“I don’t know.”
No truer words can be said. I recently walked down my street and did an audit of my lack of knowledge.
In that 100 metre span from the Parramatta Post Office to Civic Square, these are the things I didn’t know:
- how to use a digital cash register;
- how the “money” from a transaction goes up a digital line or through space and into somebody else’s possession;
- how to give a Thai massage;
- what are the bodily pressure points and energetic meridians of Qi;
- how to cut hair;
- how to design and manufacture a hair clipper;
- how the pawn shop guy knows how to value the objects people bring him;
- who to contact in China or someplace else if I want to make millions of hair clippers;
- what the importation rules are for bringing stuff from overseas to sell in Australia;
- how to pour a foundation or the basics of building a cement and steel structure;
- why the pedestrian lights change in a particular time sequence;
- what the ingredients of road base and asphalt really are in detail, and;
- who figured out how to shoot water up into the air at the municipal fountain
And that’s just a limited and random list of my knowledge limitations. It says nothing of things I think I know, but am factually wrong about. Like human motivation, people’s feelings, the rules of rugby scrums, or why colours improbably change when mixed together.
When I objectively weigh up all the gross gaps and foolish flaws in my knowledge, I consider myself lucky to get through everyday without hurting myself and others too much.
It makes me wonder about those steely souls amongst us who insist on hard-core science, evidence and rationality. I would have thought their zealous quest is a pointless one because no matter how smart they may be, they are ultimately endowed with basic brains as flawed in design as mine and yours. Brains that are finite; brains that fade and fizzle over time; brains that blur at the smell of a burger or the laugh of a kookaburra.
Our operating system is faulty – even-though the God-like technology at our finger tips may trick us into thinking otherwise. The Google delusion.
So, how can I and presumably many others be truly hapless but somehow manage to get through life, look after our families and friends, and try to make some contribution through our work and civic participation?
- where we end, something bigger, wiser and more enduring starts;
- the impermanent state of all things teaches us not to become attached;
- our “heart-ware” is just as important in guiding us as our “hardware”;
- we can – every second and every minute – just be rather than think and do;
- when we let go, we let God;
- the touch of a breeze on a forearm is worth as much as any formula of physics.
Or, as Shakespeare said in one play: “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”
Yup, our operating system is faulty. I reckon it’s a planned obsolescence, an intentional design flaw. It illuminates the confines of our condition and opens us up to the possibility of infinity beyond our mere selves. In the vulnerability and humility of humanity, we discover a greater grace that’s everlasting.
In that void of not knowing or emptiness – or “Sunyata” as the Buddhists call it – we perhaps counter-intuitively arrive at a broader knowledge.
Besides, all I really need to know about hair clippers is 1 is a shorter cut than 3.