Many of us are uncomfortable admitting anything less than supreme and unlimited knowledge. At the edges of our understanding, we (I) tend to bluff and bluster and up-end the argument so that bystanders are distracted from the observing our knowledge failing. And that’s OK, no blame, no shame, lets just admit we’ve been there and understand the need is rooted in a society where knowledge is power to protect ourselves and wield over others. So we create a shell that, at least in part, is a wall that reassures ourselves and says to others we know what’s going on.
But in reality, its clearly rubbish. Our culture contains a lot of flaws because we have created a lot of flawed systems out of flawed beliefs. If our culture knew what it was doing, we wouldn’t be in such a mess! So let’s crack open the box and start to consider the benefits of not knowing things. To recognise the benefits of knowing where we are strong in our understanding and also where our personal understanding may be without foundations or absent.
Why do you want to do this? In a word, freedom. We probably already recognise that things need to change and if we can allow ourselves to change our thinking then that’s the best place for change to begin. You can’t fill an empty cup so you gotta make space in your cup! Logically, this makes sense but it’s the practical application of this common sense where we fall down, like in the middle of a really good discussion about something interesting. For this purpose, may I introduce the bucket system…
I operate a system of buckets that reflect what I believe about the Universe. The first bucket is things I’m pretty sure of and its not massive. It contains things like the sun rising tomorrow, my family will probably still talk to me later and water is wet, drink some. Simple stuff I can count on. Knowledge I have embodied, literally, in my body. I feel it is true. It’s the bucket closest to me, smallest, but crucially I recognise it is still opinion, its true from my point of view at this moment in time. “Current data indicates that…” None of it is set in stone and permanent.
The next bucket is more of a large skip and its labelled ‘The Madness’. When I hear things that are bonkers and make me crazy with people’s craziness, I throw it into the skip as soon as possible and walk away, otherwise it makes me crazy too. Yes, there is madness, yes it makes me frustrated therefore it’s seriously contagious, chuck it away. Know that when you are skip diving here, you are crazy too. This needs emptying frequently and soon fills up again. Breathe.
The last and most useful bucket is called ‘I don’t know’. While its small and diminutive, I suspect there is no bottom to this bucket and it opens out into an infinite universe. This is where I put the things I have no internal knowledge of, this includes almost everything I read and heard. Ever. Stuff other people said. You can easily take stuff out of this bucket, reconsider and refile it, or decide to leave it for later. In this territory I’m more likely to be listening than speaking, trawling for things that spark my interest. It represents the leading edge of my understanding, where I’m growing. Occasionally, as I expand, I take something out of this bucket and place it in the bucket of things I feel sure of, like a great treasure gleaned from the world. An insight!
The power of this system is that its mine. I have a good grasp of my ideas and I can allow you to have your own filing system which may look very different. Know that when you are rummaging in the bucket of the unknown you are learning and growing. Choose to loiter here more often and consciously expand.
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash