Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Bear Went Over The Mountain

All we know is still infinitely less than all that remains unknown.

William Harvey
Or, as I like to say, the difference between what we know and what we don't know is the difference between a marble and the solar system. Some people don't like to consider that. It frightens them, or something. I have said that about the marble to people in the past and received a very negative reaction. But if we can't acknowledge that we are ignorant about something there's no hope of learning about it.

I grew up with people who didn't want to know anything beyond what they knew. As a result whenever I expressed an opinion about something I had observed or learned about I was scornfully called a "know-it-all." Perhaps you've heard that term used to describe someone, or maybe even yourself.

The fact that there is so much about life and the universe we live in that we don't know depresses some people. But why should that be? Why should there be a fear of the unknown? And why should a curious person be criticized for finding things out and discouraged from trying? I think it's a very bad trait in humans to close down the labs and libraries and close up the mind.

When that backward process grows into how we treat education we are asking for trouble. Of course, we don't think it's trouble at all. We think it's just making life simpler and easier to live. "Ignorance is bless." "What you don't know won't hurt you." "Don't go poking your nose into things you don't understand."

Imagine what our lives would be like if everyone followed those suppressive rules. As well as my remark about the marble I used to like to make fun of ignorance by saying "All that readin' ain't good for the mind."

Another comment I used to get while growing up was an equally scornful unthinking response to something I said "Oh, is that so?" I finally got to the point where I would say "Yes, it's so" which would generally bring on an argument and I would find myself defending something I wasn't quite sure of. Eventually I learned one of life's best lessons which is that in some circumstances it is best to keep your mouth shut.

When I was a kid I wanted to be an explorer. I admired the people who trekked off into a wilderness no one had been in before, or sailed ships into unknown seas. Mariners who found an uncharted island somewhere in the Pacific, or adventurers who found an isolated tribe of people in the Brazilian jungle or an ancient forgotten temple in Asia now overgrown with shrubs and hyenas were heroes to me.

Then I got older, the call came in from the theatre and I knew that's what my life would be about. I gave up the jungles and oceans of the world and went in the direction of a different kind of adventure. I don't regret it, but I am still fascinated by the discoveries of science and original thought.

I watch the astronauts in the Space Station and know that it is simply a gateway to the vast universe and knowledge of time and space about which we know almost nothing. Every blast off of the giant Saturn rocket is just another baby step to peer through that gate into the unknown. I wish I could live forever just to see what new knowledge is going to be uncovered. Evidently my curiosity and delight in learning new things hasn't waned as a result of my senior citizenship. Even though we can never know it all we can enjoy the discoveries along the way.

As for the back seat drivers who want to call a halt to exploration and cry
"enough's enough" ignore them. Their cause is hopeless. And keep your mouth shut or you'll only get an argument and you can't win an argument with an ignorant person.

I always want to know something today I didn't know yesterday, a piece of music I've never heard before, a new useful vocabulary word, how to mix a more mysterious blue on the canvas, an inspired piece of poetry or the realization of some item of wisdom that was in the unconscious depths of my own mind. It's the best game in the world..

DB - The Vagabond


One item is missing from each of the lists below.
What is it?

2 right answers so far.

Baton Rouge
Carson City
Saint Paul
Santa Fe

Good luck


Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Knowledge is a drink from a glass that is overflowing. You can drink, but you will never empty it.

Gerry said...

I sometimes think the vastness of space is there for us to realize there is no end to what we can conceive, worlds without end. I have always been very fascinated with the study of the stars and the biggest treasure I thought I could give my kids was a book about the wonders of the universe, but there are all kinds of directions to take the explorations of the mind. On the wings of words. A jet stream of words through the Internet causing an impact that is real, now isn't that a modern miracle, no reason to be held back by distance, connection achieved in a second, warmth of thought flowing like hot coffee into someone's consciousness to quicken the pulse and start the day with renewed vigor. Ah, the wordsmiths. Living for that day when their poetry can zing just a little further than they ever thought possible.

pacifica62 said...

I think that a genuine curiosity about life keeps us young. We only get old when we figure we know it all. I don't seem to worry too much these days about what I don't know, or even about what I do know. I just enjoy discovering new things for the sheer delight of it.

Liz said...

The only thing I hope to know is how much I do not know.
That is why I keep my mind open to all information and am able to realise my limitations.