I knew i’d heard it somewhere before, although i couldn’t put my finger on where, which is where Google came in. Socrates, apparently. Good. Ancient Greek provenance puts me firmly onto solid ground.’The more i learn, the less i know’, not a sentiment to reflect too deeply on late at night, but here i am and the whiskey has run out (pre Christmas drought).
I used to think about all the books that i read: a lot. Then i thought about all the books in the world: a lot more, and how many times the total that i have read would fit into the total. I think this may be one of those times they tell you about at school when algebra would have been useful, but that’s one book i didn’t read. Anyway, whichever way i look on it, however much i read, i’m unlikely to read them all, or learn everything.
Of necessity, my path through learning, much as my path through life, will consist of limited exposure to the world and a lot of supposition and guesswork. Knowledge is a wonderful thing, but ignorance tops everything. However much i learn about a subject, i just seem to keep opening doors, beyond which lie vast rooms of deeper knowledge that i will never probe.
Ok, so i’m being quite reflective, but it’s nearly Christmas, a traditional time to reflect on a year gone by and to make bold and foolish assertions of how i’ll be a better person next year. Maybe it’s a sign of going old or maybe it’s a sign of getting wiser, but i’m sure interested in what i’m going to learn next. Philosophy? I’ve always wanted to and it sounds like Socrates knew what he was talking about. Or maybe he was a mathematician? hmmm, better check before i enrol on that course. No, i’m fairly sure it was philosophy. Didn’t i learn this once before?
Ignorance in itself is not a bad thing. For a start, it makes me think a lot about what i’m learning now and what i’m learning next. It certainly makes me want to learn something, if only to chip away at the giant rock face of things i don’t know. And it’s not just ‘knowledge’ that we can chip away at. Today, i was working with a better artist than me, a better musician and a better writer. Where should i aim next?
Maybe it’s not the learning that’s important, maybe it’s the journey. Tony Blair said that in his autobiography: it was the one thing that stuck with me. To live is to strive, he said, or something like that, and it resonated. To strive, not to master. Just to work at it, a little bit, every day.
I talked to a friend today who said ‘i’ve not done anything all year’. Well, luckily that wasn’t true, even if she couldn’t see it for herself, but maybe that’s something that’s worse than ignorance: not doing anything.
There’s a thought.