The Art Of Not Knowing, Integrity When Truth Is Silent
Have you ever seen someone so convinced of their own rightness (or righteousness) you knew immediately that they would not examine alternative info with an open mind? Have you ever known anyone who could talk endlessly about the flaws in other people’s beliefs but suddenly became quiet when the subject turned to their own? Deciding to write about not knowing is an endless undertaking, mainly because there's a lot that we don't, but also because we have been programmed since we were children to avoid the topic completely. It is uncertain where these steps will take us; there is no destination. Our only goal is to uncover formidible techniques to improve our thinking and the benefits that can manifest when we admit, to ourselves and others, that we don't know something.
The Opposite Of Ignorance
To be sure, knowing things is highly valued by humans. It's how we send probes to distant planets, discover new particles, and build skyscrapers. It's also why we pay doctors to help us when we are sick. On the other hand, not knowing is frequently looked upon with consternation. When doctors don't know, we sue them. This phenomenon percolates down into the very words we use. Just look at the synonyms for knowing...
⇲ knowing | adj.
• brilliant, insightful, intelligent, perceptive, sophisticated, awake, aware, significant, meaningful, eloquent, expressive, suggestive, deliberate, discerning, expert, qualified, quick, sage, sharp, slick, smart, hip, wise, clued (in), forewarned, informed, prepared, ready, warned, observant, observing, sharp-eyed, alert, attentive, open-eyed, vigilant, watchful, plugged-in, with-it, in the know, artful, cagey, crafty, cunning, devious, dodgy, foxy, guileful, pawky, slick, sly, subtle, tricky, wily, percipient, perspicacious, sagacious, sapient, experienced, veteran, discriminating, agile, brainy, bright, clever, keen, nimble, quick-witted, apt, ingenious, resourceful, calculating, scheming.
In contrast, not knowing can be quite uncomfortable. The very idea of not knowing something is openly detested and ridiculed in many areas of human endeavor. As a consequence, there are few words that hold not knowing in a positive light.
⇲ not knowing | adj.
• doubt, uncertain, undecided, indecision, disbelieve, suspicion, lack of trust, dubious, skeptical, questioning, ignorance, blindness, oblivious, unaware, unconscious, uninformed, unwitting, heedless, unmindful, unprepared, unready, unwary, unknowing, artless, guileless, ingenuous, innocent, naïve, exploitable, gullible, unperceptive, unwise, dense, dull, obtuse, airheaded, birdbrained, brain-dead, brainless, dim-witted, dopey, dumb, empty-headed, feebleminded, gormless, half-witted, knuckleheaded, lamebrain, lunkheaded, simple, slow, slow-witted, softheaded, stupid, thickheaded, thick-witted, unintelligent, weak-minded, foolish, idiotic, imbecile, moronic, silly, thoughtless, witless, ignorant, uninformed.
Benefits Of Not Knowing
However, as we will discuss in the following pages, there is immense value to be found in admitting that we don't know. Here are just a few of the more evident benefits of not knowing:
• Remain open to evidence, new ideas (flexible).
• Communicates that you care about whether what you think is true. Integrity.
• Save time by not defending false ideas.
• Explore other people’s assertions with curiosity.
Be useless to the eyes of superior people. Uselessness is full of light. It enlightens. It allows questions about what is important. It allows you to consider the values of your culture, allows you to get outside the assumptions and preconceptions about what is important. When you see what is considered useless by a culture, you see the gaps, the imbalances. [Explore what] has been missed or hidden. Embrace uselessness and it will reward you with longevity of sight. – Richard Powell, Wabi Sabi pg 89-90