Reflections from the Swamp
As a writer for a major publication (MillstoneNews), I must write about topics that interest readers. I estimate that I have about eight readers and aim to reach two digit ( 10 to 99) readership this year. Sounds ambitious, especially now that some of my relatives, who were faithful readers, have since died and stopped reading my column. Readers have a wide variety of knowledge on many different issues. Many of you, as readers, know more about politics, raising dogs, embalming Egyptian mummies, or gourmet cooking than I do. For this article, I’ll concentrate on writing about the things we both don’t know. We have something in common if we don’t know about the same things.
You might find yourself conversing with a friend about an article you read in Reflections from the Swamp. “Yeah, I like reading Swamp articles. He doesn’t know the same things I don’t know. That means we have something in common, which is fantastic. Just what we have in common, I’m not sure. But we both don’t know a lot of stuff.
I think Donald Rumsfeld said it best when trying to justify the invasion of Iraq by Americans during the George Bush era. People wondered if Iraq had chemical weapons to justify an attack on Iraq.
“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”
Remember Corner Gas, the TV show? My bride and I would faithfully watch the show every week. Brent ran the gas station. Nothing much happened in the small Saskatchewan town of Dog River. The theme song sung during the credits at the movie’s end had a few quotable lines.
“I don’t know the same things you don’t know (you won’t admit it). It’s a great big place, full of nothing but space. It’s my happy place.
I spent many childhood summers working at my uncle’s nursery in Saskatchewan. The best thing about Saskatchewan is that even though it is a great big place full of nothing but space, it is easy to draw. Four straight lines, two parallel lines longer than the other two lines. I mention this because my readers and I both can draw Saskatchewan. Not only do we not know the same things, but we both know how to draw Saskatchewan!
The point is that you and I don’t know the same things. Could we use this common ignorance as a basis for a good relationship? Of Course! So, watch old reruns of Corner Gas to see how to make a meaningless life enjoyable. Or, on a more optimistic note, how the seemingly mundane parts of life are chock-full of meaning.
I used to be good at religion. That is to say, I could answer most of the questions about church dogma correctly. I was pretty sure that I was going to heaven and that you, if you didn’t share my beliefs, were not. Now I’m not sure about those kinds of things anymore. I don’t know. I don’t know the same things you don’t know.
There are about 25,000 Christian denominations out there. All of them have creeds and dogmas to distinguish them from each other. It seems that finetuning belief systems with “knowns” isn’t more successful than leaving more answers in the “unknown” categories. We are all more honest if we admit that we don’t know the same things.
I’m grateful that unknowns are such a big part of our lives, and I’m attracted to those who don’t know it all.
The future is unknown. This unknowing is a good thing. Imagine if we knew that the Montreal Canadiens would win the Stanley Cup before the playoffs. Would we still watch all the games? Friends ask us not to tell them what happens at the end of movies we’ve seen so they can experience their highs and lows while watching the movie. Buying lottery tickets is based on the slim unknown possibility that you may be a winner. We’re almost sure that we won’t win the lottery. The odds are known, but we are unsure of the outcomes. The lure of the unknown sucks us in.
I don’t know the same things you don’t know. This unknowing is what we have in common. Unknowing makes the world go round. The world is like Saskatchewan. It’s a great big place, full of nothing but space, teeming with unknowns, and it’s our happy place.