The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing. — Socrates
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Contrary to what I believed as a teenager, I’ve realized that I don’t know everything. Shoot, I don’t even know much of anything, really.
In fact, the more I learn, the more I see how much I don’t know. Some say that ignorance is bliss, and at one point I would have agreed with that. But as I grow older, I’ve found a hunger to gain knowledge that didn’t exist before, one that can’t be satisfied with an apathetic, “I don’t know, and that’s fine with me.”
In my youth, any knowledge I gained was usually used to win debates, or to appear smarter than others. How foolish I was. Today, that craving is for the human experience, to feel I’m living life to the fullest. I don’t think I can do that in a cave, especially when I’m not even the smartest person in that cave — my wife might have me bested, although I’ll beat her watching Jeopardy nine times out of 10, so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice. To truly live life, you have to know what it is you’re living, and I believe that means soaking up everything around you.
From understanding global politics to trying to figure out why your neighbors chose the ugly plants in their front yard, it’s all part of me wanting to embrace life’s little mysteries. I don’t think you can begin that process until you accept that you just don’t know it all.
I wake up each day wondering what I’m going to learn that day, and excited to become a better person because of it. Sometimes it’s something simple, like learning the best way to approach a cranky kid in the morning as she gets ready for school, or the most effective way to shave without getting all of those red bumps on my neck. Other days it’s way more complex, like learning why a comment you made to a friend years ago still lingers with him or her today.
Sadly, while knowledge can be power, it can also be devastating to one’s view of the world. When we pull our heads out of the sand long enough to see things clearly, we witness a lot of ugly things going on around us, and that can be tough. Some prefer to just hide from it all for the sake of avoiding such realizations. I’m not one of those people. I want it all, the good and the bad, to mold me into a well-rounded person so that I can provide leadership for my kids before they have to traverse this place on their own. I want to be able to provide friends sound advice when they need it thanks to experiences I’ve been through that made me wiser, or things I’ve learned from others and are able to pass on myself. In a nutshell, I want to be the wise village elder whose opinion is respected and asked for, not for vanity’s sake, but to be able to truly help my fellow man. To do all this, I have to be knowledgeable in many things, and I’m a long ways from there right now.
G.I. Joe told me as a kid, “Knowing is half the battle.” The other half involves guns and swords, I think. I never really fully understood the message. But I got the point: Learn as much as you can, and you will be on your way to a better life. So every day is another opportunity to learn, and no matter how much I’d like to take a break and bury my head in the sand sometimes, I have a responsibility to a lot of people to grow.
Wm. Paul Young, author of “The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity,” wrote, “So many believe that it is love that grows, but it is the knowing that grows and love simply expands to contain it.” This is why I want to continue to gain knowledge; because those around me deserve the best version of me, and I can’t reach that without continuing to pursue what I yet do not know.
Patrick Ibarra is the managing editor of the Mountain Democrat.