I Don’t Know

“Do you know what you know?”

She stood in the doorway and stared down at me.  It was a trick question, no doubt.

She is a business associate and has watched me at work for almost fifteen years now–has seen and heard me demonstrate and explain any number of techniques, and usages, and applications.  She has witnessed my interaction with customers and friends.

She seemed to be serious in her attempt to discern the extent of my knowledge.  It didn’t matter.

I didn’t know how to answer the question.

I was even confused.  Did she want a synopsis right that moment?  The river of knowledge may be wide, but it’s not necessarily deep.

I suppose I know a little about a lot of things.  I am a collector of trivial bits of information about a wide range of subjects.  I think I know what I know.

But, I really don’t want you to know what I don’t know

Then again, if we’re talking about business principles and repair techniques–those, I have gathered in as one picks up coins lying on the sidewalk and throws them into an old coffee can.  The collection of facts and methods has grown steadily throughout my time in my chosen field.

I am beginning to become aware of what I know in that respect.

And with that thought, my confusion faded.  That was it.  My friend was simply complimenting me on my store of knowledge within the field of music and its accoutrements.

I smiled and nodded.  “I’ve learned a little bit in the last thirty-five years, I guess.  About time, too.”

The conversation ended and I was left to my own thoughts.  My euphoria at  her recognition of my abilities didn’t last long.  As often happens these days, my mind turned the words it had heard around and around, looking at them from first one angle and then another.

Do I know what I know?

I used to.  I certainly knew more when I was younger. 

When I was twenty, no one could tell me anything.  As a child, and then a teenager, I had soaked up knowledge like a sponge and was self-assured, almost to the point of cockiness.  Arguments were the rule, rather than the exception, likely to break out in almost any situation.  Parties, funerals, ballgames–all were prime locations for me to prove my expertise on almost any subject.

I didn’t care who I hurt.  I was obviously doing them a favor.  Surely, they would rise up and call me blessed, seeing that I was so concerned for them that I would share from my precious hoard of expert opinion.

I knew what I knew!

I am older now.

Not necessarily wiser, just older.

As I age, I find myself looking back more frequently.  I have discovered, to my chagrin, that the bodies I have left scattered in the path behind weren’t aided all that much by me sharing my wealth.

They were simply injured. Maimed, some of them.  I didn’t know that would happen.

I am ashamed that I didn’t know it.

I am beginning–just now beginning–to find ways to listen instead of always speaking.  I am a slow learner, as I’ve mentioned often before.  Perhaps, there is yet time for me to help to heal the damage I have done.

Still, I know what I know, don’t I?

At times, I still wax dogmatic about those tenets I have always believed.  I hold firmly to the faith of my childhood.  I know what I know about that, at least.

But, in the last few years, as I have watched others struggling with doubts and hard situations, questions–questions which I never asked before–have been raised, at least internally.  I’m not absolutely sure anymore that I know what I have always known.

And finally, in the last few years, with the moral failures of some of my strongest early influences, even the foundations have begun to appear a bit shaky.  The questions have become doubts at times, the searching–accusations.

For the first time that I can remember, I don’t know.

I don’t know.

But, I do want to know.

Funny.  It’s a good place to be.

One of my favorite characters in the Bible is Job.  He starts out a righteous man.  He ends up a righteous man.  In between, he begins to give instruction to God.  Seriously.  He tells God what He should be doing.  God’s answer to Job is to impress on him how much he does not know.  With example after example, Job begins to understand his lack of the knowledge necessary to be an advisor to God

Job finally admits that he tried to speak of things he had no way of knowing.  He begins to know what he doesn’t know.  And, in making that admission, he opens the way to be instructed once again.  We find that the end of his life was more blessed than the early years.

I want that.

I’m finally–finally–understanding that I know what I don’t know.  I don’t yet know what I know.  And that’s okay.

I’ll take it a step at a time from here.


I’ll need some company along the way.  How about it?

Do you know what you don’t know?

Perhaps that’s the beginning of wisdom.

We can find out together.

“I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did.  I said I didn’t know.”
(Mark Twain ~ American humorist/author ~ 1835-1910)

“Don’t think you are better than you really are.  Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.”
(Romans 12:3b ~ NLT)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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