“I don’t know.”
Those are some of the most powerful words one can use in the English language, because with the admission comes the beginning of the search for truth – whether in one’s world, one’s life, or the universe around us.
“I don’t know.”
I find these kinds of words wonderful, because they let me know that there are discoveries to be made – about my life, yours, and the universe(s?) around us. Those are the words that set us off on adventures and discoveries; which lay beneath the questions we have – the things we do not know.
My grandkids (and most kids) will say “I know” to just about anything – but they don’t. Or they think they do – and they don’t. I often challenge them on that – talking about why a leaf is green, the sky blue, or where they can find a fallen star. (You can find them, too, in the form of sand grain sized bits of micrometeorite off the drip edges of your roof – click ‘here’ to find out how.) And I’ve been trying to teach them there’s no shame in saying those words “I don’t know” – that there’s no deficiency in them. That it’s okay to say “I don’t know” because that is the start of you finding out – whether it be finding out more about someone, or the world around you.
I remember my bosses surprise when I’d utter those words “I don’t know” (often followed by the phrase “but I’ll find out how.”) – the antithesis of engineering. (They were also surprise by my use of the word “oops”, but that’s a different story.) President Obama could have used those words when it came to the Libyian Benghazi disaster – saying “I don’t know but I’ll find out” instead of blaming it on the first thing that came to mind. It might have saved him (save him?) some grief in the end.
I don’t know why the words “I don’t know” are so frowned on in personal usage, except for the fact that we all go around expecting each other to be perfect – and ourselves more so. WE expect ourselves to be “right on the money” when it comes to knowing something; solving a problem, doing something fine. WE – and I mean each and every human being – want to be right all the time. We want to know. And when it comes to admitting that we don’t know something, often we fall on down that slippery slope of second guessing, going by gut instinct, hunch, or something unproven – taking a guess and trying “that thing” out on someone, something – a whole land (think politics) – or just an individual (thinking therapy here).
But the fact is I find the words “I don’t know” most fascinating; exciting even. The chance to explore, find something unknown – whether to the scientist in us, the humanologist, the chancellery or the human being. Our universe if filled with the “I don’t knows” and there’s adventure in finding them – those useless answers as well as the best of them. There’s a goal to discover, a chance to find out something new.
We human beings are hardwired for discovery, the pursuit of knowledge – anything that captures our eye. Knowledge, after all, is tied to self-interest – you never know what your survival might need. (At least that was my case when I was a small child and a teen.) And to find knowledge you must explore outside yourself, take a look at the world around you as so many scientists have.
It’s a wonderful thing to have an active mind, though a bit of a curse as well. You never know what you’ll find when you go on a voyage towards discovering the truth – whether it be about you, someone else, the universe – there’s always a bit of the old unknown out there, and whether it’s threatening to you or something you can use . . .
you’ll find out, I presume.
That’s part of the survival mode, built into our species from day one. Sometimes I wonder if that apple Adam and Eve were cursed for wasn’t loaded with a big dose of healthy human curiosity – about themselves and this world around us. Maybe the “Tree of Knowledge” was the knowledge of our own ignorance and the ability to discover things on our own. That we were given hands, not paws, for something better than going around grubbing for food . . . and brains, not brawn (and claws and teeth) for figuring things out sometimes.
I don’t know.
Some of the most powerful words in the human language. And ones you can count on – leading you through on a voyage of self-discovery as well as discovery on the outside; the real world. Teach your child to use them; learn to use them yourselves.
There’s no shame in that. None that I can see.
I don’t know.
I’m just going to keep on saying that – as long as I live.