Saturday, 18 October 2008

Please Don't Ask Me for More Detail!

SHOCK headline this week: six out of 10 of us don't understand carbon trading. Well, let me be the first to admit it: most of us don't know anything. We are children wandering around in an adult world. Really, you'd be shocked by what your fellow citizens don't know.

I'll go first. Then it can be your turn. I don't understand carbon trading. I'm fuzzy on the history of the conflict in the Middle East. And I have no ready explanation for the success of the band Coldplay.

I am also unable to pronounce the name of the new Russian president, am uncertain how to convert metres into feet.....some things, perhaps, are just beyond human comprehension.

Antigua - you might be interested - is a country in Africa, or quite possibly an island in the Mediterranean. The Battle of Pozieres was a very important battle during World War I or maybe World War II......(If you are having a dinner party at home play for time, try to distract them, say you are going to the loo and then look it up on Wikipedia.)

What's interesting is we are all staggered by each other's ignorance.

I love the way we're all so confident of our knowledge - right up until someone asks for a little detail.

I think back to my years of schooling and try to list all the facts of which I remain certain. It all comes down to this: Hitler was a vegetarian, an oxbow lake is something to do with a river. I'm also pretty sure that the way it gets colder as you go up a mountain is called the adiabatic lapse rate. I learnt this is year 9 and have been waiting for the chance to drop it into a conversation ever since.

Some knowledge seems to stick in my mind. Elvis Presley's stillborn twin brother was called Jesse. And Pete Best was the original drummer of the Beatles. These things - once learnt - can never be forgotten.

Yet other knowledge seems to visit briefly and then leave. For several weeks now I've been listening to a series of CD's by Bruce Lipton on the Biology of Belief - how our beliefs shape our health and destiny. I understand completely what the author is on about. I am with him sentence by sentence, right up until the moment I turn off the CD. I then find - one second later! - that I can remember nothing at all. Asked to repeat a single insight from the CD, I would babble like a baby.

And so I make an effort - reading The Herald, watching the news, listening to the PM program on the radio - and still the questions crowd in. So what exactly was the nature of the Palestinian nation before the formation of Israel? Why were negotiations with the IRA suddenly successful?

Should we feel embarrassment about these gaps in our knowledge? I take comfort from the way the experts themselves seem to know nothing. Consider the sharemarket and how all the commentators are so skilled at explaining, with absolute certainty, the inevitability of every move - but only after it has happened. In terms of prediction, their record is worse than that achieved by a deranged man with a sharemarket table and a pin.

So there you have it, is this phenomenon happening to anyone else out there!

Here is a photo I took in Kenya in 2006......they say elephants never forget!


Fly Girl said...

I definitely don't feel any smarter after reading your post! To be honest, my conversations seem to go something like this... "I read something about something that was really amazing. I wish I could remember what it was because I know you would be interested in it. It really was something interesting," I said with enthusiasm.

I've never been interested in history, but am getting more interested as I help my daughter study world cultures. It's an amazing planet we live on, with amazing people.... Just don't ask for any details!

By the way, I love your elephant photo and the one on your header of the yawning kitty. You're good. I can see both published in a coffee-table book.

It's the weekend!!!! I'm so relieved!

Caroline said...

We are so limited in our knowledge! It's impossible to know everything. This is why I love blogging! I learn something new every day. For instance today I learned, that why it gets colder as you go up a mountain is called the adiabatic lapse rate. Never new that! Also, I would have never thought that Hitler was a vegetarian! He wouldn't kill animals...but had no problems murdering thousands upon thousand of innocent people. I don't get that!

McMGrad89 said...

Okay, so I am going to read this to my mom, the only person I know who would know everything you mentioned except maybe the mountain thing, though her love of language and etymology would probably let her figure it out. My mother did nothing but read since she was old enough to read and she hasn't stopped reading since.

I on the other hand can't forget anything I hear or read. I can talk about it incessantly and it drives everyone I meet insane. People I work with always say, "Ask Annemarie." I have come to take it as a jab, not a compliment.

I have stopped reading the past few years for both enjoyment and knowledge and haven't picked it back up until this past month when mom and I went to the new Barnes & Noble book store. I left there realizing how many books I haven't read. I may have to revive my old obsession just so I can participate figure out what some of these things are.

Thanks a lot, Peg. As if I don't have enough obsessions.

AVT Coach said...

I am going to be a smart-alec and say "that is not my type of intelligence". Then seriously say your post was excellent and this is a very interesting topic. Actually one I have thought about alot..especially as I have aged. I think rather than a lengthy comment I will take your lead and post on this one! Stay tuned..
I have a little time on my hands this week. :)

AVT Coach said...

Hey, my post is up to provide some thoughts on your theme. Thank you, you have a great mind!

Anonymous said...

Knowing HOW to find the information is probably more important than knowing the facts themselves. In the past we were taught in school how to use a reference library. Now-our children know how to use the internet to find out anything they need to know. Then the skill is to sift the information, understand it and present it in a way which isn't just a blatant copy of a mass of misunderstood text.CJ

Jan said...

Hey Peggy,

Thanks for your post on my blog earlier. I think that you're right - the blog is a good way to get some of those thoughts out of my head. It was also (especially in the earlier days when there was no good news) a good way to avoid retelling the story over and over. Are Joseph and Charlie your nephews? I hope you have had a fun day and will have peaceful night with them. I know you must be very special to them, and they to you. I'm going to read this post sometime when I don't need to be sleeping (it's almost midnight here). Take care, good friend! Jan

Living Balanced said...

I have to admit that I wish I was smarter and had a better memory. I graduated from college over 19 years ago and don't remember much of what I learned. I struggle with these same things too.

Living Balanced said...

Oops, typo, 15 years ago....