Saturday, March 6, 2010

Rude Awakening

Have patience, patience is the key to all relief.

Rumi
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One of the great awakenings that seems to take some people many years to discover is that "I don't know" is a perfectly legitimate answer to a question if it is the correct one. Some people want answers right away and are unwilling to take the time to find them.

In my younger years I was treated with criticism if I didn't know the answers. So I developed a trick of coming up with an answer even if it was a wrong one. It seems it was better to be wrong than to be ignorant. People are afraid of being ignorant. But we are all ignorant about most things. Ignorance and stupidity are not the same thing. Someone once said, ignorance is curable, stupidity is not. A person should not be abused for not knowing something if they haven't had the opportunity to exercise the time, trouble or patience to find out.

There is another truism involved in the matter of ignorance which is that we all know more than we think we do. A quiz show contestant who is under a constraint might not come up with the answer. But if he was given time, without the stress, and with the patience to think about it, he might in fact draw up the answer from the recesses of his mind.

One day I was standing on a New York City subway platform by myself reading a newspaper. A woman approached me and asked if the train stopped at a particular station. I put down the paper and looked ahead to think about it. But in the next breath she said, in a very scornful voice "Well, if you don't know, don't guess."

The NY subway system is very complex and I have lived there most of my life. If she had given me a few moments to think about it I could have drawn up that particular line in my mind and given her an answer. My answer would have been "yes," "no" or "I don't know." But since she decided to be rude about it, I went back to my newspaper. I could have directed her to a map on the subway wall, but she hadn't purchased the right for that.

People deserve their own time and patience. "Why don't you know?" is not the right question. "What do you think?" is. I have seen that work with young high school students when I was training them for a radio program of their own. Without knowing the first thing about broadcasting, they arrived at some remarkably workable ideas. When I queried one boy about it he said "Nobody ever asks us what we think."

We are not "supposed to know" everything about life. It would be very boring if we did. Some problems get solved right away, others take time and some take a long time. But patience is one of the most important tools for getting to the answer of anything.

DB - The Vagabond
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Spring is a-comin' in.

WINTER QUESTION
(This is not a contest.)

Given the resources and opportunity, what one thing do you want to do in 2010 that you've never done before.

You have all Winter to answer. Answers will be posted on the first day of Spring.
20 responses so far.

DB - The Vagabond

5 comments:

Beth said...

I've never had a problem with saying "I don't know." I usually follow it up with "But I'll find out." Isn't that how we all learn?

Nance said...

My first visit and I'm very pleased to have found you. "I don't know" is my favorite answer to just about any question I'm asked...if only I could remember to tell the truth. Buddhism speaks of the Don't-Know Mind. With what's left of winter, I think I'll try to give that honest answer more often.

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

At work, we do not allow the "I don't know" response enough. I think it is a very reasonable response, especially if followed up with Beth's second part.

krissy knox said...

This post brings so much to mind. I have a good friend who says one can't know anything for certain, because the world is never constant and always changing. He was taught in grade school and high school that all is subjective, and that we can know nothing bc of this fact, bc there are no exact truths. It really frightens me to hear the youth spouting this "truth" of theirs so frequently. They will attempt to argue it time and time again. There is no reasoning in saying that everything is subjective.

Despite what these young people would like us to believe -- We do know truths are based on facts. Other ideas we come to conclusions about may be based on opinions. These conclusions that we've come to, may or may not be true. But the person who is collecting, assessing, and making a decision on which conclusion to make -- for that particular decision/opinion has a good chance on making a good decision, if he takes in and studies all the facts clearly. It CAN be done. What I am trying to say to the young people here is, everything is NOT subjective, and while it is hard at times to make a decision, it is NOT impossible. The same goes with an opinion as with a decision. Try to form your opinion out of all the facts you have. Do the best you can. It's not impossible, like we were taught in school!... And remember, an opinion is just that -- an opinion! It doesn't have to be perfect at first. Get something to work with, and try to learn more. Learn and grow!

What I was speaking to above was those young people who believe in subjectivism so sincerely and with such vigor, and believe one can't know ANYTHING, that when you ask them a question or opinion about ANYTHING, they merely say, "I don't know." When I push them a little further and ask them why, it's back to more of the old, "There is no way for us to know. And there is no correct or incorrect, and everything is both true and not true." I say, "No, some things are definitely true, I quickly reply. For instance, a dog is a dog, a dog is not a cat," to which they quickly retort, "How do you know a dog is not a cat? Maybe ALL dogs are cats. I just sigh and say never mind, for that day, anyway!

These young people, because they were taught in grade and high school, not to make a definitive statement about ANYTHING, nor even a well thought out opinion on something, have become crippled. They often won't make a decision about ANYTHING -- even if it is based on facts placed in front of them, bc they claim there is no basis to know whether any fact in the universe is true or false. Or both true and false simultaneously!

Now this is where I had a big problem with my friend "J." Every time I asked him a question, he replied "I don't know." If I asked him an opinion, it was "I don't know." Finally I pleaded, "Why won't you answer me?" He wouldn't reply about ANYTHING. Then that was when I got the explanation that we couldn't know ANYTHING for sure, bc the world was ever changing.

After I finally convinced him -- after about perhaps a year, that there WERE some constants in this world, and that everything was NOT subjective, and we COULD be sure of some things -- I began to just ask him his OPINIONS on things.

continued in next COMBOX (comment box) by krissy knox :)

krissy knox said...

This was treacherous territory also! DB, you said the kids you taught were never asked what they thought. J was never asked what he thought either. Because he wasn't supposed to answer that question -- or have a thought of his own. What if he made a wrong decision? So I told him, it's JUST an OPINION. Use your mind to draw a conclusion from the facts, but if you come up with something different than I come up with, or the guy next to you, the OPINION POLICE won't come out and get you! Just start trying to use your brain and think -- exercise it!

The third struggle came when J began to use his mind. If he could not add to the conversation by adding something grand, profound and sweeping -- speaking about the subject in full detail, he just didn't participate in any of the conversations we friends were having. "I cannot speak," J said, "as I do not know enough on any one topic to say anything!" "Therefore, I will be wrong!"

I had to assure J once again that the the Opinion Police, or Facts Police, for that matter, wouldn't be out to pick him up in the evening.


I encouraged him to please jump in and start SOMEWHERE. For how would he learn to have a conversation, exchange ideas, grow, if he didn't start somewhere. You have to start at the beginning. And you have to try, scared or not.

DB, I just wrote all this to say that I have had problems with "J" and many other young people like him, merely trying to getting them to talk -- to carry on a conversation.

The problem with today's youth (a lot of them) is not that they will say anything to give a right answer.

The problem is they will give the automatic cop out of "I don't know," and then not do any further study.

And we can blame our school system, and first whoever delivered it to them, for serving it to our kids on a silver platter. Let's just call it: All is relative.

It makes me so sad when there are those who won't think...

krissy knox :)
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