I don’t know nothin’.
After trying to solve world problems, philosophizing and sharing his wisdom over a glass of wine at our kitchen table, my father-in-law, Marv, would exclaim, “What do I know? I don’t know nothin’.” He had thoughts and opinions (oh, yes, he did) and plenty of experience, but, self-admittedly, he knew he still didn’t know much.
Marv said it often enough that it was the opening line in the eulogy my husband gave for his dad’s funeral. So much is held in those few words: I don’t know nothin’.
Perhaps it meant—I surrender. I am humbled. I don’t know it all. I don’t know hardly anything. I can’t see the big picture. I raise up my hands and proclaim, “I don’t know.” I thought I had answers. I thought I knew a lot, but now, I’m not so sure I know much at all.
I’m not sure if Marv meant all those things when he said “I don’t know nothin’,” but it does show that he left room for not knowing, for mystery. He knew he wasn’t in charge of all things true… and he admitted it many, many times.
Feeling blinded by the dust and debris of life, his words speak to me when I feel my plans are not going according to the playbook I’ve written. I’m not special; I know dust and debris fly for all. Life is humbling—this is what I think my father-in-law meant. And I am missing him right now because I know he would’ve comforted me and brought it all down to that one line-“I don’t know nothin’.”
Marv, even though he’s been gone now for 3 years, still lives on in my heart and head. He is my inspiration for this SoulCollage card, “Surrender Supergirl”:
I am one who is young at heart, brave and courageous, but I am still growing. I have a ways to go before I am the Supergirl I wish that I was. I am one who isn’t quite as brave as I might look.
I wonder, how do I look? Do I care what I look like to others? Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps I should surrender this idea of Supergirl….or at least the idea that her strength and knowledge comes from me alone.
Part of me is hidden from others and even myself. I’m still discovering who I am and where my strength comes from. I am at peace knowing that I don’t have everything all figured out right now, and maybe I never will. I will grow either way- whether I strive to or not.
The tree does not wish itself to grow. It just grows. In wind and rain, drought and snow, being cared for and being neglected, the tree grows. I am growing into the freedom of a cautious and courageous spirit. I am growing into knowing nothing, of letting go what I thought being strong and brave, courageous and peaceful looked like.
It doesn’t look like anything. It is experienced. It is lived into. It is not an easy thing to grow, but I raise my arms in surrender, dancing on the beaches of freedom, the freedom from having to know everything. I surrender Supergirl.
I don’t know nothin’.
Marv was almost 80 years old when he died and I am almost 50, but age doesn’t really matter when we are on a journey to knowing (and unknowing) ourselves. Marv was a humble man who gave of himself in so many ways. If this is what it means to know nothing, sign me up.
Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. –Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 7
Learn more about Benedictine spirituality and the Rule of St. Benedict.