the wings when success is on stage.

When my mind dominates at the expense of my body and my spirit, arrogance steps up to the podium and takes over. In the absence of harmony in the mind, body, spirit connection, this ruling arrogance exposes a soft and vulnerable underbelly (or in my case, a bad knee). Integrity is cast aside and, one by one, each muscle and tendon and ligament is corrupted until the whole skeletal system comes crashing down. The body and spirit decay, and over time, there’s nothing left for the mind to mind.

I need to:

  • be true to my living constitution, and at the same time

  • constantly review this constitution for potential improvement

  • pay closer attention to the institutions that govern my knee and everything else in my body

  • ensure that all the moving parts are inspected and serviced regularly, and

  • recognize my own arrogance in time to spit on it and demand, “what am I missing?”

Just thinking out loud about a bad knee here.

With respect,

Kevin Graham

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