Finding what I don’t know

There’s a phrase that goes, “The more I know the more I know what I don’t know”.

A co-worker told me a story about when she was a little girl and, was trying to act like she knew everything. Her grandmother decided to nip that attitude in the bud. (I don’t remember the exact question so I’ll take some literary freedom in telling the story.) Her grandmother asked her, ‘What’s the air speed of an unladen swallow?’ and the little girl grudgingly answered, “I don’t know.”

With that ironic sting that only a grandmother can deliver she told the little girl, “Honey, they can build a whole world out of what you don’t know.”
I make it a rule to not try and bluff my way through things I don’t know. It’s not because I’m some kind of moral pillar, or font of humility. It’s because each time I’ve tried I got caught and ended up looking like a real tool. But, far be it for me to taint your good view of me, so please, if you’d like to see me as a stand-up good guy, pray continue.

As an adult I’ve always enjoyed learning new things. As a kid I didn’t have much choice. My father would have something to say about almost everything. ‘See that tree limb?’ he’d ask as we’d be driving along. ‘That’s the shape of limb the Wahedoodle Indians would use to make their bows from.’ Or ‘See the inlet on that bay? It was man-made in 1407 by Dutch elk herders so their ships could anchor there and be protected from storms. They made it by…’ Interesting if I were an adult, but as a kid it was the fourth circle of Hell.
You can keep your Freddy Krugers and Werewolves. I lived in constant fear of the next lesson waiting for me around the corner.

As I got older my view changed. I liked learning new things.
My interests are all over the place. History, mechanics, science, psychology, comic book characters, paranormal, and pizza, to name a few.
Granted, not everything I don’t know, but want to know, is mind boggling, but hey, I’m shallow. And I discovered that I’d learn something new without even looking to.
By the end of this blog who knows what you’ll have learned?

Before it became popular, I was drawn to and mystified by the Aztec calendar. It’s like a big, round, Loch Ness monster of stone. I’d read about it, see specials on it and each time I’d think to myself, ‘I wish I could read that’.
My desire to learn it would fill me with energy and motivation … for about five minutes and then I’d forget about it. The upshot of this that one day I realized I’d turned into Dodsworth the cat. If you don’t know Dodsworth from Kiddin’ the Kitten then you now have your
first thing to learn. (pssst, disk 2)

Anyway, I felt a bit hypocritical with a very small dash of ‘loser’ thrown in. So, instead of being one of those people that are always saying how they’re going to do this or that but never seem to get to it, I set out separate myself from that crowd. I put together a ‘I don’t know’ list. Whenever I come across something that intrigues me it goes on the list.

Having a list like this came with some unexpected results. Imagine feeling like you want to feed your mind and divine the secrets of the universe, so you open your list of things you don’t know. You read down the list to find something that appeals to you, and turn a page… and turn a page, and turn another page… and …. well, you get the idea.
Suddenly you feel like you don’t know anything. It can be a bit humbling. I remind myself that’s why I’m here. I mean, what’s the fun if you’re
Doctor Bernowski.

 

I don’t know if I’ll stick with it, but thought I’d start keeping a journal of what I do learn about. This would serve two purposes. One is that I’d always have a reference to return to if I want to refresh my memory and the other is that I’d finally have a justification to use my Moleskine. That’s a story for another day.

So, there you have it. My never ending quest for knowledge. If you don’t have a don’t-know list maybe you’ll start one. By the way, if you’re thinking that everything you’ll ever need to know can be found on Wikipedia I’d advise against it. It’s a good place to start but it’s not the end-all-be-all.

Oh, and by the way, the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow? 24 miles an hour. Yeah, I knew that.