Friday, August 10, 2012

Cut the C%@#: The Beauty in Not Knowing

Of course I know. Or I think I do. I'm pretty sure I do.
Right? Right...
The humble, I don't know-- what
most people lack.
The Beauty in Not Knowing
Samantha Salis 

                             “He must be very ignorant for he answers every question he is asked”

          One of my biggest pet peeves is when you ask a question and receive an answer that is obviously uninformed. For example, when asking a waiter about the ingredients in an entrée and receiving an answer that is unsure (maybe even made up quickly on the spot to get out of the situation) is quite irritating. There is nothing wrong with not knowing; the waiter could have gone back to the cook and asked-- problem solved. There is, however, something wrong with not knowing and acting like you do.

          If the waiter were to respond: “I am sorry miss but I do not know all of the ingredients in that entrée. Let me ask the chef and I will get right back to you,” I would respect the waiter much more than some timid, “Mmmm…yeah…I think that it’s made without gluten.” Considering the multiplicity of food allergies, this ignorant white lie could result in an allergic reaction ranging from hives to severely impaired breathing. The worst of these is bad directions. You'll be lost and ask for help from a stranger, and if they're not sure where to point you, rather than saying so, they point you in general directions (probably inwardly praying: I hope this is correct). That's how you end up on a hill without reception or in a bad part of town, low on gas.

          I have worked retail for the past three years and multiple times, I have given the same response to customers’ questions about merchandise,

          “To be honest, I don’t know. Let me ask my manager.”

          I try to know as much as I can about the merchandise I am selling, but I have enough confidence in my work ethic to be able to admit it when I lack knowledge about a topic. Nobody is perfect. Nobody knows everything. There's a lot to learn-- that's not embarrassing, that's human nature. 
          I think this theme of “masqued ignorance” is apparent in many areas of social interaction. For example, when conversing about relevant political issues, I often say, “I don’t quite have a set opinion on the issue because I would like to first know more about the subject.” Talk about what you know. Otherwise, you sound presumptuous and annoying. And, if you feel ignorant, do the research and work to make that feeling go away.

          For example, the false sense of knowing in regards to people's knowledge of UC Berkeley is off-putting. Living in one of the most conservative counties in the nation, Orange County, I run into the same slew of “witty” responses when I am asked what university I go to:

          So have you stopped shaving your armpits?

          Do you see naked people in trees?

          Are you a hippy?

          First, "hippy" comes from a generation that doesn't exist anymore, a time period. So, to be a hippy, I'd have to be born with the baby boomers and I like to think I look younger than that. "Yuppies" are modern day admirers of hippy living, trying to carry on what they'd started. Regardless, when people ask me this, if by hippy they mean,

          “Am I extremely knowledgeable about my ecological footprint?”

          “Am I empathetic to worldwide issues of poverty, disease, and genocide?”

          “Am I concerned about future generations because I know about the crisis in energy inefficiency, fatal pollution, and rapid population growth?”

          Then yes, I am a "hippy." People do so much assuming that they even assume that their assumptions are facts. "I assume people at Berkeley are 'hippies'" turns into "people at Berkeley are 'hippies.'" It's frustrating to witness this ignorance. 

          Silence is underrated:
          Be confident in what you know, and be okay with what you don’t.

The "Is This Real Life?" Column, Samantha Salis:

Sam is a Psychology Major and Political Economy Minor at UC Berkeley. She is a dedicated young 
woman, ambitious and sharp as a whip. Our dear Samantha tutors high schoolers and works at a 
Psychology lab at UC Berkeley. Even with this busy schedule, Ms. Salis creates the time to divulge to us 
her insider perspective on the world around us, backed with thorough research. Enjoy!

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