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I don't know.

Japan 1999

Long ago, Dave and I lived in Japan where he was a pretty great teacher and I was a mediocre teacher at best. This is not self deprecation but the reality of a very shy girl attempting to teach for nine hours a day. On days off we would explore and eat our way through the area--meandering through narrow streets, following creeks, and train tracks outward and upward. Cultivated gardens manicured to fit urban settings yielded to denser forests that were allowed to grow as intended. Often we would head toward Kobe (my favorite city), but get off the train miles in advance and just start walking. Under the train tracks we would find the outcasts: people, discarded treasures, entire cardboard cities, delicious ramen, exotic animals, pop up karaoke stands. Disorder that had no place in logical, modern Japanese life. As time went on, I found myself taking solo trips to these grittier areas. There was an integrity that appealed to me. No one was attempting to save face. Discarded objects were allowed value. And certainly no one cared about the scrawny gaijin girl wandering around the rubbish imagining how these cardboard empires came to be.

I was reminded of our time in Japan this morning as the kids and I talked about the phrase "I know"...that sentence beginner or ender that both Peyton and Justin use in every other response. It feels good to "know" but it also gets in the way if one doesn't really know. For example, take this "I know" interchange:

Justin: I'm not supposed to drink water after I brush my teeth for 30 minutes or a half hour.

Me: 30 minutes or a half hour, huh?

Justin: Yep, something like that.

Me: Justin, 30 minutes and a half hour are the same thing.

Justin: I know.

Me: Justin, do you really know?

Justin:, I didn't know that.

Me: Now you do.

Justin: I know.

We place a lot of value in knowing. Socially, it seems we never want to be the one who hasn't tried the new restaurant, heard the new Beyonce song, debated the Allegory of the Cave, drank the absinthe, shifted the Dura Ace gruppo. We can be rather judgy-judgy. And there's that funny thing that happens when we are sure we "know": we stop trying to learn more.

So why am I so obsessed with this? For selfish reasons certainly. I don't want my pride to get in the way of learning or considering perspectives previously not considered. But aside from growing my own brain, I want the wee ones in my life to keep asking questions; to not lose their natural curiosity. In one of my morning reading sessions last week, I came across this thought: "We learn so that we can unlearn and uncover." Learn. Unlearn. Uncover. Repeat. Do you really know? As we end this year and begin anew, can we make a group pact? Can we keep on exploring and asking questions without judgement of ourselves or each other? It's okay to be a little shaky--to be vulnerable. I promise.

Oh the new adventures we're going to have.

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