All I know is that I know nothing…

Socrates supposedly said this & I love his honesty.

I can remember, it must have been thirty-odd years ago, during a history lesson at school. We were discussing the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem – I had an idea, an answer to the teacher’s question that I couldn’t contain; up went my hand and off I set, babbling.

At a certain point, perhaps by the third or fourth sentence, I realised my enthusiasm outweighed my knowledge, and rather than continuing, I stopped, announced, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t know what I am talking about,’ and, sat down.

This has happened to me a couple of times throughout my life and on those occasions, when I have professed my ignorance, there has usually been a momentary silence followed by people getting on with things.

Had things gone differently, and I’d continued spouting nonsense, it is likely the outcome wouldn’t have been that different. Life is like that. We say things and the things that matter are lost, with those cringe-worthy moments, immortalised. It is a lottery.

And my point?

My point harks to the teachings of first Socrates, then Maimonides with his, ‘Teach thy tongue to say I do not know,’ – the value of honesty; an echo of the Greek sentiment, followed centuries later by Bruce Lee, echoing Confucius with, ‘Empty your cup, so that it may become filled.’

What is the common-denominator?

Honesty – with self, the situation or others.

The realisation that pride, falsehood, deception and deceit are about as bad as it gets. (And, in ancient times, considered worse than blasphemy.)

Within this there are two realities, one likely worse than the other –

The first, the Machiavellian, those who cheat, connive their way from one promotion to the next, treading on others in order to gain position, promote their cause or place in the hierarchy; the dirty schemers, manipulators; they are perhaps the worst. They besmirch society and depending on the sophistication of their psychopathy are able to work at speed and with an effectiveness that is dazzling.

The others, no less benign are the wondrous mystics, the starry-eyed believers who accept the doctrine of their beliefs as if there is no possible alternative; they are the fanatics, the bible-bashers and madmen who pursue impossible goals and often pay a heavy toll when the system deconstructs, like John of Leiden, collapsing upon themselves.

So, fear the faker.

Beware the manipulator, the Boris Johnson. They know what they are doing, and everyone pays a price.

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