More of Life’s Confusion

Yesterday I mentioned how much of life, dying, death, grief still confuse me, though now I am usually able to store such things in the back of my mind rather than dwell on them. Writing about that confusion made me remember how often I’ve been confused in life.

When I was very young, almost everything confused me. People always seemed to know things I didn’t, and I didn’t know how they learned such things. For example, everyone knew the names of the streets, and even though I knew the streets around where I lived, once we got out of the neighborhood, I hadn’t a clue what the streets were, and yet everyone else did. It wasn’t until after I got glasses in fourth grade that the confusion cleared. So that’s how everyone knew what the streets were! There were signs, and they could read them.

I came from parents who never used slang and who wouldn’t let any of us use it in their presence, who wouldn’t buy a television or let us listen to the radio unsupervised, so when I went to school, I didn’t understand what most of the insults meant. I remember asking a friend once what “fart” meant, and she turned bright red, and could barely stammer out the meaning.

There were many other episodes, such as the day a group of girls on the school bus were giggling about double-barreled slingshots, and when I asked what those were, they just laughed harder and made fun of me for being such a baby.

Many years later, I saw a Beverly Hillbillies show where the once-poor country girl who knew nothing of women’s underwear, called a bra a double-barreled slingshot. And suddenly it all made sense. I hadn’t been “such a baby.” I simply didn’t have the same cultural references than they did. I read. They watched television.

Although I liked my school classes, mostly because it was cut and dried (1+1=2) so there was no confusion, I still got confused at times. Years later, when I researched those confusing subjects, I learned that the reason I was confused was that the lesson — whatever it had been — was not the truth, or not the whole truth.

And then even later, listening to politicians, I’d get confused until it finally dawned on me that this particular brand of confusion acted as my own particular lie detector. It still works, though now I recognize it for what it is. (Oddly, during this past election, the only person who did not set off a spate of confusion was the one person most people were convinced was a liar.)

Such a lot of confusion! No wonder I spent my life reading and researching. All that not knowing set up a craving in me to know. I do know some things, but mostly what I learned is that just because everyone else knows something, it doesn’t make it true. And I learned to live with not knowing. Although some things we can know, such as the names of the streets and what a double-barreled slingshot is, there are other things we cannot know.

Perhaps this acceptance of not knowing is part of maturity. Maybe it’s just an excuse for being mentally lazy or some other not-quite admirable trait, but I am comfortable (usually) with confusion.

If nothing else, it keeps me from being arrogant. At least, I think it does.


“I am Bob, the Right Hand of God. As part of the galactic renewal program, God has accepted an offer from a development company on the planet Xerxes to turn Earth into a theme park. Not even God can stop progress, but to tell the truth, He’s glad of the change. He’s never been satisfied with Earth. For one thing, there are too many humans on it. He’s decided to eliminate anyone who isn’t nice, and because He’s God, He knows who you are; you can’t talk your way out of it as you humans normally do.”

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God