This week i’m away from work, skiing in Finland, so instead of the usual fare, i present a five part series on ‘the rebirth of knowledge’. It’s a light hearted look at how our relationship with knowledge is changing: from something that we need to know, to something that we just know how to find out. Today: foundations.
My grandmother used to tell us a little rhyme: “big fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ’em. And little fleas have littler fleas, and so ad infinitum”. There are several truths to this statement, although alas i cannot attest to the biological accuracy of the original. As a way of teaching diligent children their latin, i’m sure it cannot be faulted, but it harks to a wider truth too: that knowledge is build upon foundations, and that, should you dig those foundations out, you’d just find some others underneath.
We are what we eat and we are what we thought. Our knowledge builds throughout our lives, at some point exploding out of ‘what we sense’ to become ‘what we perceive and what we deduce’ as a result. Once we learn to think ahead, to predict, to hypothesise and test those thoughts, we become more than just the sum our our parts. Knowledge is not the goal: it’s the means to building the next set of foundations that take us higher. Never to a pinnacle, always just one step further up.
Of course, the problem with getting higher is that you can just see further, see more mountains that you have’t climbed yet, but that’s kind of ok: there is a certain reassurance in knowing that you can never climb them all. It’s sometimes nice just to enjoy the view.