You Could Fill an Ocean

I suppose you could fill an ocean
With the things I don’t know.

And I should explain that
I say I suppose because
I don’t know that for a fact
But I confess it seems at least
A reasonable stab at
The aggregate volume of
The things I don’t know—
When attempting
To be unbiased in response to
My general experience in this world
And my study of philosophy and cognitive science—
Except that I must further confess
For the record that I realize that an ocean
May indeed be too small a basin
To hold the things I don’t know.

But again I don’t know—
Which fact we have already covered
And will cover again before this is done.

And I’m sorry to belabor the preface further
But duty bids me both apologize for
And explain the unwieldy metaphor of it all
As oceans have literal volume—
Indeterminate as such volume may be—
Whereas the things I don’t know—
Also indeterminate as far as I know—
Are not most literally described
In terms of volume as are the oceans.
But how else am I to get my head or yours
Around the greatness of what I do not know
Except by metaphor?

So I hope you’ll pardon
The clumsy (and ever-growing) entrée to this poem—
If poem is a fitting term for whatever this piece is—
But it was and still is necessary to demonstrate
The uncertainty of the scope of the unknown—
Which exercise was itself necessary to set the stage
For the question I had set out from the beginning to ask—
That question being the following:

If there is so much I do not know—
And in fact so very much of it that I cannot even decide
How large a basin I would need in which to hold it—
Metaphorically speaking—
Then just how foolish is it of me
To walk around on this Earth
With the disposition of a know-it-all—
And how many ocean basins would it take
To hold all that foolishness?

And I’m sorry
But I did not set out to ask
Also the following question
But in this moment of ardent reflection
It seems as necessary as the first:

If we assume that the foolishness so described
Is of such immense metaphorical volume that
It would take all the ocean basins to accommodate it
Then where else should I store up
All the things I don’t know?

I ask because it seems quite infeasible
To accommodate both
A great storehouse of foolishness
And a clearinghouse of the unknown
On the same premises at the same time.
And this may well explain the common habit
Of choosing one unapologetically over the other.

The two seem antithetical
And my position double-minded
For I have sat on the fence it seems
Shunning neither—
Which in the one case is good
And in the other bad.

So I must work harder
To eradicate the know-it-all disposition
For that has no proper place here
When I have indeed managed to know better
And can show as much by an ocean of evidence.

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