I have never met a squid. I’ve never eaten one either. My acquaintance with cephalopods of any description is cursory. And yet i find my self reading a book about them. Curious.
It’s not just limited to squid though. The searchlight of my wandering attention is drawn to many and varied things, some of them useful, others less so. There is no curator of the mind, no director to draw focus on one subject over another. Whilst my learning can sometimes, for a brief period, be pointed in one direction, it’s easily distracted onto another curve. I am, by nature, curious.
But pointless learning does have a point: the connections that we make when we learn are not structured, there is no master plan. We rely on fortuitous insight and spontaneous revelation to grant us those eureka moments. Only by getting lost can we be found, only by opening our minds up to confusion can we learn.
To learn is to change, to change the foundations of our knowledge, our beliefs, our selves. My new found knowledge of squid may not be useful in helping me hunt, tame or keep them, but it helps me to understand the world differently, to appreciate the scholarship, to be fascinated, intrigued, disgusted or affected in any one of a hundred ways.
Learning is rarely pointless, although it may be without a point. But then, i guess that’s true of art too.
Whilst we often focus on structured learning experiences, on the technology that delivers it or on the metrics that let us measure it, we should not be averse, occasionally, to just throwing ourselves into it, being surrounded, immersed and changed by the wonders of the world and everything we can learn within it.