My wife and I were working with our computers this morning, trying to synchronize some file sharing, exploring the best way to communicate with each other through the “magic boxes.” (It’s an activity that still feels very strange when we are sitting together in the same room, talking face-to-face.) She was describing to me a process which one of our daughters had used in her file-sharing process, a sequence of actions which was totally alien to me. Actually, there’s a great deal of computer use and savvy that completely escapes me, and I am quick to admit it to my wife, my daughter and any technical help person I might encounter over the phone when I’m stuck. Becoming smarter about computers requires that I don’t pretend that I know more than I do and that I admit what I don’t know. It’s called learning.
None of us has a corner on the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. We are all possessed of a unique combination of skills, knowledge, experiences and perspectives which make us singular resources on any subject. (If you doubt the voracity of that idea, simply ask a group of people about, for example, the most important means to a long and happy life.) But the answers to difficult questions are not vested in all of us; some of us simply know more or less about certain things. It’s why we need each other.
Too often, we believe that we know all that we must. Self-reliance is a good thing, but self-deception is not. It’s a dangerous place to be. For if we acknowledge the fact that no one has a perfect understanding of all things, then we necessarily embrace the reality that we could be wrong on any given issue, and that someone else might well see the matter with a clearer perspective. As begrudging as it may feel, we might be wrong. Acknowledging it, admitting it, is not a symptom of weakness, but rather a sign of self-confidence in learning. And there is never anything impotent in that. Impotence lies in the false posturing that is fostered by ignorance, or an unwillingness to accept wisdom from someone else.
I’m occasionally asked whether our partners in Nicaragua are grateful for the partnering with Winds of Peace. The answer is yes, they understand its importance and impact, of course. But the more complete answer is that the learning experienced by those of us who interact with Nicaraguans, both rural and city, is at least as great as the value of what WPF brings to the partnership. There’s a lot that I don’t know about Nicaragua. My acquaintances there are just the ones to help me with that. Who better?
The world is a big and diverse place. Facing our own shortcomings about what we know versus what we think we know is both a curse and a blessing. It’s tough to admit that we aren’t omniscient and in control. But it’s a gift to recognize that fact as the starting point for seeking out the truth. Likely, I’ll never know everything about my computer….