Diaries Magazine

I Don't Know

Posted on the 24 May 2021 by C. Suresh

Is it only me or is it everyone who finds that "I don't know" is the toughest thing to say? Oh, I mean, yes, if someone asked you to explain the different String theories, 'I don't know' comes tripping off your tongue like greased lightning. Probably laced with that 'What sort of idiot expects people to know such things?' tone. Unless, of course, you are a theoretical physicist.

No, I do not mean that it is difficult when you do not know things where you are sure that nobody in your circles is expected to know. It is easy enough then. The difficulty arises when either you think people like you are expected to know such things OR when people around you expect YOU to know such things. Then, those words sort of stick in your throat, like a vehicle in a pre-Covid Bangalore traffic jam, and refuse to come out.

Generally, what does come out morphs into something that tries to avoid that fatal admission. How it is avoided depends on the sort of person.

Let us say that the question is about what an important celebrity said about something of topical interest. You know, the sort of thing which everyone is supposed to be interested in, failing which people start turning over stones to see if you are living under it. And you have no clue that the said celebrity had any pearls of wisdom to cast on that issue.

If you are an unusually diffident person, you end up saying, "I know...but I am not sure if I understood exactly what he had to say. What did he mean to say?" Not that it improves your stock with your people...you only exchanged the tag of an ignorant person for one of a stupid one. Strange how people seem to prefer the latter to the former.

The aggressive person has a different approach. He'd say, "Of course I know. Do you? Remember the time when you..." and talks of a past occurrence when the questioner had failed to know what he was expected to know. So there, the conversation is deflected from the ignorance of the questionee to the ignorance of the questioner.

Then there are the canny diplomatic types. They evade the question by saying, "You know, I think that we should not be giving any importance to what any and every celebrity says. It is more important to listen to the subject matter experts..." And, there, the problem chap is the celebrity for having voiced ANYTHING at all about the issue and exactly WHAT he said is a proven irrelevancy. No ill-feelings among those present and the dread phrase 'I don't know' avoided elegantly.

There are alternative diplomatic evasions. (I mean, there may be only ONE truth but there can be a thousand lies, no?) Like, "In my opinion, this issue should be seen like this..." where you divert the conversation entirely to what your opinion is rather than admit that you do not know what the celebrity's opinion was supposed to be.

Talking of opinions, there is always an issue with opinions which depend on facts. Like opinions about the economic performance of a government can be disproved by published data. Which is why you see that, when people have 'reason to know', arguments do not flourish. (Though, yes, we are making giant strides in making that possible by being 'creative' about facts, as I have had reason to say before.)

The most confident, and thus most virulent, opinions exist in areas where you are sure that nobody has real reason to KNOW. Where everyone actually doesn't know and still refuse to say 'I don't know'. You have no idea what a boost to the confidence it is to know for sure that no inconvenient fact is going to pop up and burst the balloon of your confidence in your own opinion. You know, in things like the nature, existence and attitude of God; whether a mythological figure was good, bad or merely human; things like that.

When adults give advice to children, they say that knowing that you do not know is the first step to wisdom. As for when adults will themselves learn to admit 'I don't know'...

Err...I don't know!

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

About the author

C. Suresh 8525 shares View Blog

The Author's profile is not complete. The Author's profile is not complete.