Tag Archives: slide rule

Ignorance & Knowledge

24 Feb

Ignorance & Knowledge

L. Stewart Marsden

If you ever visit St. Augustine, Florida, make sure you get a drink from the Fountain of Youth Ponce de Leon thought would restore you to a younger age. At least it is reported that he thought so, but, like most things today, it could be Fake News.

It’s interesting to me that when the question “Would you like to be a child again?” is posed, most answer it conditionally: “If I can retain all I now know.”

That would certainly take care of a lot of the early learning necessary skills, like being potty trained, and how to tie your shoes –– not to mention how to tie a necktie. It would certainly give you perspective on what you need to know to survive, and why calculus, diagraming a sentence, and who was the drummer Ringo replaced when he joined The Beatles are not part of critical knowledge for most of us mere mortals.

Of course, most of the above skills eventually go in reverse as you get older, like the potty training. I’m not there yet, but I guess I’ll know at the time. It depends.

The problem with becoming younger is that we wouldn’t also go back in time, where youth is fondly remembered as being innocent and sweet. We revere our childhood days, otherwise there wouldn’t be all of the asinine Facebook posts asking, “Do you know what this is?” and “Like this post if you’ve ever used one.” I don’t use that anymore because there’s a new and better product that does the same thing faster and more efficiently. Since I don’t use it, why do you care if I remember what it was?

We rue the loss of understanding, as when Texas Instruments replaced the slide rule with a digital way of solving a math problem. Who the heck cares if I can figure out the cosine of 92º when I can press a button –– no, simply say, “Siri, what’s the cosine of 92º?” to get the very same answer with a fraction of the process?

I know. The answer is somehow invalidated if you don’t understand the process. BS.

Chaos Theory proponent Ian Malcom (Jurassic Park) screwed up innovation –– or the refining of innovation –– when he vehemently attested, “If I may… Um, I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here, it didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox …”

Funny how we don’t learn how to use an abacus in order to truly understand ones, tens, hundreds, et.al. It did precede the slide rule, after all.

Here’s the thing about somehow returning to a younger me: I’ve forgotten all the bad things that happened to me for the most part, and was unaware of other really bad things.

For example, people post things like “life was simpler back then. You could play in your neighborhood and ride bikes and frolic in the creeks and dirt. Schools were safer then. There wasn’t a threat of violence like today …”

Again, BS.

Now, if you were white, middle class or higher, and lived in an exclusive neighborhood – yes. If you weren’t?

The only people I observe pining for the “Good Old Days” are the ones who were part of a very exclusive minority of people (back then it was more than 1%, I think).

IF you were part of that small percentage of kids growing up, you weren’t aware of the struggles going on just beneath the living room carpet where they had been swept. Every once-in-a-while you glimpsed curious indicators that made little or no impact upon your daily existence: Whites Only. No Coloreds Served. Etc.

Perhaps you thought every family had a Virgie Mae or a Juanita or a Lora May who cooked the best fried chicken, cleaned the house and did the wash and ironing while your dad worked and your mother went to her novelty clubs (bridge and gardening). Who doted on you in many cases more than your own parents. Someone you fired with regularity whenever you didn’t get your way.

I don’t normally wish I were younger, because to be younger would probably be without benefit of what I now know. And if I were younger with this age-accrued wisdom, I would be miserable. Knowing what was really going on would be far more painful than not knowing. Kind of like playing cowboys and Indians but being aware of The Trail Of Tears.

Ah, there’s the rub! The dilemma! The … hypocrisy? I have the wisdom now, gleaned from the fields of years of living and experience. What the hell am I doing with it?

Perhaps God knew when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil how it would alter life as they had once known it.

Perhaps, like so many I observe, it is better to be ignorant. After all, the Wise Ones say “Ignorance is Bliss.”

That, and being young.