The Lost Art of "I Don't Know"

I’m an amateur photographer and view many on-line tutorials to help me improve my photos. I was excited to participate in a recent one-day photo seminar in Nashville taught by Joe McNally on lighting. Before the session started, I had conversations with other students who are professional wedding and portrait photographers as well as a photographer from Vanderbilt who “does it all.”

I still like the idea of being mentored by a real person with time for interaction and feedback from the instructor. Joe started the day by displaying examples of 40 years of photos from National Geographic, Life and Sports Illustrated. The next session was more hands-on technical information and at one point Joe asked, “Have I lost you all? Is everyone still tracking with me? Raise your hand if you don’t understand what I just said.”

I was lost, but my hand didn’t go up. It is embarrassing in this information-centric age to not know something. A quick peek at Google illuminates any subject and I’d already thought, “I’ll do more research on the internet when I get home and figure out what he said.”

I was relieved when a few brave souls raised their hands but I was also troubled that I didn’t, afraid to admit my inadequacy even in a room full of strangers.

There are some things in the world which we cannot know. In Genesis 27:2, Isaac says, “I am now an old man and don’t know the day of my death.” In John 9, Jesus heals a blind beggar and the man responds, “I don’t know,” when asked where the man was who healed him. After the Pharisees demand to know if the man who healed him was a sinner, he replies “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see.”

The healed man stated what he could intellectually grasp, but wasn’t ashamed to admit what he couldn’t. Jesus continues, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see, and those who see will become blind.”

It is when we have lost the art of “I don’t know” and believe that we can see and know everything that our guilt still remains.

Even in this scientifically progressive high-tech world, there are still things that we cannot explain. The answer of the disciple is “I don’t know.”