All I know is what I read
It’s subtitled: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World. And it revolves around Jacobs’ process of reading the Encyclopedia Britannica in its entirety so that he “would know everything.” And, if he had a patina of knowledge about absolutely ‘everything’ then he would indeed be very wise. Anyway, without belaboring the point, the book is extremely funny and also very thoughtful at the same time.
And I understand where Jacobs is coming from. I too embarked on a similar quest at the same time he did, back in elementary school days. Like Jacobs, I wasn’t an athletic kid – “Hockey. That’s the game you play with that flat, black non-spherical missile, right?” -- but in some sort of spirit of competitiveness, I found that I earned certain kudos by knowing stuff. I became a veritable fount of smartass knowledge, but found in short order that elementary teachers don’t like to be ‘corrected.’ “Excuse me, Miss Jones, but I think you’ll find that the Black Plague wasn’t caused by rats, but rather by the fleas on the rats.”
Anyway, as time passed and I got into high school I began to dumb down. That was mainly because being knowledgeable was excessively uncool. I wanted to be cool because I figured you had a much better chance of getting laid if you were deemed ‘cool.’ I don’t know if I succeeded in my ‘cool’ quest, but I do know I didn’t get laid a whole lot. In any case, I was a bit of a fraud because even though I had regressed to using monosyllables and a lot of expletives, I was secretly reading on the side.
Then I met a really hot girl (in every sense of the word) who was also an intellectual, so being smart again was not only cool but also led to fulfillment of another quest of mine.
Eventually I went to university where I found I could be both smart and cool, and the only problem there was that many others fell into the same category, so the competition was stiff.
Ultimately, I became a journalist. This is a wonderful vocation for a knowledge
whore because any good journalist is an awesome generalist – a person who knows a little bit about a lot of stuff, as opposed to a ‘specialist’, who is a dweeb who knows a whole lot about one obscure little area and nothing about anything else. Generalists rule, in my esteem.
You see, I might be given an assignment to interview a prominent astro-physicist (OK, the choice was either an over-drinks interview with Cameron Diaz, or this astro-physicist, so my selection was understandable) Anyway, to talk to this guy and understand where he is coming from, I need to know something about astro-physics. So, I peruse the Internet or the library and find out just a little bit; mainly so I can use the right terminology with this ‘specialist.’ I do the interview and it goes all right. Then I have to write my story and convince my readers that I know a hell of a lot about astro-physics. I must, or I couldn’t be explaining it to them. Maybe it’s all a bit fraudulent, and it’s a thought to bear in mind any time you read an article and the writer ‘seems’ to be authoritative on the subject. In fact, he or she may know no more than I did about astro-physics.
Once a year our newspaper would mount a trivia team for the great Comox Valley Firemen’s Trivia Contest (mounted by firefighters with the proceeds going to their pet charity, muscular dystrophy). It was a competition that the newspaper team invariably won. Our stiffest competition came from the local college – the other teams really didn’t count. But, the college, with its dweebish ‘specialists’ resented the fact that a pack of lowly scribes could smoke all those highly-schooled folk of academe. It didn’t seem right, to them. They even resorted to cheating on occasion; or at least fudging their scores. But, invariably it was to no avail. Our team, the illustrious ‘Typographical Terrors’ would always take the day.
So, maybe a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but ask Ken Jennings of Jeopardy fame if it’s always a non-lucrative one. Ken Jennings was like London cabbie Fred Housego who, about 25-years ago smoked all the academic competition on the British quiz, Mastermind.
We rule, Ken and Fred and I, not to mention all my blogger contacts!