“I Don’t Know” – Words of Discovery

“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.

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About jeffssong

JW is an adult childhood abuse survivor with DID*. He grew up in a violent family devoid of love and affection. He is a military brat and veteran. He no longer struggles with that past. In 1976 JW began writing "The Boy". It took 34 years to complete. It is currently on Kindle (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004T3IVKK ), or if you prefer hard copy, on Amazon ( http://www.amazon.com/Boy-J-W/dp/1461022681). JW resides somewhere in the deep South. He is disabled and living with family. Note: Please feel free to take what you need; all is free to all. With that in mind, keep it that way to others. Thank you. We have 3 Blogs - One for our younger days, 0-10 (The Little Shop of Horrors); one for our Teen Alter and his 'friends' (also alters) with a lot of poetry; and finally "my" own, the Song of Life (current events and things)
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9 Responses to “I Don’t Know” – Words of Discovery

  1. Mustang.Koji says:

    “I don’t know…” I never thought of that phrase in the manner you described. Something definitely to think about.

    Like

    • jeffssong says:

      “I don’t know” often leads to a question which can start the process of finding an answer – the search for truth kind of thing. I learned (philosophically) the asking of a question is the start of the answer – you can’t begin until it’s asked. Which, quixotically often leads to more questions than when you began! (wry smile)

      And always, always remember: if you haven’t asked “why?” three times and gotten the same answer, you haven’t asked enough times. It goes a long way in finding the root of a problem. Trust me – I’ve solve enough, LOL!

      Like

  2. Three little words but, for those not used to saying them, so hard to say. By admitting that you don’t know you are actually admitting to your own imperfection and (perhaps) trusting the listener to respond humanely. That said, some things are worth the risk :>)

    Like

  3. jeffssong says:

    Psychologically speaking, the reason we fear the ‘wrong answer’ (of which ‘I don’t know’ is one) is that it shows a “sign of weakness” – a lack of leadership ability (perhaps) – and that kind of thing used to impact one’s survival in early civilizations / caveman days. Being ‘wrong’ could cost one one’s life. “Not knowing” could impact one too; hence our curious nature about the outside world. What you don’t know can kill you. Ditto not acknowledging the facts of life. However, as you so astutely pointed out: we are all human, and thus given to human frailties, including the ability in being wrong. We should learn to forgive ourselves that as well as someone else. Oddly enough I’ve found most persons are harsher with themselves than with someone else. The strive to be “perfect” still runs strong. To be perceived as being anything else again implies a weakness, making one ‘prey’ for others in life. Thus this ‘thing’ is linked to a very basic trait: the survival instinct.

    That given, lets hope that ‘we’ as a society can learn to be kinder and more forgiving and/or tolerant of others mistakes and failings. Lord knows we all make them in life!

    Like

  4. Michael says:

    Don’t tell anyone but my real talent is daring to do something even if it is wrong.

    I have a shooting star one for you that came to be while in my kayak watching them.

    A person sees a shooting star in the sky. It bounces off the atmosphere and goes around again. What are the odds of that person seeing it again?

    I now use “I do not know and no one else does either.” Only about myself.

    Like

    • jeffssong says:

      Got my vote for a real good answer.
      I’m sure some astrologer / math nut would tell you there’s a chance and would calculate the probability . . . but I won’t.
      After all, my math skills aren’t that strong – and I’d rather wonder. There’s something good about a mystery in life . . .
      which might just be why life is.

      Like

      • Michael says:

        I can do the calculations. Thing is I would still know I do not know.

        I love this new pollster Silver. I wonder if he knows the odds of him getting totally discredited once his poll does not show the right winner. Does he know that he is going to be like the meteorologist who predicts a chance of rain 33% of the time and the public thinks he is wrong 66% of the time.

        I like meteorologists. They work with the predictions are 80% more accurate with human intervention than just computer models alone and know that they are more accurate with computer models than without them.

        Then again I like googlies algorithms better than most even though they are not true algorithms as they lack the repeatable back to the same solution aspect. I really am shocked that they can keep their code secret. I wonder if it is a simple thing and that is why they are the best at it. A elegant code that is elegant in a different way. We know it is not a matter of throwing money around. Microsoft at lest had that advantage.

        Like

  5. L Maillet says:

    Do you think that intense desire to learn is a fight for control…? And acceptance maybe – by self? I don’t know. Just wondering

    Like

    • jeffssong says:

      Sorry I’m late to reply. LOL> Life. But we figured it out: it’s part of a survival instinct. The ‘unknown’ is dangerous; therefore, know your stuff. The more you know the better you’re able to survive. Multiply that by about 1000 and you got ‘us’ – some of what we learn is totally useless for survival, but we were driven at an early age TO survive *and* learn survival tricks. Started with the woods survival, war survival, that kinda stuff & just kept on going. So we can tie all our learning & desire to learn/know more & more (as well as develop our skills; we are quite skilled in a lot of trades) – to this survival desire. After all, you can’t be happy if you don’t survive, LOL! Thanks!

      Like

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