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Knowing vs. Know How


"Well Snopes says....."

"Let me Google that"

"Check this article out! I didn't read it but the headline says it all!"

Yesterday I re-listened to a discussion with Maria Popova of Brain Pickings. During the interview, she began to kick around our current desire for answers and certainty rather than questions and pondering. "We seem to be bored with thinking. Rather we want to instantly know. But knowing is the cessation of thinking." Let me set the scene: I'm out with friends, someone asks a question, no one knows the answer, someone googles the question, spits out the answer, and the conversation moves forward. We don't take the time to dig into why and take what we find at first blush as the answer.

Or there is the article going around the internet we hear people talking about. Its a long-form New Yorker or Atlantic piece and we skim it briefly to get the gist and essence so we can be conversant in what is topical but do not take time to read the whole piece. We don't take the time to dig into the footnotes either because that would take even more time.

Despite our mindful, inquisitive culture, we do not often seek to pull back the curtain on most fronts and go deeper. Rather we see an article headline and remark, "Hell yes!!!" or "This is such B.S.!!" and then move on with our day or share it out to reinforce our stances to our friends and audience. Popova continued her above thought with, "we've been infected with a pathological impatience that makes us want to have the knowledge but not want to have to do the work of claiming it... the true material of knowledge is meaning. And the meaningful is the opposite of the trivial. And the only thing that we should have gleaned by skimming and skipping forward is really trivia. And the only way to glean knowledge is contemplation. And the road to that is time. There’s nothing else."

Despite considering myself a curious and excitable soul, something I do not practice well at moments when consuming content (articles, books, videos, etc) is deepening my search rather broadening it. Taking chauffeur knowledge from many things rather than studied and applied knowledge from a topic. Digging into the detail can feel monotonous rather than the easier high-level passes one can take with new topics. It takes time to dig into a subject. But until we take the time, as Ezra Klein would say, "to understand the super-structure beneath it", we risk misunderstanding something and therefore misattributing it."

Its time to bring back the cool in digging deeper. Next time you read something ask, "does this make sense?" Next time someone rattles off a statement to you, ask them for more detail. Let's get to the bottom of something cool.

Go Forth Boldly

"Don't believe everything you think" B.J. Miller


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