The last 6 weeks or so have made me thoughtful about what I do and do not know. I am certain of this: I knew much more on February 28 than I do now. Here is an inventory of my end-of-February knowledge:
I knew that sports were frustrating.
- My favorite basketball player (fellow Davidson College alum Steph Curry) had been hurt all season.
- My beloved Houston Astros (the team my grandfather raised me to love despite countless seasons of ineptitude starting in the 1970s) was immersed in a terrible cheating scandal.
Despite these complaints about sports, I knew I would enjoy March Madness and the Masters.
I knew Simone Biles would crush the Tokyo Olympics in gymnastics.
I knew that the Democratic primary was bizarre and heading for a contested convention, with a 68% chance that Bernie Sanders would enter the convention with the most delegates, but not a majority (according to fivethirtyeight.com). Note: the South Carolina primary would change that the next day.
I knew the economy was robust.
- Unemployment was at record lows
- The Dow Jones was at record highs
I knew a lot about children.
- They would be attending school daily.
- They would be playing sports and music.
- They would play with friends daily.
I knew that Susie and I would soon start our first Spring as empty-nesters, needing to find ways to make sense of a home created for 6 rather than 2.
I knew I would go to the gym each day, shop on the way home, and cook for Susie Ma’am.
I knew that you give a firm handshake to a new acquaintance and a big hug to an old friend.
I knew that the US had no covid-19 deaths and less than 100 known cases. Coronavirus was in China and Italy, but barely in the news.
I know none of those things now.
But as I lost knowledge, I think I gained a little wisdom.
Being with family is precious, if not vexing. It is a trade-off I would happily take. [Note: this is the voice of a parent of 4 college-aged kiddos. I do know that having school-aged children in these circumstances is an entirely different journey and not one I can speak to.]
We need to hug and be in contact with those we love. Of course, that is not something that we can do now, but human contact is to the soul what nutrition is to the body. These days require extreme measures, but when we are done, I will appreciate simple human contact like never before.
People need to have a purpose. It has been inspiring to watch the team of people who were all on property when we locked the property down. They have rallied and embraced projects to make things better. We have no one coming to our property, but these wonderful young people are preparing camp like royalty will soon arrive.
Finally, and perhaps most profoundly, I know that I do not know that much. These 5-6 weeks have been an exercise in intellectual humility. The uncertainty of the entire world reinforces this realization. Even the best medical minds are wrestling with what we know about how contagious and fatal this contagion is. The news seesaws back and forth between new revelations and unexpected difficulties.
I am striving to lean into my intellectual humility in all aspects of my life. It is especially important when it comes to the summer. What will the summer look like? I simply cannot know. I know that if we are able to have camp, we would have to do so responsibly with an absolute focus on health and safety. I know that children need to unplug, experience nature and escape stress. I know that our parents want us to have camp (again, as long as they believe it safe). But I do not know what tomorrow brings in terms of treatments, policies, discoveries or health standards.
It is impossible to know for sure.
With this in mind, we are preparing as if we will have the best summer ever. We are also preparing for schedule adjustments and all other possible contingencies.
Socrates suggested that the “only true wisdom is knowing that you know nothing.”
There is some comfort in that. At least I am wiser than I was 6 weeks ago.