Common Sense Is Relative: Our Oddball Beliefs and Questionable Track Record.


Do you remember smoking in bars? If you didn’t smoke, then you’ll definitely remember being enclosed in a thick smog of toxins.

No matter where you traveled in the ear-pounding room, you could not escape.

Remember jumping into the shower after, and how the stench, as if you had forgotten, which somewhere in the night you did, wafted off your skin? Back then I was a smoker, but still found the shower fascinating. A magic spray that could wash away all the smoky stink of the night, leaving me refreshed and sweet-smelling. Too bad it couldn’t also repair the damage done to my lungs.

Well, you can’t smoke in bars anymore. At least not in most places in Canada. Thank goodness for that.

I don’t smoke anymore, but have been told by some who do, they quite enjoy public, enclosed spaces without the haze. Yeah, you’ve got to go outside to light up, but there’s a group of you, and that’s comforting. It also means that your hard-to-clean coat won’t be permeated by the perfume of Eau-de-dirty-ashtray, making it unwearable in some other locales, such as the office.


So we’ve adapted. I can’t even imagine being in a bar, restaurant, airplane, bank, or hospital which once allowed smoking. The idea is so foreign. It’s even ludicrous to think it was ever allowed in the first place. Smoking in a hospital? With babies and sick people? Doctors even prescribed cigarettes for sore throats, asthma, and stress. That’s a little counterproductive, to say the least.

What were we thinking?

In 1957, a drug to treat morning sickness entered center stage. Thalidomide was originally prescribed for headaches and insomnia, but quickly took off as the cure-all for pregnant women who suffered with exhausting, sometimes debilitating morning sickness. Ladies lined up joyfully to get their miracle prescription.


Sadly, babies lucky enough to survive the drug in utero would enter this world with horrible birth defects: being blind, deaf, having damaged organs and missing limbs.

If only they knew sooner.

It took many years to finally link Thalidomide to the birth defects. I imagine it was a hard sell. Initially there had to be disbelief.

Camps of professionals and citizens would have been formed. Either side of the divide would express their own level of outrage, and fight respective beliefs to the point of ending long-time friendships with those who doubted. It’s understandable, really.

Who would want to believe that what was meant to help caused so much devastation?

What mother would want to consider she happily took a drug, perhaps even against apprehension of loved ones, which caused her child to require prosthetic limbs… or a casket?

Staying on the same twisted-beliefs vein, did you know that vibrators were created as a medical device to treat hysteria? Health practitioners prescribed it for women with mental illness.

Some could argue an orgasm would relieve stress, but this sounds a little more like a way for certain individuals with a God-complex to “get off” at the expense of defenseless women.


Mercury was once used as an antiseptic, laxative, diuretic, and a cure for syphilis. Sometimes the symptoms of its toxicity were confused with those of the syphilis it was meant to treat.

Even if one had been cured of the STD, people would mistakenly continue taking medicine even though it caused the problem. I wonder how many were humiliated with a sex disease, but in reality were just victims who innocently took mercury to ease bloating, water retention, or clean a cut.

Headache anyone? Holes used to be drilled into the human skull, didn’t really matter where, to release pressure. Much like a lobotomy, trepanation also treated seizures, a host of mental, physical, and emotional issues, and was widely accepted as a procedure to rid the body of evil spirits.


Sounds utterly ridiculous, right? And yet in 2000, two men from Cedar City, Utah were prosecuted for practicing medicine without a license after they performed a trepanation on a woman to treat her chronic fatigue syndrome.

That is some backwoods thinking.

Radioactive jewelry, soft drinks, and blankets were created to ward off wrinkles and ease arthritis. People ingested tapeworms for weight loss. Women have a ‘wandering uterus’ that can traverse the body, putting pressure on internal organs, making one sick. These are some of the oddball beliefs people thought were true.

Historically, humans have a questionable track record in knowing what is best for them. Common sense is relative. And it has been our standard practice to defer to authorities and their facts, which, looking back, have actually been theories and opinions.

Are we really any wiser today? Sometimes I wonder if in five, ten, or twenty years from now, we are going to look back at our current time and say, “What the hell were they thinking? Were they insane?”

Think about the things most accept as true. Do they really make sense?

Perhaps we should be a little more cautious of what we think we know. Majority does not mean authority, and history beautifully reminds us that it is often the small unrelenting voice which brings about true knowledge.


Trained primarily in Yin & Vinyasa, Susan Hulcher is a Yoga and meditation teacher. Really though, life is spent doing what we’ve all been put here to do, which is create, communicate and love. All activities are infused with these initiatives, and the desire to inspire the same in everyone she comes into contact with. Check out her website for more information on Susan and her delightful published works.


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