I usually blog about my projects, but today I want to discuss KNOWLEDGE and lack thereof. On three separate occasions this weekend — one in person, two online — I was asked a question for which I did not have an answer. I notice this is happening more and more frequently. I don’t think it’s my swiss-cheese memory coming into play so much as that I’m writing and teaching classes a lot these days, so asking me questions seems natural.
I have to be honest here. It’s HARD not knowing an answer to something. I love being a source of information for others, in both my hobby and my career. In fact, I thrive on it. There’s a special thrill in being able to answer a question with confidence and plenty of delicious details.
But because I love knowledge so very much, that is precisely why it’s so important to acknowledge when I don’t know the answer to something. Plus, if I made the grave error of just guessing, and my guess were wrong, trust would be an issue. Trust is very important.
And as much as I love knowing the answer, I feel horrible about leading anyone astray.
Even given all this, I still find it hard to simply say, “I don’t know.”
Our culture does not reward those who “do not know.” Teachers mark us down. Employers file bad reports. Customers scoff. And in my case, readers stop reading and listeners stop listening. When I remarked once on a podcast that “I don’t know,” I got a flood of e-mail telling me that if I was going to talk about something on the air, I should KNOW.
I really think it okay to not know, though. It’s okay to admit it. In fact, it’s not just okay, it’s crucial.
But, I must confess. To appease my ego, I will say, “I don’t know, but … I know someone to ask,” or “Wow, that is a great question — now I’m really curious myself.” And off I go to look around, check the museums, and ask other people.
That’s right. Questions are my gateway drug.
For when I realize there’s a question I don’t have an answer for, but that I know an answer must exist somewhere, I find it rather fun. It’s like a scavenger hunt and I must find the answer!
Speaking of which, here’s one of the questions I didn’t know the answer to this weekend: “Were pearl necklaces strung before 1600 knotted between each pearl?” I don’t know much about jewelry, but I looked about and found this:
It sure looks to me like those would be string/silk knots between the pearls, don’t you think? It doesn’t look like metal or anything else to me. This image is from an an album of jewellery designs by Arnold Lulls, a Dutch jewelry designer who moved to London (source: Victoria & Albert Museum, D.6:16-1896). In that same album, there’s a simpler string of pearls (no pendant) and it also clearly looks knotted to me.
Does anyone reading this know of an extant necklace with knots between the pearls?
Remember, it’s okay to say, “I don’t know.” (Though there’s no rule that says you have to post it!)