WARNING: The following entry was written after the ingestion of massive dosses of tryptophan
Just how smart do you figure we need to be? There are some truly ignorant/backward people out there that I would like to dwindle their numbers through civilized (if possible) means but there is also a large crowd of dumb “smart” people kicking around as well.
I once listened to a discussion about tolerance on CBC Radio. A professor lamented that one of his students had become so liberal minded that he’d refuse to stop the “evacuation” of the Jewish ghettoes because it “would not be his place” to interfere in the internal politics of a sovereign nation. “Only a university student could think that way” was the professor’s final comment on the matter.
The post-graduate world is designed to specialize knowledge so that it is entirely possible for an individual to suffer more and more from tunnel vision as they get “smarter.”
I once heard a college professor tell an Asian student that Chinese emperors never commanded the same power or influence as the European monarchs. I walked out. Not only was her comment wrong, ignorant, and racist, but it was also dutifully copied down in the notes of those students who didn’t know better.
The question then becomes how many European History professors are certifiably expert on matters of dynastical China? If you spent half a lifetime becoming an expert on Luther, where do the Ming fit in?
I read a lot. But I rarely read more than three or four books on the same subject and Hunter S. Thompson is the only author in my collection boasting more than 10 titles. My iPod has over 8000 titles on it and nearly half of those are university lectures on a multitude of subjects. But this, itself, leads to problems.
1984’s The Razor’s Edge, Bill Murray’s much-maligned adaptation of W. Sommerset Maugham’s book, features a scene which involves the lead character (Murray) deciding whether he will keep reading his books and freeze to death on a Himalayan peak, or survive by burning his books for warmth. He can literally live (and die) in his books or live a real life without them.
There is only so much that book learning and university classes can do for us. By the time the average person finishes Remembrance of Things Past, they are 50 years older and Proust’s is the only life they know. Experience without knowledge (context and meaning) is a time consuming waste. The reverse, however, is equally true: knowing the career statistics of every NHL player won’t help you tie your skates, especially if you can’t skate.
For myself, I will continue to walk the wavy line: spend my days packing my brain cells with as much information as I can cram in there and then spend my nights committing genocidal atrocities against those same cells. Something’s got to stick before I start having problems with my short term memory.
In conclusion, something’s got to stick before I start having problems with my short term memory.