The More You Know, The Less You Know

16 Aug

And the related, You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

A major reason for this trip is for me to learn more about the world by seeing and experiencing different parts of it and meeting people from all around it. With each new place I visit and person I meet, no matter how short the visit or how fleeting the meeting, an imprint of knowledge is left on my brain, sometimes without me even noticing that it has happened until later.

There is a slightly unforeseen consequence of this gained knowledge. The more I learn, the more I realize how much there is that I don’t know. Each new thing learned brings with it multitudinous additional new things that I want to learn.

This revelation really presented itself to me when I was in El Nido with my new friends from Denmark and Iceland, two countries I have not yet visited. As Northern Europeans, they were familiar with a lot of the same things relevant to their home region – popular culture, entertainment, food, places, sports, politics – and would intermittently talk about the common knowledge they had. They reminisced about popular TV shows in Denmark (Klovn, meaning “Clown,” a Curb Your Enthusiasm-type of sitcom was just made into a hugely popular movie; Matador, a drama set in pre-WWII Denmark is the most popular sitcom in Denmark of all time, with 3/4 of the entire Danish population tuning in for the season finale that aired in 1985). They discussed the contested ownership of Greenland’s future oil reserves if oil is found off its coast (its potential oil wealth has caught the eyes of the U.S., Canada, China, Russia, and Denmark, not to mention Greenland itself, who sees it as a potential escape from its economic dependency on Denmark). They chatted about the void of McDonald’s breakfast (which they don’t serve in Denmark or Iceland), divulged the non-existence of the U.S. version of Monopoly (Denmark has its own version), and debated the popularity of handball (a sport that many Danish kids play on organized teams starting as youngsters).

I had nothing meaningful to contribute to these conversations, but I loved listening to them and trying to retain the pieces of knowledge they were unknowingly imparting on me, knowledge that brought with it a countless number of questions about additional things I discovered I didn’t know. What are the most popular Danish and Icelandic movies?  What is Greenland’s relationship to Denmark? What kind of food do people eat in Denmark and Iceland?  What is the Danish version of Monopoly like? What are the favorite national sports to watch in Denmark and Iceland? These are just a few questions that came to mind during these conversations, questions that wouldn’t have occurred to me to ask had I not learned these new things from my new friends.

The more they talked and the more I listened and learned, the more I realized that not only did I not know about any of these things before then, I didn’t even know that I didn’t know about them.

Once I started learning about some areas of knowledge that I didn’t know anything about before, I began to comprehend how much more there must be that I don’t know. Before, I lived in blissful ignorance of the colossal amount of information I knew nothing about. Now, my more enlightened mind is open to the thriving gold mine of information out there to be learned.

The fun of life is the challenge to continue experiencing and learning, no matter how old you get. I am lucky to be on a trip like this where the amount I learn each day is intensified and accelerated. I hope that this continuous learning can help me to keep an open mind about the world and resist ever becoming arrogant in my knowledge, recognizing that there will always be a limitless amount of information to be learned, even if I don’t know exactly what it is.

One Response to “The More You Know, The Less You Know”

  1. Allen Whitt September 2, 2011 at 2:11 pm #

    i love the idea that staring into the void led you to this. the void giveth and the void taketh away. the void seems to be quite a something after all. great post curls

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