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Monday, May 4, 2009

The Trappings of Science and Learning-

As a child (and even young adult) I had a hunger for knowledge. Sometimes I confused the trappings of science and learning for the real thing. Trappings, such as books, and blackboards, and scientific instruments.

I confused the tools for the task. I wanted microscopes, and telescopes, and oscilloscopes. I even had those things, at various times. I don't know that I used them to learn with. I don't recall doing as much as having. Even books became possessions more than vehicles of learning.

There seemed to always be so much to learn that I failed to focus on what was at hand.

I still do this. Wikipedia, for instance. I read an article on an area of interest. I know that a Wiki article is just a small taste of what one would need to learn on any given subject. It is a good starting place, but not sufficient by itself.

Oh, there are hyperlinks and bibliographies. I follow some links, and am challenged by a whole new field of learning. That, and a lot more listed books. And more hyperlinks to more articles and more listed books.

Always I see all of that knowledge spread before me, and the sense of not having enough time to absorb more than a fraction of all that is there. I think that the frustration of my mortality in relationship to all that might be learned has been the root of a life-long depression. Not a profound depression, or a debilitating depression. Just a depressive tendency that led to depressive episodes throughout my life.

Even before the Internet and Wiki I sensed the vastness of potential learning, and my limitations in time and space in relationship to all that I might learn. From my childhood I sensed the impossibility of consuming even a fraction of that knowledge in the course of one lifetime.

It has gotten better over time.

I still have an affection for books, and instruments of measurement and learning. I no longer confuse having such things (and even knowing how to use them) for the knowledge they might impart. The are objects of beauty, and part of that beauty is the promise of knowledge. They are not that knowledge, and never could be.

Wandering through life and gathering bits of learning has been good. Sensing and thinking and sharing. Perhaps I might have done more. Perhaps my temperament is more of the intellectual vagabond than the hard working scholar or scientist. It might be that I have done as much as I can.

That is just one more thing to think about, to learn about.

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