conversation is an engine

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How To Speak Stupidier

with 2 comments

To Know Deep, Speak Freely

My early college days taught me this valuable lesson: “Shut up.”

When I didn’t have a clue what was going on in class, when the professor appeared to speak English but I couldn’t make sense of his words, I remained quiet and took notes. Maybe the notes would make it clear. Eventually.

Later in college and then in graduate school I learned an even more valuable lesson: “Speak my ignorance.” I learned there are worse things than appearing foolish. Not knowing is worse than looking foolish. Bypassing an opportunity to learn is way worse than looking foolish. Looking foolish, it turns out, is not an inhospitable place to hang out. Today I’m settling into general foolishness quite comfortably, thank you. If I want to know how stuff works (how a millstone works, why Ulysses S. Grant didn’t buy a home in the swank section of Galena, Illinois, why flour explodes), I’ll need to risk looking foolish. I’ll need to ask.

KnowDeep-06072013-2In this cycle of events that occur when we connect with each other, the “Know Deep” part is standing out to me today. What I know depends on what I’m willing to ask, which means I’ll need to reveal I don’t know something. Such revealing can be hard. But if I don’t tell someone what I don’t know, I risk never knowing. In the end, I must name the things I know so I can begin to realize what I don’t know. This may be a lifelong process.

Not knowing and being willing to look foolish can make for stimulating conversation: people like to help us know. And a child’s “why” and “how” questions can be refreshing, no matter what aged person they come from.


Written by kirkistan

June 7, 2013 at 10:42 am

2 Responses

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  1. I can’t begin to tell you how much I enjoyed this one, Kirk. I’ve found myself reading most of your posts, mainly for the clever use of language and ideas from broad sources. And, of course because you’re an old friend and our paths diverged. Thanks for the effort (and joy) you put into this. It often scratches an itch I have.


    June 7, 2013 at 11:07 am

    • Dan-O: thanks for the kind words.It means a lot to hear from you.


      June 7, 2013 at 11:22 am

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