De(Re)programming: I

There is almost nothing more freeing than to realize that you have almost no idea what is actually happening.

Cristian Suteanu, my environmental information management professor, told us a story about a fisherman who had lived on a small tropical island all his life. Upon being shown a news broadcast from some world city he remarked “Wow, so much is going on so far away from everything.”

“Ignorant: a state of not knowing what a pronoun is, or how to find the square root of 27.4, and merely knowing childish and useless things like which of the seventy almost identical-looking species of the purple sea snake are the deadly ones, how to treat the poisonous pith of the Sago-sago tree to make a nourishing gruel, how to foretell the weather by the movement of the tree-climbing Burglar Crab, how to navigate across a thousand miles of featureless ocean by means of a piece of string and a small clay model of your grandfather, how to get essential vitamins from the liver of the ferocious Ice Bear, and other such trivial matters. It’s a strange thing that when everyone becomes educated, everyone knows about the pronoun but no one knows about the Sago-sago” – Hogfather, by Terry Pratchett

At the beginning of the post I said that it is freeing to understand how little you know. I said this because each of the cultures you have just heard about has a way of knowing that is vast enough to consume a life time, and you can’t tune into MSNBC or Fox News to find out what they think.


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