Here’s the truth: I don’t know everything.
Nobody knows everything.
In fact, if we knew everything, why would we be at Minerva? What would be the point?
I think on some level, we all know this. Of course nobody’s perfect. Of course we are here to learn. But I find it interesting how we rarely talk about the things we don’t know.
It may sound counterintuitive. You may think, “Well, how would I know what I don’t know? Why should I be expected to know what I don’t know?”
Well, I think the answer is simple: Arrogance inhibits learning.
At Minerva, sometimes I feel this pressure to constantly know The Right Answer, as if life came with an answer key that was only passed on to us, the eXtRAoRdiNaRy. Sometimes in class, the professor will ask an open-ended question, and as they scan the little boxes of faces for a taker, I’ll feel my body clench up. Hnngggg. I don’t have an answer. I don’t know the answer. I don’t think there even is a right answer. And the professor will say “Ok Amulya, what do you think?” and I’ll release a high pitched squeal into the air before pressing control and delivering an uninspired “Ummm… I don’t really know?”
“… That’s okay,” the professor says and moves a couple squares over. “What do you think?”
“Uhhhhhh… I really don’t know either,” another student says in shame, “I’m sorry.”
And that’s exactly what it feels like. Shame. Shame that we didn’t have the key to the universe, that we still couldn’t explain right from wrong, or that for the one moment that counted in class, we just did not know.
Arrogance inhibits learning.
Sometimes I ask myself: “Why do you feel bad for not knowing? Why are you beating yourself up? Aren’t you here to learn? Isn’t the point to not know in the beginning and then learn?”
And the second voice always replies, “Yes. Of course you didn’t know. And that’s okay. At least you learned something.”
But sometimes it’s not that simple.
Sometimes I’ll forget people’s names who I’ve seen day after day but never spoke to. Sometimes I’ll not know how to console a friend who’s hurting.
Sometimes I’ll see something wrong, say something wrong, and not correct it. Because I don’t know what’s right.
Sometimes I’ll feel my gut turn at a silly joke, because someone just didn’t know better, and I’ll excuse it. Because I can’t expect them to know everything. They’ll learn, right? Did they learn?
Minerva does a good job of teaching us to pay attention. We learn how to scan the tiles at the top of the screen when a joke is made. We watch for snaps when we make a good comment in class. We glide over faces with our mouse to see what people are doing when they think nobody is watching.
But sometimes, we get so focused on what other people are doing, saying, thinking, that we forget that they’re just as worried as us. We forget that the window goes both ways, that you can see into their world, but if you pause for just a moment and adjust your vision, that you can almost see your reflection in the glass, and how your frames line up just a little bit.
I don’t know what I don’t know. But what I do know is that there are things that I will never know until I listen.
Just as you’re thinking, “oh please please please don’t call on me” in class, perhaps half of the others are thinking the exact same thing. Maybe to the kid who made a comment that you thought was incredibly articulate, it felt like gibberish in their own mind, a half-baked thought that they used to cover up their I don’t know.
Here’s the truth. I don’t know what I don’t know. But what I do know is that there are things that I will never know until I listen. There are parts of life that won’t align in the reflection, the person looking through the window will see me a different way than I see myself. I don’t have a god’s eye view of right and wrong. I don’t have a monopoly on knowing. And I 100% don’t know a great number of things. So why should I pretend?
Why should I make up an answer on the spot just to make sure I don’t look stupid in class? Why should I tell my friend “it’s going to be okay” when it really might not? Why should I convince others that I have the right answer, when all I know is that I have an answer? Why should I always always always know?
I think we should get more used to saying “I don’t know” at Minerva. We should get comfortable not knowing. Because the more we try to convince others that we know everything and cover for our half-baked thoughts, the more we create shame for not knowing. The more we judge for not knowing.
It’s called humility. We should talk about it sometimes. Maybe it’ll show us what we know.