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Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Secret Sauce of Learning is Ignorance

Early one morning I went with my wife to go see a doctor, technically a physician's assistant. We have been to a lot of medical providers lately. This one was great. She listened to my wife, asked questions, wrote things down, and answered my wife's questions by treating her  like the intelligent adult she is, and not like some pain in the neck kid. But, what impressed me most was when this highly trained and highly skilled medical professional looked at my wife's chart and said, "I don't know what that is, I was going to look it up after your appointment, but could you explain it to me?"

I was shocked and impressed. I have rarely heard a medical care provider admit ignorance and ask a patient, of all people, for some knowledge. The condition in the chart was obscure and way outside the P.A.'s area of speciality. Once my wife went all Latin and used the full official medical term the P.A. understood exactly what the condition was.

I spend a lot of time thinking about doctors and their manner. This past year I have talked to a lot of doctors, nurses, and P.A.'s. The more specialized someone is the less willing they seem to be to admit ignorance. This phenomenon is not limited to the medical field. Most everyone hates to admit not knowing something.

Ignorance is a badge of shame, like admitting an admiration for the Kardashians. But ignorance is glorious. How could we ever learn something is we hadn't embraced our ignorance. It is the facts we didn't know that have driven us to sail around the world, travel to the Moon, and to explore the human body. The more we learn the more we find we do not know.

Thoreau said it best when he said:

            The highest we can attain to is not Knowledge, but Sympathy with Intelligence. I do not know that this higher knowledge amounts ti anything definite than a novel and grand surprise on a sudden revelation of the insufficiency of all that we called Knowledge before, - a discovery that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our philosophy.  Excursions, page 85.

What Thoreau is saying is that real knowledge requires humility. The hubris of the learned too often gets in the way of further learning. "No, no." they seem to say, "We have enough knowledge, we don't want anymore. Take your ideas and facts and move along, we are busy wallowing in our intellectual mire."

I am with Thoreau. There is nothing I know so well that I cannot be taught something more.

Unless we are talking about Han Solo, then I know all there is to know.

Below are some of the other places I have been writing lately:

·      I am also a contributor to Preferred Writers Group (PWG). There are new writers coming on everyday. Stop by and read some fun posts.

·      Here is my first post for PWG.

·      Hey I wrote a book called Watch out For Sneaker Waves. I think it's pretty good. It's a collection of mostly true stories about growing up and raising kids. The stories are funny. It's available for the Kindle.

·      I also write for a site called Bubblews. I am writing an ongoing series about Intellectual Ninjas, thinkers who were brilliant in new or surprising ways.  Here are links to the first five parts:

o     Intellectual Ninja #1: Henry David Thoreau

o     Intellectual Ninja #2: Emily Dickinson
o     Intellectual Ninja #3: Philo T Farnsworth, Father of Television
o     Intellectual Ninja #4: Ada Lovelace, World’s First Computer Programmer
o     Intellectual Ninja #5: Gandhi, The Peaceful Liberator

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