Yes, we don’t know all the answers

by Henrylito D. Tacio

QUESTIONS abound. While most questions can be answered, there are those that cannot be answered – even by science.

At one time, a theologian was teaching young students about the Creation. How God created heaven and earth and the inhabitants therein (including Adam and Eve) in six days. On the seventh day, the Creator rested.

The professor thought no one was listening to him until one student raised his right hand. “Yes,” he said. “Do you have any question?” The student asked, “Where was God before ‘In the beginning’?” The student was referring to Genesis 1:1 which stated, “In the beginning God created heavens and the earth.”

Is there life after death? Why some old people suffer from dementia while others don’t? How hard should a person work out? Why do people cry when they hear the word goodbye in a love song? Are women really the weaker sex?

While science has tried to answer most of these questions, there are those which are left unanswered. If a wife dies ahead of the spouse, the husband’s tendency is to ask: “Why her, God?” Or, if a beautiful woman married a not-so-responsible man, people wonder: “Why him?”

We don’t have answers to these questions. These are beyond our comprehension, beyond our knowledge. Blaise Pascal, the famous French scientist and philosopher, reminded, “We must learn our limits. We are all something, but none of us are everything.”

The Daily Motivator explains: “One of the smartest things you can do is to admit when you don’t know something. The most intelligent people are not those who purport to know it all. The most intelligent people are those who have a realistic awareness of what they know and, just as importantly, what they don’t know.”

There are some people who foolishly pretend to know things when in fact they don’t. It sometimes serves their pride, yet in the end such behavior is completely self defeating. The ‘Daily Motivator’ points out: “Admitting you don’t know something is the first step in learning it. No one can possibly know everything. There is no shame in not knowing.”

Heraklietos of Ephesos has also said, “Whosoever wishes to know about the world must learn about it in its particular details. Knowledge is not intelligence. In searching for the truth be ready for the unexpected. Change alone is unchanging. The same road goes both up and down. The beginning of a circle is also its end.”

Unfortunately, saying “I don’t know” is usually equated with being ignorant. But it should not be. As Humphrey Davy puts it: “Fortunately science, like that nature to which it belongs, is neither limited by time nor by space. It belongs to the world, and is of no country and no age. The more we know, the more we feel our ignorance; the more we feel how much remains unknown.”

Half of the world’s misery comes from ignorance,” Baslo declared. “The other half comes from intelligence.” Lee C. Bollinger advised, “Nurture an appetite for being puzzled, for being confused, indeed for being openly stupid, and that – despite what you may think – is very difficult. We all know the cliché that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. It is also true that a lot of knowledge can be a dangerous thing as well. Use your ignorance as well as your knowledge for creative means.”

The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance — it is the illusion of knowledge,” Daniel Joseph Boorstin reminded. A very wise and intelligent man was once asked, “How do you know so much about everything?” His answer was: “By never being afraid or ashamed to ask questions as to anything of which I was ignorant.”

Men are born ignorant, not stupid,” Bertrand Russell said. “They are made stupid by education.” But despite this, people are still going to schools, universities and colleges. You know why? Because, as Sir Francis Bacon, declared, “Knowledge is power.”

But what is knowledge? Confucius explained: “When you know a thing, to hold that you know it; and when you do not know a thing, to allow that you do not know it – this is knowledge.”

But it is not enough just to know. You have to learn what you know. Richard Feynman said, “You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird. So let’s look at the bird and see what it is doing – that’s what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.”

This goes back to not knowing everything. The ‘Daily Motivator’ states: “There is so much you can learn when you admit to yourself and others that you don’t know. It is far better to admit you don’t know, than to proceed with missing or incomplete knowledge.”

Don’t pretend to know the answer if you really don’t know. Saying “I don’t know” isn’t the end of the world for you. Admit it and try to find out the answer to the baffling question. And if you can, don’t wait for tomorrow; “deal with them now,” suggests Brian Cavanaugh. In a short feature, which appeared in ‘The Sower’s Seeds,’ he wrote this story:

An old farmer had plowed around a large rock in one of his fields for years. He had broken several plowshares and a cultivator on it and had grown rather morbid about the rock. After breaking another plowshare one day, and remembering all the trouble the rock had caused him through the years, he finally decided to do something about it.

When he put the crowbar under the rock, he was surprised to discover that it was only about six inches thick and that he could break it up easily with a sledgehammer. As he was carting the pieces away he had to smile, remembering all the trouble that the rock had caused him over the years and how easy it would have been to get rid of it sooner.

The same is true with the questions we encounter each day. We never run out of questions, just like a little child who is beginning to learn about the world. And yes, no one knows all the answers. Remember the words of Malcolm Forbes: “The dumbest people I know are those who know it all.” — ###

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