What Do You Know for Sure?

Illustration: Stephen Doyle

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Looking for words to live by?
It could be considered among my most embarrassing moments. The first time I ever heard the question "What do you know for sure?" I was doing a live television interview in Chicago with renowned film critic Gene Siskel. We had been doing the usual promotional chitchat for the movie Beloved and he concluded the interview by saying, "Tell me, what do you know for sure?"

"Uhhhhhh, about the movie?" I asked, knowing he meant something more but trying to give myself time to think. "No," he responded coolly. "You know what I mean—about you, your life, anything, everything..."

"Uhhhhhh, I know for sure...uhhh...I know for sure I need to think about that question some more, Gene." I was clearly thrown and went home and thought about what he'd asked for two days.

I've since done a lot of thinking about what's certain, what's real, what's true. And Gene Siskel's question has inspired me to ask it of many others. Sometimes people (like me that first time) are caught off guard. But usually—as you'll see here—they rally with thoughtful and profound responses that reveal the essence of who they are. 




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