What if They Find Me Out?

13 Feb 2019

I was fortunate enough to be in the British Library last Friday, attending the Exhibition of Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms.

I was unfortunate enough to be followed round by a group led by a "Mansplainer"

I don't know if you are familiar with this term. I wasn't. It is someone (usually a man), who explains to others (usually women), in a patronising manner, something which the listeners normally understand better than he. This man was loudly expounding on every exhibit with an attitude of confident expertise.

The only problem was that he clearly wasn't an expert.

I don't know if you have ever noticed that real experts tend to be quite hesitant to put forward their ideas, and they speak in low voices.

One such chap by my side was discussing the annotations made to the texts by scholars at dates later than the original. What he had to say was fascinating, but I had to strain my ears to hear.

Then we approached the Codex Amiatinus, the oldest single volume bible in existence. It was copied in AD710 or so and taken to Rome in 716. It has been kept in Italy for the past 1,300 years. As you might expect, given that it is hand-written on vellum, it is not exactly pocket-sized. It is approximately 150cm by 100cm by 50cm.

"That," said the mansplainer behind me, "Is a very big book. In fact, it is the biggest book I have ever seen."

I caught the eye of the friend who had invited me. She caught my eye. We had to leave the room fast, so our giggles did not overcome us. We could not wait to hear just why it was a very big book; we would have disgraced ourselves laughing.

That man was an imposter, and most of the room knew he was an imposter. Those women he was leading have my sympathy.

But I too, feel like an imposter much of the time. I have been doing my job for nearly twenty years. I know I am well-trained and keep that training up to date. I know I can give a presentation confidently to any number of people. Yet I am always waiting for that question which will catch me out and show to everyone the vast tracts of my ignorance. The more I know, the more I know I don't know.

I am supposed to be an expert, but I feel like an ignoramus!

I think many of us feel like that.

But we cannot all be experts on everything, and most people are happy not to try. We are happy to listen to a real expert.

You know the definition of an expert? It is one who knows more and more about less and less until they know everything about nothing!

We are all experts on something. The trick is to take pleasure and pride in that expertise. And unless you're a patronising bore, nobody will ever want to find you out!


A Moodscope member.

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