Why Ignorance is Bliss
My 9-year-old daughter is convinced she knows everything. Trying to help her with homework is a real test of my patience as she either argues with me or disregards what I have to say because “I’m right, mommy!”
Part of the reason I find the homework experience so frustrating is that it reminds me of myself at her age. I was also stubborn and opinionated, and I was convinced that I either knew everything or I could figure it all out. Woe betide anyone who tried to tell me otherwise!
It’s only in recent years – after I’ve accumulated degrees, certificates and awards – that I realise how little I know. It seems as if for each new fact I learn there are ten questions that arise from it. Even concepts that I was certain of – such as much of what I was taught at medical school – have been turned on their heads.
Don’t get me wrong – I relish the fact that I know so little. It’s a great excuse to keep learning and discovering. I know that my willingness to say “I don’t know” is in fact a gift I give myself, an opportunity to keep growing.
How do I pass this gift onto my daughter? How can I impress upon her that part of the beauty of life is its mystery? What can I say to her to help her see the value in not knowing?
Perhaps all I can do is teach her what I’ve learned over the years about the process of learning, and continue to be an example to her by embracing my own journey of life-long learning. In time perhaps she too will come to view learning as an endless adventure, and not some goal to be attained.
Here are my lessons for my daughter – and anyone else who is committed to truly learning and growing in life:
Acknowledge that you don’t know. The sum total of an individual human being’s knowledge is but a drop in the vast ocean of true knowledge. It’s only when we acknowledge how limited our knowledge is that we make room to learn something new.
Ask questions. Have you noticed how many people preface a question with “This is going to sound stupid, but…”? We don’t like to ask questions because we assume we should already know the answers. Asking questions is not stupid; what’s really foolish is pretending to know it all.
Listen more than you speak. Often we spend the bulk our time in conversations either saying something or thinking about something to say. We are far more likely to learn something new if we keep quiet and listen.
Be willing to change your mind. New facts and details are continuously being uncovered in a wide variety of subjects. Even these may one day be shown to be inaccurate or incomplete. It’s okay to change your mind based on new information.
Consider “what if…?” This is where the potential for genius lies, in considering the unanswered questions. Who knows where a “what if…?” could lead?
I value how not knowing has enhanced my life, and I will keep seeking to learn more for as long as I live. Now to convince my daughter.