Things I Know 1 of 365: I know nothing

Scio me nihil scire.

– Socrates

Saw that coming, did you? Fair enough.

Here’s where that logic gets away from me.

If I know nothing, then everything is empty and I wander around hoping to find something I can know. And, while I do a fair bit of wandering and learning, my life is admittedly built around what I think I know. So, I know nothing, but think I know something.

A few weeks ago, I was walking with a student and listening to him talk about his writing. The struggle was around trying to argue a point. He could tell me where his brain was on whatever he was writing about in the moment he was writing.

The struggle came when he started to remember that he didn’t know what he didn’t know. He might learn something down the road or unlearn something he’s already picked up that would change his perspective on the issue. Worse yet, he could walk down the path that led him to realizing his point was wrong. Then, there would be this archive, this indelible record of not just his thinking, but his wrongness.

Knowing he did not know kept him from knowing where he was right then.

All of this is to say I know I know nothing with absolute certainty. This year, these 365, are more mile markers along the road of understanding.

They are to serve as reminders of where my thinking used to live and hopefully push that thinking deeper.

Aside from Socrates, another philosopher to whom I turn on a regular basis is Robert Fulghum. If the name rings a bell, it’s because you remember Fulghum’s book that inspired a decorative poster found in many classrooms in the early 90s – All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. My grandmother gave me Kindergarten after she’d received it for a gift. It blew the mind of 9-year-old me. It still does. I’ve read everything Fulghum’s ever published – more than once. I’ve given his books as gift to more people than I care to admit.

And, when I was 14, I sat down to write Fulghum a letter.

Though my handwriting was atrocious, I decided against using the family’s computer in order to show him what I said was true.

I wrote several drafts.

My offer was simple. I would come to him, wherever he was, and spend my summer cleaning out his garage, painting his house, whatever needed to be done, if he would teach me. I wanted to know how he wrote things that were so clearly true. I wanted to know how he saw the world with such understanding. I wanted to know.

I never heard back from Fulghum.

In some secret part of my brain, I keep hoping he will happen upon my letter some day when he’s reaching for a pen that’s fallen behind his desk.

Until then, here are the things I know for now…in this moment…but not really.


5 thoughts on “Things I Know 1 of 365: I know nothing

  1. I wanted to understand like Fulghum did/does, too. Still kind of do. This is a most interesting project.

  2. Pingback: Things I Know 365 of 365: Everything has(n’t) changed at Autodizactic

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