Have you ever wondered how would it feel like not to know something you didn’t know? I doubt you or anyone does. I for one don’t. But if it is about not knowing something you want to know, then I have something to share.
These days, almost everything we want to know is literally at our fingertips. With a few strokes and taps on a screen, our intellectual thirst to know something is quenched. This kind of existence is gratifying to the most of us.
What’s the weather like today? Tap on the weather app. Who the heck is Julian Assange? Check Wikipedia. Who is that pretty and promising lead girl actress in Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom? Search IMDB. Is the latest Hollywood’s box office Looper worth watching? Look up Rotten Tomatoes. Google it, Facebook up, Twitter that, the list just goes on. Anything you want to know, you can know it, right now.
But when you think back, just a little less than 20 years ago, all of the above was unthinkable. I can’t speak for the most of you but I’m pretty sure it won’t be that different from my childhood. If I wanted to see something, I’d switch on the TV and hope to get lucky. If I wanted to listen to my favourite music, I’d turn on the radio and hope to get lucky. If I wanted to know the meaning of a word, I’d open my dictionary and hope to get lucky. If I wanted to know about something more in detail, I’d flip my encyclopedias open and hope to get lucky.
However, because these methods often took time, effort, and commitment and is also more physically demanding, most of the time I had to settle on not knowing. And life went on just fine then.
I’m starting to cultivate a habit of being away from my computer, phone and tablet for a prolonged period of time, several times a day and extending that time periodically longer as each day and week passes by.
One thing I realised from this so far is that whenever I think of a question I want answered, my first instinct is to access my gadgets and search. But then I pause and examine that urge. I ask myself if it is a true need, to know right now? Or can it wait for 30 minutes, a few hours or even a day? Of course it can. It is not like a matter of life or death anyway.
So I stop myself and make a note to look it up later. I then notice something else entirely new, and utterly interesting – not knowing something has now become a strange and exciting phenomena to me. Sure, there are like a billion other things in this world I know nothing about. But those are the things I’m unaware that I don’t know about. On the other hand, I’m talking about not knowing something I want to know, for an hour or sometimes even longer. The difference here is the conscious choice.
And amidst all these, I come to this awareness – that this new habit of mine – is a strange freedom. Not knowing something means I am free to walk around seemingly “blind” and unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I know that I must live with it and work with it in a certain timeframe. It is interesting. It is mysterious. And it is exhilarating. It is just a different way of living.
It isn't bad. It's just different. And there's something minimalist and efficient about it. It creates more space for other things that matter more, that have often been missed or postponed. So I'm learning to let go of the urge to know, bit by bit every second of the day, and let my mind wander around in the dark for a while.