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I Don't Know

By Jim Mathis

I was at a seminar last fall where the instructor said to never say "I Don't Know.' She said a better response is "That is a good question," or "Let me find out for you." That sounds nice but it denies the obvious that we really don't know everything and sometimes it is not possible to find suitable answers to all of our questions.

Since then I have noticed how many times I have said, "I don't know." This morning at the tax office the receptionist asked me why her computer said 10:30 when it was actually 9:30. I said, "I don't know." I suppose that if I was the IT guy I would have said that was a good question and try to find the answer. It may even indicate a bigger problem. But I am not a computer expert, so the time the computer says is not a problem I was willing to devote a lot of time to, and a simple, I don't know, seemed about right for the occasion. I used to have a friend who would caution about chasing "rabbit trails," getting side tracked by questions we don't need to answer.

The willingness to admit that we don't know everything might be the beginning of wisdom. I have always contended that the purpose of higher education is to show us what we don't know. We should have a desire for continuous learning. That is how we grow in every area of our lives, but assuming that every problem has an easy answer is pretty naive.

I remember when I was in the fifth grade when the teacher asked the class some sort of a philosophical question, something "like why are we here?". One of my classmates responded, "We can look it up in the encyclopedia." I guess she had heard that all the world's knowledge was in those twenty volumes, and it certainly did look like it.

Today, I know a lot, and I am willing to pass along anything I know to anyone willing to listen, but I don't know everything and I am quick to say, "I don't know."

Jim Mathis Photography