An enigmatic statement occurs in a work of ancient Hindu philosophy. A student asks his teacher, “Though I’ve learnt everything you have taught me and I now know as much as you do, you’re still wiser than me. Why is this so?”
The teacher replies, “I know I don’t know and can’t know. So, I know. You think you know. So you don’t know and won’t know.”
It’s impossible to know everything about everything, even after a lifetime in pursuit of knowledge. Still, there’s immense pressure on us to appear to know more than we really do. When we succumb to this pressure, we get caught in an ever-expanding web of deceit to shroud our ignorance. Result: A perpetual feeling of insecurity.
It doesn’t take much to say “I don’t know”. The more we learn to say it, the more comfortable we’ll feel saying it. The more we recognize how little we really know, the more we’ll try to learn. It’s the first step to becoming wiser, as the Hindu teacher said in the anecdote above. Besides removing our ignorance, admission of our ignorance would make the shroud of deceit redundant.