The Wisdom of Not Knowing

I like periods more than ellipses.

A period is resolved and certain: Sandra has pancakes for breakfast PERIOD, FULL STOP. There is no question as to whether Sandra has grits or English muffins. She has pancakes; the period says it all.

An ellipse, though, is unresolved and uncertain; it’s mysterious…

I’m not alone in my affection for periods. America loves definitiveness. We venerate people who answer our questions and demystify the mystery of politics, technology, the future, the human experience. We deem them the wise ones.

I read their books and listen to their interviews. They are filled with the comfort and resolution of periods.

And at the same time, part of me wonders if answers, certainty, knowing isn’t quite what wisdom is.

There is a deep sweep of the human experience that is unanswerable, uncertain, unknown. What is the spirit or soul? What happens when we die?

So, what if wisdom isn’t knowing, but being able to sit with the unknown? Being able to live not just with the mystery, but live into the mystery. Not letting the hugeness of the unknown and the smallness of the known scare us into little lives we can control and manage.

Which means we can be wise and still say, I don’t know, Maybe, Perhaps.

We can be wise and not have explanations and surety.

We can be wise and not use periods all the time.

It’s possible those are our wisdom working its way in the world…

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Caitie Whelan