“I don’t know.”
It’s almost a sin to say. You get annoyed looks, blank expressions of disappointment. Letting those three words slip through your lips automatically suggests incompetency, lack of experience, laziness.
These days, it is a paragon to know absolutely everything. If we do not know everything, we are trained to seek knowledge. After all, we have infinite resources at our fingertips.
It should be easy. Finding answers, that is. You’d think by how old mankind is, by how many of us there are, how many of us that were, that there would be an answer to every possible question humanity ever asked.
I wish this were true. I wish life were so easy that the answers were already there, and all I had to do was ask for them. But every day, I am constantly reminded that there is a world of questions that absolutely no one can answer. Why do people touch the grimy bottoms of their shoes with their hands? Why does sugar taste so good when it’s extremely unhealthy? Why don’t couples stay together anymore? Why is there hatred, hunger, and suffering, and why don’t we do anything to end it all? There are so many questions and sometimes, a helpless, “I don’t know” is the only answer we have.
And how pathetic does it feel, when the question you’re asked is weighty, and you’re looked at like you must know the answer because you’re supposed to be put together but the truth is you’ve spent nights falling apart and mornings where no one realized there was anything to pick up at all.
I often feel resentful towards mankind because of how incredibly flawed we are. How incredibly flawed I am. Humans are clumsy. Not just in our motions, the order of one foot in front of the other. We are clumsy in our words, in the feelings we wear on our sleeves and paint onto mile high canvases. We are clumsy at frantically shoving our problems down our throats until we nearly choke, and we are clumsy at hiding when the ugliness of it all comes up like vomit.
Humans are clumsy, messy, and complicated. We are incompetent, lazy, and inexperienced, no matter how developed we think we are. We are all these things, and yet we still look to each other, depend on one another, even when sometimes all we can muster for our fellow friend, is a pathetic, “I don’t know”.
I am resentful towards this idea. The idea that all we have in this world is each other, and even that is so terrifyingly unreliable. But would I be crazy to say that I also take comfort in it?
There are some things I do know.
I know that a fundamental part of being human is acknowledging that we are under no obligation to be all-knowing. We are not knowledge data bases. We are raw material, fleshy and rough around the edges. We stutter and misspeak in a society that expects everyone to be paradigmatic. The constructs of our world are just as flawed as we are.
I know that an “I don’t know” is one of the most beautiful concepts mankind ever had the pleasure of owning. Despite how many people that “are” and how many people that “were”, there is an even larger amount of people that “will be”. We, collectively, are all people that “will be”. To me, an “I don’t know” means that possibilities are infinitely endless. It means a road diverged into a million paths in a yellow wood, and I can take any path I please. “I don’t know” means something to look forward to. It is a challenge to become the next person to find an answer. We can even say that, “I don’t know” is an answer. It’s a starting point of where I am and a promise of somewhere I want to be. I am clumsy, messy, and complicated. I am incompetent, inexperienced, and lazy. I’m not the only one.