I Say Gayz-boh, You Say Gah-ZEE-bo. Let's Keep Pretending We Know Some Things.
When I was a kid reading words, some of those words were ones I'd never heard before, so when I came across "gazebo", I read it as gayz-boh. That sounds ridiculous now, but it's what was normal for me in my head until, one day, my mother said something about someone having a gazebo, and I said "a WHAT", and she said "a gah-ZEE-boh", and I said "spell it for me", and she said "gee ay zed ee bee oh", and I nearly fell over laughing because it sounded so ridiculous.
I also used to read "Chicago" as CHEE-kah-goh and assumed it was somewhere like Taiwan.
My point is that we know stuff until we know we don't know it, and we have no reason to be confident in what we know, but we go around feeling quite correct about it anyway. Here's a list of things I used to think were true but later learned were (probably) not true:
- I used to think that suicide was the greatest sin against God and would result in a person going to Hell forever. To be fair, this one might actually be true, but I stopped believing in a monotheistic, human-focused god and Hell ages ago, and the suicide-equals-going-to-Hell idea is simply not rational in the first place. If God knows everything, and if God created everyone, then he knew when he created a person what they were going to do, so he basically created them to end their lives that way, which means he intended to send to them to Hell before he ever created them, and that's just mean.
- A friend told me that bay leaves were poisonous and we shouldn't eat them, so when I pulled a sharp little leaf out of my soup one night, my insides turned to ice. I looked across the table at my mother and created a little index card in my mind with the note "my mother might be trying to kill me." She wasn't trying to kill me at all, but I was suspicious of her for months. At least, I'm pretty certain that she wasn't trying to kill me. Mom?
- Remember that time I thought I could get by on that salt crystal earthy-person deodorant in the summer and every shirt I wore was marked with the distinct odour of hotdogs?
- I believed that Japan was next to Australia until I was about 35 and found out that what I thought was Japan was actually New Zealand.
- I overheard someone telling his friends that there were ancient, giant sturgeon in the lakes up north. The story was that he and a friend had attached some raw meat to a rope on a winch on the front of his truck, they threw the meat out into the water like they were fishing, and a giant sturgeon had not only grabbed the meat, but, when they tried to use the winch to haul him in, had pulled the whole truck down into the lake never to be seen again. For some reason, I ended up thinking that giant, hundreds-of-years-old sturgeon were lying in silent wait all over the place, and so I stopped paddling out onto the lake in my uncle’s canoe forever after. Firstly, I doubt sturgeon, even giant ones, are human-eating lake monsters, and, secondly, why would I believe in truck-destroying sturgeon when I didn’t believe in the Loch Ness Monster, but, thirdly, and this is important, it turns out that this one is more of the probably-not-true-but-could-still-possibly-be-true category, because Wikipedia says giant sturgeon might actually be a thing. The largest sturgeon on record was captured in 1827 and weighed 1571 kg (3,463 lb) and was 7.2 m (24 ft) long. Eep.
We don’t know what we don’t know. We don’t know how much we don’t know, but we do know that what we don’t know is vastly greater than what we do know. What’s ridiculous is that, even knowing this, we really believe we know some things, even though most of us who think we know some things are not experts in anything at all. For instance, I’m no duck expert, but I would’ve sworn on every good thing that ducks didn’t have penises, because what bird has a penis, but — SURPRISE! — male ducks do have penises, and they’re kind of disturbing, but they match the equally strange vaginas of female ducks, so maybe they’re all very happy together.
What I didn’t know earlier today but am fairly-sure-to-certain about now is that I could be having a second round of the flu this year. I kept getting up to sip water because of nausea last night, but I thought this is just me being a little bit dehydrated. This morning, I was confused because my right eye didn’t seem to be working properly, but then I realized that my left eye wasn’t either, which made me start thinking about the monocular vision of chameleons, so I forgot about my eyes. Then I ate some antacid to deal with my queasiness, which I hadn’t yet related to my overnight nausea. Then Aidan came home, and his skin felt lizard-cool, like a chameleon’s would be if he’d been in the shade, but it turned out Aidan was a normal temperature and he just felt cool to me because I had a fever.
This morning, I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and I’ll never know how much I don’t know about what I don’t know, but what I do know, or at least what I’m fairly certain I know, is that God (if he/she/they exists/exist) isn’t that mean (unless he/she/they is/are), my mother was (probably) not trying to murder me when I was a kid, earthy-person deodorant makes me smell like hotdog water in the summer, I’m quite bad at geography, giant sturgeon (likely) don’t eat people in canoes, and I now have the flu again (at least, if it’s not food poisoning).