Mastering the art of not knowing

When I was young, I prided myself on knowing pop culture references. I knew which band sang such-and-such a song. I knew which actor played so-and-so in which movie. In college, however, my interests expanded. Then, I also knew which author wrote which hoity toity book.

I figured someone who did not know all these varied references was old and clueless. I guess I’m now joining the old and clueless generation. I just don’t know the details any more.

My kids occasionally watch Sesame Street, which loves to sneak in celebrities and cultural references, just for the parents. The problem is, I no longer get the references, and I figure the people on there are famous, but I don’t know who they are.

Not only am I behind the times in movies and TV, but lately I’ve intentionally started making it worse. After realizing that spending large chunks of my day reading on-line news was not all that good for me, I’ve decided to practice what I call “the art of not knowing.”

“Being connected” is a sign of the times we live in. But waiting in breathless anticipation for tragedy seems a little morbid. And I don’t really need to know every time Hillary Clinton sneezes, or what rude thing Donald Trump said this time around.

So I’m trying to take a little media holiday, limiting myself to just reading things on paper, and watching things only when other people are around. Like all of us who are trying to quit bad habits (which is all of us), it’s a little harder than I expected.

It’s amazing how much my identity was caught up in surfing the web. When finding some new juicy tidbit, I felt smart, funny and connected. But it isn’t real, and so when I’m done, I feel frumpy, awkward, and unconnected.

Such artificial highs and lows are not healthy. Also not healthy is all the time I waste reading things that are unimportant. Life is much better free of the burden of checking every few minutes on the status of politicians, movie stars and friends I haven’t seen for 15 years.

But the hardest part is the not knowing. What if something really important happens, and I miss it? What if I have some question about how things work, and the answer is always at my fingertips? (This happens every few minutes for me.) Not that long ago, these questions would pass, and people just would not know. We were used to not knowing.

Now, not knowing takes practice and patience. It takes wisdom to realize that things happening immediately around me can be just as important as something happening on the other side of the world. And it takes love to know that the people around me are more important than all the news makers the world over.

Ultimately, I have more time to spend doing things of more value. Just as long as I can master the art of not knowing.

Thanks for reading!

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