In exploring the human equation, finding out why we make the mistakes we do, the authors of this book draw on a huge swath of information, from biology, anthropology, neurology, psychology, pop culture, common wisdom, philosophy and even religion. A broad view of a topic like this really appeals to me, because I've always enjoyed knowing even just a little about a lot: the core of a liberal education.
It's sad though, that we don't appreciate this kind of breadth of wisdom anymore. In school, it's "is this going to be on the test?" English composition classes are split up into technical and business writing, and lessons are geared to give everyone a chance to use writing in the context of their field. If it's not going to get me hired, I'll forget it once the semester is over. Knowing a lot about one subject is what gets us jobs; no one loves the Renaissance men.
And the consequence of this is not only that people don't know a whole lot about their world -- and the resultant fear that comes from that ignorance -- but also that we value knowledge less. Know-it-alls are the subject of ridicule. I can't count the number of times I've heard some oranged valley girl, her face contorted in disgust, screech, "Why would anyone know THAT?" We treat our minds as if they were finite sponges. Knowing too much about a subject unrelated to our dream job would cause the excess knowledge that we DO require to squish out the other end, rendering us helpless. But brains don't work like that. Learning keeps us sane, keeps us whole, and it certainly doesn't replace the things we already know. Unless, of course, those things were wrong.
If I had my way, I'd first get a Master's and then a PhD in linguistics. After that, I'd study math, geology, geography, economics, political science, as many bloody language as I could get my hands on, and maybe art. I'd try and get degrees in all of them, at least Bachelors. It would take a long time and a lot of money, but it would enrich my life so much. No one is going to let me do this, though, because living for your field is valuable. Being a trivia buff is not.
PS: This was a fantastic read, and everyone should pick it up.*
Dan Walker (pseudonym) is a writer from Northeast Ohio, who would be teaching ESL if he wasn't
*This is not a paid endorsement, nor is it necessarily the belief of the regular blog writer.
**Post originally written August 9, 2010 so the regular author could take a much deserved break.