The Beauty of Not Knowing


For the last few months I have been in situations in which I am convinced I am right.  Other people are also convinced that they are right; and they disagree with me.  I would like to state for the record that I am righter than they are.

Good, I won.

And so it goes.

The problem is how to live with each other once you’ve both decided how right you are.

I mean, I can defend myself pretty well.  In some cases I’m arguing with people who have never been married about what marriage is like (I’ve been married for 24 years).  In another, I’ve been arguing about how my thursday group should proceed when I have 7 years of experience with variations on this group and they have 6 months.  So, righter, righter, righter.

But I have grown suspicious of righter, if for no other reason than it’s a great relationship killer.  We can both be so right that we can’t stand each other kind of thing.  And there’s so much subjectivity.  I understand, for example, that while I know a lot more about marriage than someone else who’s not been married, I don’t necessarily know what marriage will be like for any one person.  I know what marriage is like for me.  I know the problems my partner and I bring to each other, I know our baggage, I know all the things we try to get closer without getting too scared, I know that we keep trying to figure out what distance is good for love.  But maybe the idealism of the never tried will lead to something I can’t even see.  I mean, it’s likely that I’m right, but it’s not certain.

At the same time, it is so hard to give up being right.  At least for me, obsessed with the truth as I am…and believe me, I am!  I have a nearly photographic memory, I can quote back whole conversations, I seem to memorize events as they happen, because I want precision, I want truth, and I’m willing to dig up whatever muck, whatever darkness I have to withstand, to get to it.  (I can miss the lighter side of life at times, but my great sense of absurdity–therapists with PUPPETS!–helps balance that out.)

I have a great deal of trouble letting other people have whatever truth they have.  I have a great deal of trouble dealing with denial.  I am not patient.  I get frantic when I think my partner isn’t seeing something for what it is.  (I was always the Emperor’s New Clothes kid growing up, and I don’t seem to have gotten over it.)

The problem with other people’s denial is that when I try to go to the place of not being right, of not knowing, I feel utterly crazy.  That’s one of my tests–if I’m calm when I admit I don’t know, the other person is probably every bit as right if not more so, or else it doesn’t matter.  But if there’s denial, I lose all my quasi-Buddhist acceptance and become a maniac raving for truth.

I become someone who is right.

It’s so strange.  Even when you really are right, being right is dangerous.

I love to say, “I can always be wrong.”  I have to go on my own best judgment, there’s no replacement for listening to yourself.  I have to trust my intuition and my own goodness.  So I guess the thing is to know I have to trust those things for me, and to admit when it comes to other people, I have no idea.

When I’m teaching, I’m critically aware that what I see must be monitored.  Meaning, I have to follow some instinct about what will be most helpful for a student to hear–I can’t shove my knowledge, training or education into anyone’s head in one block.  I have to be so aware that I can be wrong, I have to be willing to back up or step forward at a moment’s notice, I have to be present for what is.  In other words, the accuracy of my perceptions should be there–I mean, I get paid for something–but I have to live in humility in order to let the student’s need and readiness drive how I give information.

I have to be willing to be wrong all the time, or I can’t be right for anyone.

I guess it’s a convoluted mess.  And I don’t know much even about this topic.

How nice, to not have to be responsible for knowing.

If a blog about not knowing doesn’t know, can anyone read it?

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