Nieh Ch'ueh was questioning Wang Ni. Four times he asked a question and four times Wang Ni said he didn't know. Nieh Ch'ueh proceeded to hop around in great glee and went and told Master P'u-i. Master P'u-i said, "Are you just now finding that out? The clansman Yu-yu was no match for the clansman T'ai. The clansman Yu-yu still held on to benevolence and worked to win men over. He won men over all right, but he never got out into [the realm of] `notman.' The clansman T'ai, now - he lay down peaceful and easy; he woke up wide-eyed and blank. Sometimes he thought he was a horse; sometimes he thought he was a cow. His understanding was truly trustworthy; his virtue was perfectly true. He never entered [the realm of] `not-man.' "In both public and private life, we humans like to be "in the know." Sometimes we really do know the answer, but a good deal of the time we simply PRETEND that we know. We don't wish to look weak or dumb in the eyes of others or ourselves.
~ Burton Watson translation ~
But there is nothing wrong with saying, "I don't know." When it comes to the most basic questions of our very existence, saying "I don't know" is the most honest answer any of us can give!
To view the Index page for this series, go here.