One of the greatest, and possibly most profound, advantages of keeping a journal is that it is the one secure place where one can openly admit that one simply doesn’t know. Why is that the hardest thing to do? To just admit that one doesn’t know about a thing, but especially about how one feels, thinks, or sees that thing? Even more so, when the thing, or object, happens to be ones own person, behavior, or any minute aspect of that? No one wants to be, or appear to be, a fool. Yet, is admitting to ones ignorance a foolish thing, or the beginning of wisdom?
We openly say that no one knows, or can know, everything, yet beat ourselves up when we prove that statement true. Why is that, and isn’t that the state of being foolish? When asked for an opinion, many of us, if not most, panic, even go blank, unable to find any words with which to respond. That doesn’t mean we don’t have an opinion, it means we’ve been put on the spot and would rather be anywhere else at the moment. So, instead of looking blank (utterly foolish), we foolishly speak whatever words come to mind, even if we know that the words are untrue, or foolish in respect to our own person.
And what is the spot we’ve been put on? Public acceptability. We all have the deepest desire to be accepted, to be a part of, to belong. We actually have a need to prove our acceptability. We need others, need their support and even their encouragement. That need is primary, hard-wired into the human psyche, since the first human psyche appeared on the scene and realized he/she couldn’t survive without the group, tribe, or clan. Which makes independence, the desire to be ones own person, on ones own terms, a direct and immediate conflict. Talk about a balancing act.
To belong entails knowing what everyone in the group knows, to share like definitions, viewpoints, and opinions that prove we are members of that specific group. To actually admit that we don’t know, sets us outside the group, makes us a non-member and open to immediate, and possibly, painful censure. So, we don’t admit that we honestly don’t know, even if that is true. Then go home and berate ourselves for being both ignorant and false, adding shame to the mixture, on both counts, and really confusing all of the issues. Can’t win for losing, right?
Wrong (bet you saw that one coming). There is a very fine line of balance between public and private existence. And it is one we constantly, moment by moment, travel. If we tiptoe in public, only firmly setting our feet in private, we constantly run the risk of making an even momentary mistake that will end us inside of the censure we can’t afford to our sense of belonging. But, if we step firmly in public, while tiptoeing in private, we risk a constant sense of shame and dis-ease within our own person. Which brings us to that very important dialogue I keep mentioning, that one with self.
The one person I can’t afford not to know is me. Furthermore, the only person I can truly belong to is me. I can choose to give that me to another, even a group, but that only underscores my deepest need to know and belong to me first, so I know what it is I am choosing and giving, and just how much of that I want to give in any given moment. That is true self-preservation on its most basic level. And each and every time, I admit that “I just don’t know,” I am furthering my course, both public and private. I most definitely want to walk that very fine line with as much confidence as possible, at all times.
So I have become a champion of, and at, “I just don’t know.” I freely admit my ignorance and encourage others to do the same. After all, I don’t want to be alone on this journey toward wisdom. Who would I talk to, share my misgivings with, get support and encouragement from, and a good warm hug when I need it or have earned it? I may be becoming my own best friend, but I will always need more, especially friends with skin on em. Not only for the friendship and shared thoughts and feelings, but for the challenge they provide when they ask, “You didn’t know that?” And then proceed to fill me in.
That is the main purpose of my journal. Those pages are filled with all the questions about things I just don’t know. It is both the receptacle of those questions, but also holds a great many of the accompanying answers, that then, allow me to move along that fine line that stretches forever between public and private existence and acceptance. That balancing act, I am finding, I am finally getting quite good at.