I’ve been thinking about all of the different ways I can manage not to know something this summer. Now autumn.
I can have absolutely no experience (the “negative frame” I wrote about here), and therefore lack the means to process properly what’s going on.
I can misinterpret something and draw the wrong knowledge as a conclusion (it’s sunny outside, it must be warm. Relevant, ignored factor: I’m in Minnesota).
I can misapply knowledge and come to the wrong conclusion. My Ph.D. carpenter boss used to distinguish between “categorical errors,” in which you simply take the wrong set of information and which are easily corrected, with “perceptual errors,” which are more fundamental and have to do with world view. As a categorical error, there’s me doing the books for my old carpentry company and correcting them with a CPA. I consistently categorized three different entries badly – but each of the three could be remedied by one overarching “fix.” I was using the program incorrectly, but always in the same way. As a perceptual error, I offer my first encounter with spinach. I assumed I liked spinach, and lots of please, mom, thank you, mmmmm, because Popeye ate it several times a day in my TV-watching experience.
I never trusted Popeye again.
I can not know how to do something. I can not know a person.
I remember studying the immune system in high school biology and discovering the marvel of defense that it is, and wondering, “how do we ever get sick?” We followed this with a unit on viruses, prompting me to wonder, “how is it that we’re not all dead?” And for all I read, for all I listen to news, radio, for all I watch, I feel vaguely overwhelmed by all of the things I don’t know and the ways in which I do not know them.
And I’m thinking that maybe not knowing is the best place to be. Because today things might be different.