Beyond Charm: What Do You Know?

I’ve learned that you can get by on charm, for about fifteen minutes. After that, you’d better know something;

This week’s truism was difficult to write and analyse. It truly challenged me. I seriously had to think about what it is I know beyond my ability to delight, attract, or fascinate others.

I have often asked myself this question in the past;  what do I know? 

Asking this question invariably led me to academia. I began thinking that perhaps I needed  to acquire more knowledge through books and qualifications so that I can truly know something or at the very least have more, deeper knowledge of a particular subject than an “average” person.

Whenever I think about the subject of what I know, I am often shocked when I realise just how little I actually know.  But what’s more shocking is how little I know about subjects and themes I think I know about.

It is more horrifying than realising that I can never know how vast my ignorance is on any given subject. So without delving too deep into the existential conundrum of infinite unknowable knowledge – we can agree that there are things that are known. Facts. Science. Data. Matter. 

For example I know that I can type because I am writing this blog on my laptop keyboard with all my fingers on the different keys. Very old school. I also know that I can drive because I can have driven an automatic and manual car with equal dexterity.

Knowing how to drive or type has improved my life – but the extent to which this knowledge is beneficial to others, i.e introduced something new or innovative to the world is debatable.  Moreover the benefit of my knowledge only matters in large data sets – since almost all my peers have the same baseline skills as I do.

Even so  there are people who live perfectly normal and productive lives – who have never driven a car or even a  manual one. There are  people who type faster and more accurately without ever having taken a specialised typing class at school as I have;  they are acting on intuitive knowledge induced by the culture and environments they are socialised in. 

A perfect example is people who are fluent in their mother tongues without having gone to school to learn that particular language – without knowing how to read or write; those we call illiterate.

So this means that the knowledge I have is irrelevant at best and at worst, highly superficial. Because while I may drive both manual and automatic cars, I have no deep knowledge or interest in how cars are made or in any car parts or mechanisms which makes it function. The same goes for typing, while I may type without looking at my fingers – it does not mean that I understand the proper use of language, grammar, syntax or even code. 

Recently someone told me that my writing is still at an amateur level notwithstanding the fact that I write all the time and often enjoy it. He was not the first or only person to allude to my lack of skill in letters despite the amount of time I have spent doing it.

My language skills have not improved after 19 years of practice.

This is what made this post so difficult to write; from start to finish. I was searching my mind for something, anything which I have a deep knowledge of or something which, “I know for sure” to steal a popular term coined by American talk show host, Oprah Winfrey. 

This truism about charm vs knowledge brought out insecurities I never thought I had about myself and the impossible profession I chose. 

It also  brought to mind a song by Simply Red in their 1995 Album, Life  called So Beautiful in which the singer laments about his suicide inducing boredom caused by a conversation with a beautiful woman;

I was listening to this conversation

Noticing my daydream stimulated me more

I was crumbling with anticipation

You’d better send me home before I tumble down to the floor

You’re so beautiful but oh so boring

I’m wondering what am I doing here

So beautiful but oh so boring, I’m wondering

If anyone out there really cares

About the curlers in your hair

So maybe the knowledge this truism is alluding to is less about facts, figures and acquiring knowledge, skills and information. Because let’s face it, not everyone is interested in what you know deeply – like  Mick Hucknall, we have all been bored to death by a conversation with someone who had deep knowledge about a subject we were either not interested in or just simply unable to fully grasp and understand.

So it can’t be academic knowledge or detailed information on how to build a spaceship or write a line of code which is needed beyond 15minutes of charm, perhaps what the unknown author of this truism  meant by know something,  is be interested.

Perhaps what is desired here is the type of knowledge we acquire intuitively,  the knowledge which allows us to relate to others in-spite of what we know, such as Emotional Intelligence. The type of knowledge we glean from our environments or have a genetic or innate ability to understand or to perceive beyond what we are taught in school.

Which means that in as much as there is a lot we collectively don’t know about the world; potentially everybody knows something we don’t know that we don’t know.  And if you’re charming and curious enough you’ll find out what that is.

So yeah I’ve learned that you can get by on charm, for about fifteen minutes. After that, you’d better know something; or start asking questions, people like to talk about what they know.


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