#BEDM14 Day 12 – Give A Speech
“There Are No Stupid Questions”
I think a great many otherwise sensible, normal people are overwhelmed by what they consider to be their own stupidity. A great many people think they are dumb because they don’t know stuff. People stand on the tiny sliver of beach that is their own understanding and they look out across an ocean of things they don’t know, simultaneously extending forever in all directions and lapping at their feet, and they think themselves stupid because they don’t live in the ocean. And they feel small. And sometimes that smallness crushes them into something hard and sharp.
Stupidity isn’t not knowing stuff. You aren’t stupid because you don’t know how Twitter works, or the mechanics of an internal combustion engine, or what the Hell E=mc² means, or the history of the world wars. Everybody doesn’t know stuff. Everybody is stood on the tiny, rocky little outcropping of their own knowledge, with the waves of the unknown ocean crashing toward them and throwing spume in their faces. That’s not stupidity.
Stupidity is thinking that your little spit of beach is all that is worth knowing. It is never dipping your toe in the ocean, turning your face away from the spray, staring at nothing but the rock you’re stood on. Stupidity isn’t not knowing. It’s not wanting to know. It’s never learning the simple secret that, although it looks for all the world like that ocean is infinite and pitiless, the seven billion of us, all standing on our own piece of shore, surround that ocean totally. And you can skip all around the coast of that ocean and let others show you their bit of the beach so you can see it from every conceivable angle just by engaging with as many different people as you can. Keep skipping and eventually you’ll come back to your own little piece of the shoreline and realise that although the sea might well be deep, it doesn’t go on forever.
No one can know everything. Individually we none of us can fully plumb the depths of that water. But we all know our own piece of the beach. Between us, if we walk along the shore, meet up with others, hold their hands if the going is narrow and dangerous, we can see the sea for what it is.
As I write this, news comes of the death of Stephen Sutton, the teenager stricken with cancer who raised millions for charity. If ever there is a time when you feel like you can’t face that unknown ocean it’s when you know that the ferryman is coming soon to take you across it. But Stephen didn’t curl up and hide on his bit of shore. He skipped along it, met countless others, and invited them to help him explore.
Please explore. Let others help you do it. Don’t be ashamed of your bit of beach. Don’t be scared by the ocean.