Wendy Kalman
There are many ways to see and understand

What do you know?

What I know is that I don’t know enough.

I’ve written about it too. In one LinkedIn article I posted, aptly titled “How to prepare to do anything,” I advise how to inventory existing knowledge before trying to reinvent wheels. Look up, look down, look sideways, I say. But acquiring knowledge is more than that, so much more.

Simon ben Zoma, a rabbinic sage of the first and second century CE, asked, among other things, “Who is wise? He who learns from everyone. As is stated (Psalms 119:99): ‘From all my teachers I have grown wise.’”

In this day and age of political intolerance of the “other” side, no matter what side the other is on, can you imagine how we could begin to bridge divides if instead of dismissing people who spout narratives we don’t buy, we were to figure out ways to hear what else they have to speak on, and with the intent to listen and learn. Once we have that step under our belts, perhaps we could all begin to change our position from the combative stances so many cling to.

Ben Zoma’s approach is worth emulating. It teaches us respect and humility, appreciation and to be thirsty for knowledge. What can I learn from those I know? What can I learn from those I haven’t met yet?

In a few months, I head back to college, in pursuit of a Master’s degree in Public Administration, after many decades away from school. In some ways, placing myself in a classroom with the intent to learn is easier than recognizing and internalizing that every single person I meet has something to teach me. Who can know what the life experience is of the cashier in the supermarket or what hobby the office building’s security guard is expert at?

It’d be a pity to never know.

So much knowledge in the world, and I possess only a little. We each do. So while I thirst to see what I can learn with this MPA program (I wonder if I’ll still think of it as an MBA with a conscience when I complete it in – hopefully – two years), I also look forward to learning all about my future classmates.

So…please don’t be arrogant. Don’t assume that if you don’t know something, there’s no such thing to be known.

But always ask yourself — how can this be? What else is there? What have I missed? What don’t I know?

Begin there and see where it takes you. And please, let me know what you find out.

About the Author
Born in Brooklyn and raised on Lawn Guyland, Wendy lived in Jerusalem for over a decade submerged in Israeli culture; she has been soaked in Southern life in metro Atlanta since returning to the U.S. in 2003. Recently remarried, this Ashkenazi mom of three Mizrahi sons, 27, 24 and 19, splits her time between managing knowledge in corporate America, pursuing a dual masters in public administration and integrated global communications, relentlessly Facebooking, enjoying the arts and trying to bring a wider perspective to the topics she covers while blogging.