Ronda Graff

Community Connections

News and views from the McCook Community Foundation Fund


Admitting we don't know everything

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Every year, it happens like clockwork at my house. At some point in the late fall or early winter, someone in my house gets up in the morning and stumbles to the bathroom, reaches into the shower to turn the handle ... and nothing. Thereís no water.

Once again, the pipe in our well house has frozen because of the dropping temperatures. For the next few hours, we will be waterless until someone wanders into the frigid cold to turn on the heat lamp in the well house and the pipes thaw. This jury-rigged solution makes it work and yes, a professional is who came up with the system.

To have water in our house, we had to take that difficult first step: acknowledging that we didnít know what we were doing. We had to ask for help. We had to admit we didnít know everything.

In fact, if I admit it, I donít know how - and this is just a rough estimate - 99 percent of the world works.

I donít know how electricity works, so thatís why I hire an electrician because itís done right. I donít know how to play the G chord on the guitar, so thatís why I attend concerts because itís done beautifully. I donít know why Iím gaining weight, so thatís why I see my physician because she can tell me that I do know why Iím gaining weight but I wonít give up my fries.

I also thought I was the only one who drove down the road wondering why wood is used for electrical poles, how birds are able to sit on electrical lines without getting electrocuted, or how long the stripes on a highway are. (Because wood is cheap but good, electricity takes the path of least resistance and thatís not a bird leg and 10 feet which is longer than most people guess.)

Every day, I must admit that I donít know something. Every day, I will wonder about something I donít know. And every day, I will ask questions or research something. At the end of the day, there are a lot of useless facts in my head but I wouldnít give up my curiosity for anything.

(Iím trying not to buy as many books as I have in the past but I couldnít pass up ďA Walk Around the BlockĒ by Spike Carlson, where he explores everything from how squirrels use their tails to when manhole covers came into existence.)

Admitting you donít know something is hard but that gives you the opportunity to learn something new, to need someone elseís expertise and knowledge, to re-frame how you think.

And it is not just the physical world around us where we need to acknowledge we donít know everything.

Itís also our ideas and opinions and thoughts which affect our decisions.

Especially these days, we need to admit that we donít know everything about a particular subject..

Your neighbor doesnít know everything. The person calling in to a radio show doesnít know everything. People posting and sharing on social media certainly donít know everything. Even the experts may not know everything.

Yet sometimes, we give them all the same influence. We need to admit that the person who has devoted their life to a certain subject has more authority. We need to admit that the person who is dealing with the situation day-in, day-out knows more than we do. We need to admit that a person who has boots on the ground and deals with the problem on a regular basis is who we should listen to.

Itís not wrong to admit that we donít know everything. In fact, it takes a leader with an open mind to acknowledge that they are willing to listen to others, that they are willing to change their mind, that they are willing to make an informed decision based on those who do know.

And at the end of the day, we need leaders - and a community - which are willing to acknowledge that they donít know everything, but are willing to learn.

View 1 comment
Note: The nature of the Internet makes it impractical for our staff to review every comment. Please note that those who post comments on this website may do so using a screen name, which may or may not reflect a website user's actual name. Readers should be careful not to assign comments to real people who may have names similar to screen names. Refrain from obscenity in your comments, and to keep discussions civil, don't say anything in a way your grandmother would be ashamed to read.
  • An outstanding commentary that recognizes a weakness of our society. There is a realistic and straightforward resolution to that quandary of not knowing and, as is made evident in the commentary, that is to seek answers.

    Unfortunately, it seems that too few members of our society have the wherewithal to step forward to pursue answers and in too many cases, to accept those answers.

    Answers are readily available through a simple Google inquiry on the Internet with the one drawback of having to choose the proper words or phrase to elicit a reasonable response from Google. And Google will frequently present the inquirer with a vast quantity of references to choose from and many of those references are of specious quality.

    How does one choose a "good" response? Often, that requires fact-checking the response through an additional Google inquiry or the use of a formal fact-checking site such as Snopes.

    Regardless, there are sites that will appear with a Google inquiry that should be avoided at first glance because they are affiliated with known providers of very false information. Most are affiliated with specious news providers, religious groups, and political advocacies and some are more obtuse, such as Alex Jones and "Infowars".

    Regardless, a desire to seek answers is paramount to being informed and, ultimately, contributing to the betterment of the nation and the national security of the nation.

    -- Posted by Joe Heathen on Fri, Dec 4, 2020, at 8:29 AM
Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: