Perfecting My Ignorance

I’m arrogant, always thinking I know the answer and quick to let it roll off my lips or my fingers without taking a moment to reconsider. That knowing is a habit. Even when I don’t know, I know I know because my knowing is rhetorical, a figure of speech. I know before I think. It’s automatic. That’s how deeply ingrained in me it is to know. Maybe it’s genetic. My father and mother were both authorities on everything. If you were going to speak at our family dinner table, you had better be prepared to properly articulate your case or you would be trapped in a word smackdown with a vocabulary lesson from my mom or a semantics diatribe from my dad. That early training built my skills as an Olympic bullshit artist, with the tiniest tidbit of information I can spin an authoritative story about anything, lots of fun at parties, but probably not right for the International Space Station.

Billie Best writes about perfecting her ignorance.

These days I have hit my information horizon. With the ever-expanding scale and scope of world events, my perspective is changing. I’m frightened by the idea that so many people think they have all the answers, know what to believe, buy into a narrative without question. I don’t want to be one of those people. There is so much I don’t know about what’s going on, and yet, I don’t want to know anything more. My head is overheating with the pace of change and I need two minutes to idle my thoughts and witness myself, witness how much I don’t know about everything. I’m perfecting my ignorance. I’ve been shunning it when I should have been appreciating it.

Truly intelligent people are inclined to admit what they don’t know, and truly stupid people are inclined to think they have all the answers. To avoid confusion between me and a truly stupid person, I’m swearing off answers and admitting my ignorance. Answers let me down. They are a species of idea I’m isolating right now because I don’t trust them. Admitting my ignorance relieves my stress. It’s like learning a new yoga pose and then trying to hold it for the rest of your life. Awkward but beneficial. It’s going to take some practice and it’s uncomfortable. It doesn’t come naturally to me. My arrogance is hereditary. I’m fighting Nature here. But I’ve got to do it, set a good example, adjust my own mask before I try to help others, be the change I seek. Here goes…

I don’t know. I really don’t know. I’m blanking on that. I don’t have the answer. I have no idea. I forget. I need more information. I don’t have an opinion on that. Not in my wheelhouse. Coming up empty on that one. Never knew. Didn’t do my homework. I have no expertise in that area. I never understood that. The answer isn’t coming to me right now. Nope, don’t know.

I broke out in hives writing that, but I’ve got to break the habit of thinking I have the answers. That’s why I’m perfecting my ignorance.

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6 thoughts on “Perfecting My Ignorance

  1. I love your blog! I just landed a job as a strategist. Now I have your great list of answers to work with!!!
    — I really don’t know
    — I don’t have the answer
    — I need more information
    — I don’t have an opinion on that
    — The answer isn’t coming to me right now.
    I’m going to tape this up on my wall!!!

  2. i think, in my case, I play dumb. I pretend to make stupid mistakes. Forget names. Take the wrong turn. It’s an act, but I protect myself that way. I don’t want to fill my brain with clutter. I want to keep it open. To return to childhood. It is an act, but sometime I believe it enough to pull it off. I think too much to be consistently spontaneous, but in performance I can sometimes synchronize heart with mind. Or so, on a good day, I pretend.
    acting low and in the dirt i get to feel all high n mighty in my head. the brain is, ultimately, a flop. well defended by the ego, but essentially low on the totem pole. who the fuck knows?

  3. These days some things demand knowing, seeking data etc in order to make an informed choice. Investing one’s time to perform due diligence is required…and crucial. Too much hangs in the balance to remain neutral. Remember Pastor Niemoeller. I strongly believe that these days silence equals consent.

    1. Saying that I don’t know is not the same as remaining silent or neutral. I think it’s risky to try to shame people into saying they know when they don’t. Many people do not even know what informed choice is, so expecting them to seek data, etc. is unrealistic at best.

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