Embracing NOT Knowing

A few weeks ago, we met an old friend for dinner who had recently lost his wife of sixty years. When we’d called to tell him we’d heard the news and to offer anything — to bring him food, come by to give him a hug, take him out to dinner — THAT’S what he said he wanted: to have a good dinner, a cocktail or two, be out in the world. Somehow he snagged a last-minute reservation at a very good restaurant at the height of Christmas season. We arrived to find him wearing a button that said “I don’t know”

He said he’d started wearing the button after so many people asked him what he was going to do now that Martha had passed away. His answer, which he seemed at one with, was simply “I don’t know“, and the button, like a tiny, powerful piece of conceptual art, stated the heart of the matter: There were no answers to be had. It was simply how things were, and were going to be for a while.

He had been given the button by a friend of the poet Mei-mei Berssenbrugge who is married to the artist Richard Tuttle. Berssenbrugge had some “I Don’t Know” buttons made for the opening of his exhibition “I Don’t Know   The Weave of Textile Language”.  A poet, she knew the resonance of those three words and how radical a statement it is in a culture that deeply values control, and having answers.

We admire our dear friend for living with not knowing, and for affirming this most common, often uncomfortable, fact of living through his subtly-radical signage.

Sally Schneider

Sally Schneider




6 Responses to Embracing NOT Knowing

  1. Jeanne McMenemy 01.14.2015 at 12:24pm #

    I want some of those buttons! Any chance they are still to be had? My wonderful teacher, Jenny Hunter Groat taught a workshop called knowing/not knowing many years ago… my first introduction to the importance of not knowing to the creative process.

  2. Margaret 01.14.2015 at 12:25pm #

    Wonderful. Wonderful. Wonderful.
    Where can I get one of these?

    I could use this on a daily basis.
    I love his philosophy/attitude.
    So healthy.

  3. Leanne 01.14.2015 at 8:05pm #

    This is so lovely on so many levels. Thank you.

  4. Sally 01.15.2015 at 7:37pm #

    I’m going to hunt some down. Stay tuned.

  5. ellen 01.18.2015 at 6:55pm #

    What a lovely post. You are lucky to have this gentleman for a post and he (as are we readers) is lucky to have you for friends.Please add me to the list. I would love to have one of the buttons.

  6. ellen 01.18.2015 at 6:57pm #

    Of course, I meant to say – to have this gentleman as a friend…

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