The More I Find Out The Less I Know: A Story About Four Quid

As I get older, two ever-increasing certainties creep up on me:

1.   The more I know the less I understand

2.   The longer I live the easier it is to make sense of my world, as I join up the dots

Funny that, as they’re contradictory, aren’t they?

I think the first one refers to the certainty I enjoyed as a younger woman. I see it in the next generation now. It must go with the territory called Youth.   My certainty has been knocked out of me. Not in my professional life where certain things will always remain true. For example, when I was an accountant, training book-keepers, sometimes we would have what we call “a difference”, not so much in the days of computers but when adding down and across in the good old days of the gorgeous lined red accounting books. [What were they called? began with a C.]

These lively girls would look up at me and moan: “I’ve got a difference”. “How much is it?” I would say. And depending on their answer I’d be able to tell them precisely where to look for it. “Blimey! How do you know that?” they would say, aghast. And the short answer is that I’d done it so often, I’d looked for that same difference a million times so I knew exactly where to find it – always. There are some things you learn by heart when they keep showing up in your life in the same way, over and over again. Being their boss made me feel wise. Would that life’s other problems were so easy to solve.

In my personal life, the same is not true. Nothing stays the same except to the extent that I am willing to don the hat marked Boring Old Fart With Only One Take On Life. In my personal life, everything changes all the time and often at breakneck speed.   It’s the people, mainly. People are not constant, you never really know how they are going to react about anything. It turns me into poor man’s philosopher; I have to choose to believe that these people show up in my life for a reason, to teach me something, and then (fortunately) they move on up the road!

I absolutely love most of the changes which technology brings, after I’ve adapted that is. Going paperless is my current project, love it, love it, love it.   I was reading a lovely blog post this morning by a woman telling a story about Bob Geldof and Live Aid and her post reminds me that back in 1985 we bought vinyl records which we played with a needle on a record player, and you took your camera film to Boots to have it developed into pictures several days later (!). But perhaps best of all was that the concert held simultaneously in London and Philadelphia involved 58 bands playing over 16 hours in total was attended by 170,000 people and broadcast to a further 2 billion people in 160 countries, was planned and delivered in 12 weeks before email and the internet. You have got to laugh. In much more sophisticated times in 2012, I wonder if we would even attempt that now despite unbelievably much techier tech support?

But the stuff which really makes me shake my head like the aforementioned Official Middle-Aged Fogey is people’s behaviour. I am not going to rant. No really I’m not, but it is about the Me Generation. All of us thinking we are entitled to go first. Me, me, me. Listen to me. Watch me. Let me out of the side road even though you have the right of way. I’m right, you’re wrong and I don’t even need to consider you or let you slow me down.   That’s the stuff which confuses as I grow in wisdom.

On the upbeat side, I do think this is just a phase we’re going through.  I think old-fashioned values will become trendy again, that’s the way I see it working. Your parents are like this, so you are like that. So things flip from generation to generation and back again. You say potato.

But oh! The information. The sheer quantum of information out there – that’s the thing which makes you realise that even as you acquire more, you know less and less. And to be honest with you, I quite like it. I’m interested in and fascinated by all sorts of things which bore the knickers off me as a schoolchild and fabulous TV programmes draw me towards science, geography, natural history, social history, economics, gardening (God forbid!) and other stuff I would have turned my nose up as a teen. And this information draws me towards ever more wonderful and inspiring and knowledgeable expert people and passionate enthusiasts, so many of them that they more than make up for the occasional selfish driver or litterbug.

A few weeks ago, a new neighbour of mine asked if she could borrow £4. Four quid! Nothing is it for a neighbour in need who had locked herself out of her car and would pop back with it later? It’s been SIX WEEKS and I’ve seen hide nor hare of her and my four quid and we live in the same block of six flats; how long can she hope to go on avoiding me? And now something which was nothing has become a point of principle. As Jacky of Baskit Geni, who I interviewed earlier this week on Entrepreneur Soul said “if they knocked at my door and asked if they could have my hanging baskets, I’d probably give them to them, but when they steal them, well that’s quite another matter”.

I wonder what I am supposed to learn from the neighbour and the four quid incident? That’s the sort of question I ask myself these days and that’s when I realise that the more I know, the less I know. I cannot fathom her behaviour, but I can choose to take up a position which says that’s OK, I don’t need to understand. I have given freely to someone in need and aren’t I lucky I could afford to do that without even a thought. A friend in need.

Fortunately for me, my inner wisdom and self-knowledge is also growing all the time, which means I have an ever-strengthening sense of who I am in the world. My foundations are firmer, the base more grounded and solid. I’ve started to make decisions based on the sort of person I want to be in my world and the footprint I want to leave.

My favourite elements like the moon – waxing and waning, month on month inexorably – and the tide which goes on ebbing and flowing, ebbing and flowing and my garden constantly renewing, they all serve to remind me that I am but a dot. I am a dot on this earth and my three score years and ten will pass in the blink of an eye and its up to me to enjoy it and live it to the full. Fussing and fretting only serves to rob my life of peace and the simple joys of taking each moment as it comes. Anything else is ego and arrogance. Do you remember the advert for Cadbury’s Caramel “Hey Mr Beaver, why are you beavering around? Take is easy…”. Good advice, except for the fact that it’s in the nature of a beaver to beaver around, a bit like a snail must perforce snail around, up the legs of my BBQ mostly. Fortunately I have almost unlimited choices, simply to stop sweating the small stuff and live instead in appreciation and wonder.

That ol’ philosopher, Johnny Nash, was right. There are more questions than answers and I am totally cool with that. Are you?

 

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