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On Learning

The yearning for learning

Sherlock Holmes says this in ‘A Study in Scarlet’

I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.”

While on the face of it , it is very reasonable. Why burden ourselves with trivia or unwanted stuff when mind can be equipped with what is needed? But what is trivia or what is unwanted? How do you judge the possible need of a piece of knowledge? Some may well become useful later on. It would mean therefore, that we imitate the infinite sponge and assimilate all that can possible be assimilated in the fond hope it may become useful sometime later. Perhaps it is possible but hardly feasible. Should a Java software developer restrict himself to the art of perfecting the Java code and stick to it without ever wanting to learn the domain perspective of what he is realizing in the form of the software code?

It is often the pet fuss of many in the Information Technology field that increasingly the developer however experience they are need to be directed and then results can be expected. No presumption can be made as to their domain knowledge. Is it needed? Stephen Covey has enlightened many of us in the concept of circle of influence and circle of concern. Why increase the circle of concern unnecessarily? Should the CFO be really worried that he does not know as much as the Production head?

On the other hand it is believed that the human brain is actually underutilized and that with practice it would be possible to improve on the same. Improving the memory and the ability to recall is one the more popular skills that does the rounds in the self-improvement market.

With facilities like Facebook and competent reminding systems, who needs to remember your friend’s birthday? Facebook reminds you so well. With the advent of mobile phones the ability to recall phone numbers has actually diminished. Ironically it is true, at least I believe so, that we probably remember out 16 digit credit card number better than some important 10 digit mobile numbers. We do so much of e-buying.

It is more important to have the yearning to learning than to actually learn. If there is curiosity it would always work its magic.  The problem is when there is utter lack of curiosity. Curiosity lets you ask those ‘why’ questions and those ‘how’ questions which bothered us when we were young.  Curiosity killed the cat the adage goes. The only cat that perhaps died because of curiosity was Blackie reportedly in 1916 and Schrödinger’s cat – only in the thought experiment world.

Are you curios (should have been curious but for sake of posterity retained) about Blackie? If you are then you can bring it back to life after you satisfy the curiosity.



7 thoughts on “The yearning for learning

  1. Ramchandra, my 82 year old drinking pal, keeps us all occupied with wide range of trivia. He seems to know everything about everything – right from milk content in butter, cheese, paneer to alcohol content in beer, vodka, schnapps. Yet another friend, Sridar, kept us occupied with jokes / episodes for 2 full holidays.

    People like these are rare. I read a hell a lot of shit (including your blogs!) but can never recall at the right moment. Some dont read at all while some read and promptly forget.

    You got nine lives definitely Nile!

    Posted by dhananjay | August 2, 2012, 1:51 pm
  2. “Are you curios about Blackie? If you are then you can bring it back to life after you satisfy the curiosity.”

    aren’t you curious about why curiosity has no u after the o? were the people who invented the english language sufficiently foresighted to see the spellchecker coming and cruel enough to make “curios” a legitimate word to trap people like you?

    Posted by narayan | August 2, 2012, 3:13 pm
  3. People always search for “an Answer” in their lives (or ESWARANN as they say in tamil)
    Ultimately life is a search Some find “an answer” in this one while some perhaps go on to the next (?)
    in search of “an answer”.The answer perhaps lies in asking the right questions ?

    Posted by narasimha | August 7, 2012, 12:21 pm
  4. is tamil just english anagrammed? it should be called shingle then.

    Posted by narayan | August 7, 2012, 12:55 pm


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