I stumbled across an email this weekend where I was apologizing for failing to answer a question in a way that totally suited the person asking the question. I explained to this person that my response was unacceptable in their eyes simply because I lacked the necessary knowledge in the subject area to know my answer was inadequate. I really tried to answer the question; I just didn’t have enough knowledge to ‘get there.’
I actually did want to know much more about the particular subject, so I phrased my explanation this way, “It may seem odd to you, but I am glad the answer is inadequate because it makes me aware that I have a great deal to learn. In a sense, I suppose I am celebrating my own ignorance.”
As we go along through life we so often think we need to know all things, or at least pretend that we do, and then hope like hell no one figures out that we do not. In the age of rapid information transfer we live in, it gets more difficult all the time to absorb the constant onslaught of information and deal with the default idea that we should know all things. I find myself frustrated occasionally that people around me know all about a particular subject, while I remain silent in embarrassment that I have never even heard of the subject. For the longest time, I wondered what the heck a blackberry was; the non-fruit type I mean.
I think more often lately I have fallen back onto this idea that it is not really so bad to not know all things that others might know. For example, take the rap artist Ludacris. Ludacris appeared in concert at my alma mater last week. There was a great deal of controversy and hand wringing about his appearance as a result of his controversial lyrics. And yet, when I discussed this with friends, many looked at me in puzzlement and said “Who is Ludicrus?”
And if you have read here very long and know my ‘personality’ you will know that was a very wide opening through which to drive my sarcastic wit.
I am rather glad actually that Ludicrus is invisible to so many.
I think when we truly want to know something, and we begin to zero in on learning or understanding it, we can truly come to value our ignorance in a way. Without the early ignorance, we would have no goals or inspiration to know more. And so in the oddest of twists a paradox emerges here. The paradox peaking over my shoulder today is that our ignorance can be celebrated, if only because it offers us the opportunity for it be overcome. And certainly, at the least, our ignorance does not have to be shaming, but merely a transitory phase, or in the case of Ludicrus, merely a blessing.
When we understand this, then perhaps we can all quit pretending that we know all the things we do not?
Postscript: And oh yeah, I am not particularly picking on Ludacris here. His art belongs to him and we all get to decide about consuming his art. What I mean by 'the blessing' thing is that his power to influence has limits and that I believe is true (and good) for us all.
I am a fan of the movie 'Crash'. For many years I have had a love/hate relationship with the film industry, but I felt life was accurately portrayed in that movie and I applauded it's success.