My mother once bought me a sweatshirt that had “If you can’t dazzle them with Brilliance, Baffle them with Bull” on the front. Everyone thought it was cute. I laughed when I saw it, but I was 14, so it made sense to me. Anyone who has children knows that the children know everything.
I once thought I knew everything, but then I turned 30. I know some people who might suggest that I still think I know everything, but rest assured, that is not the case. I may act like I know everything, but I know that I don’t. I heard somewhere that the beginning of wisdom is knowing what you don’t know. Well, I don’t know a lot, and the list of things I don’t know grows every day.
I don’t know why the price of milk in a store is half what it was before the recession, but the price of tea in a restaurant is double.
I don’t know why people insist that everyone needs medical care, but complain when their premiums go up to pay for it.
I don’t know how young men’s pants stay up when the waistband is underneath the buttocks. I’ve tried it. It doesn’t work for me, leaving me in an embarrassing situation and constantly falling over my britches.
I don’t know what makes tattoos and piercings attractive to young people. I find them scary and disappointing (and not for the reasons you might think).
I don’t know how to make a soufflé.
I don’t know how to refine gasoline out of crude oil (and I wish I did).
I don’t know why people make the decisions that they make.
Knowing what I don’t know means that I know what I know. I am not the smartest man in the room most of the time, but I do have several answers to any number of questions I am asked. As an instructor, that is expected; but more importantly, I know where to get the answers when I do not know them.
So, does knowing everything mean having all the answers? I know several people that I consider smart, but that make bad decisions constantly. I also know that when you put a bunch of smart people in a group, the average intelligence of that group is significantly lower than any individual member. People do not think clearly in groups. Look at congress as an example. Look at the judiciary. Look at any point in history. The brightest seem brighter when they shine alone. I don’t know why that is either.
This also begs the question, is intelligence the same as being smart. I think the difference between being smart and being intelligent is that one connotes an ability to provide answers at the spur of the moment while the other suggests the ability to reason an answer from given facts; to think things through using reason and logic to arrive at the correct answer. Either that, or it is a matter of lucky guesses.
Is 30 the magic age for garnering the wisdom of knowing what you don’t know? I hope not. I know many young people who need to make this realization sooner rather than later. Our country will be much better when everyone knows what they don’t know and more importantly, knows how to find the answers.