A couple of weeks ago, a friend made mention of a fact that was totally foreign to me. I know I had a blank look on my face because I had no clue what he was talking about.

He looked at me and said he could tell I was ignorant and I had to agree, on that subject, I was ignorant. He then turned bright red and apologized profusely for calling me ignorant. I really wasn’t offended in the least- on this particular obscure subject I WAS ignorant. (Let me say that I am not anymore because A) he told me all about it and B) I went home and did even more research!)

No one knows everything. Those who act as if they do are the kind of people most of us really don’t like hanging around! Some people really are experts in certain areas but are still ignorant on many other subjects. Some people have a good working knowledge in several areas, aren’t a real expert in anything, but they are still ignorant about some things. Some of us are constantly researching and learning about all of the things we are ignorant about, although if you are like me, you learn the fun fact and promptly forget most of it! (I’m trying.)

I have not written much lately because I don’t feel qualified to comment on anything. In the midst of a conversation yesterday someone said something I strongly disagreed with, but with no real facts at hand and no one of my gender there to back me up, I stayed silent. I figured spouting off my opinion right then wasn’t productive, although I felt a little icky staying silent.

“It is better to keep quiet and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.” Various forms of this quote are attributed to Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain and others. Once again, it is difficult to write when there are contradictory facts and opinions to everything you say- I can’t even get to the bottom of this quote!!  In some instances it is better to stay silent than cause a fight with someone who either meant no harm or meant harm and won’t listen no matter what you say.

What I know for sure is very limited and what I am ignorant about is immeasurable! I feel I hear a contradiction to every word out of my mouth, so I am learning to say less and less although I feel the times call for me to say more.

I have always tried to be honest with my words and my feelings. I will say I don’t know an answer if I don’t know and I will say something is an opinion if it is. I will tell you what I think a correct answer is if I am only partially sure and if I give a definitive answer it is because I am positive that I know what I am talking about, although that doesn’t stop people from shouting me down anyway.

Back in the day when I traveled all over the country with our church youth choir and the high school show choir, I can remember being told what the plan was, where we were headed next or what we needed to do next.  Later when the kids would ask me what the plan was, I would relay the information as close to exact as I could. Usually though, by the time I was sharing the information, unbeknownst to me, somewhere a new plan had been formed which would then be shared, making my information obsolete and making me look a fool. After a few times of that, I learned to refer everyone who asked me anything to someone else because I knew I couldn’t win!

I am not ashamed to admit I don’t know something or that I am ignorant of a subject if I am indeed without any knowledge of that subject. I do not, however, take well to looking like a fool. Therefore, I have learned to just stay silent if I do not know something for sure.

In seeing all of the social media these days, I see more people willing to share their opinions, retweet articles they have not fact checked (or even read thoroughly enough to realize they are sharing something they don’t even believe!) or commenting in a way that shows they want to start an argument not a discussion.

A young newsman friend of mine wrote these words the other day as we had a written discussion about current events and I think they are very wise. “We’ve never, as a species, had more access to information than we do right now. But it still takes a curious spirit to seek it out. And an even more passionate individual to be able to empathize with a viewpoint that may initially make them uncomfortable. . . We all carry around these little expensive supercomputers, but they also have to be used properly in order to do any good.”

He went on to compare those little computers to unused gym equipment- we have it but rarely use it to strengthen ourselves. “It is only a self- improvement tool if we use it.”

Facts being ignored makes conversation difficult to build properly from a place of integrity and maturity. It is hard to defend your position when you don’t know what you are talking about, and conversation is tough when you won’t listen to the other person, and find intelligence offensive.

Being ignorant is not a thing to be ashamed of, it is a state that we all find ourselves in daily if we are honest. Holding on to our ignorance with pride or denying our ignorance when it is there and could be alleviated, are things to worry about. And more and more, our inability or just flat out refusal to look at all of the facts, stay informed, do some research, listen to differing opinions and do a little introspection are part of what is dividing this country.

All of this is what is making me less likely to write or even talk. Even though right now is really not the time to stay quiet.

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Marietta is a graduate of the University of Montevallo with a BFA in musical theater. She has been performing for over 50 years on the stage and continues to perform, direct and teach. Marietta is married to Tim, has a son named Jon, and a cat named Penny.