Sunday, August 31, 2014

#BlogElul Day 5: Know

This afternoon, after watching Return of The Jedi with the boy (Original Theatrical Release, thank you), I had a rite of passage I've been doing since 2011. I had my Fantasy Football League Draft. 

I like Football and continue to be a Patriots Fan (while slowly allowing the Philadelphia "Iggles" to colonize parts of my brain once reserved for memorizing American Vice-Presidents), but I hardly consider myself Fantasy Football material. And my scores reflect that fact; I almost always come in 6th or 7th (out of 12) every year. I don't know who the best tight ends are, or the running back who's going to give me the most points. Nor am I likely to watch every football game ever, or devour reams of data from Sports Pages and websites, in order to come to a better conclusion. For me, I play because it gives me an excuse to keep in touch with my buddies from Cape Cod. The game itself is incidental. 

And yet, I have plenty of knowledge that is unessential. I can quote whole movies, know far too much about the making of certain sci-fi films (and toy lines, and fantasy books, and comics, and...) than is healthy, and my study of comics borders on the talmudic.
This isn't to say that I disdain learning (I'd be in the wrong gig if that were so). I love studying text, exploring different reading strategies, and gnawing on a bit of something. ""My mind," he said, "rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work..."" writes Arthur Conan Doyle in "The Sign of Four", and it's true. If I'm not engaged in learning of some form or another, whether it's Judaics, or history, or the career of John Byrne, I feel antsy. 

And there are so many more ways to cultivate knowledge, be it meaningful or esoteric. The Internet, as has been written (again, and again) is a bottomless font of information. While many have gnashed their teeth at the loss of knowledge that the internet has created, I disagree. We have not lost knowledge, we have lost the skill to differentiate good knowledge from bad, to do good research and exploration. Not just to separate out good and bad sources, but to see the difference between an article on climate change and, say, an article on the latest blockbuster movie. Once those topics were categorized differently; today, with social media increasingly our source, and Buzzfeed and Upworthy and Huffington Post (and similar sources) putting out clickbait, everything begins to flow together. 

But I recognize that not all knowledge is useful. While it might please me to know when Groot was introduced first (back in the 1970s, when he was a bad guy and could talk), just as it pleases someone else to know the whole background behind the Island on "Lost" or the stats of the entire 2014 Kansas City Royals, that knowing doesn't necessarily grow me as a person.  What does is the sharing of that knowledge with others, or the opportunity to use that knowledge to create connections or build community. I will never be a fantasy football expert, but through it I spend time with friends hundreds of miles away. Knowledge of Judaism comes with the territory, but it is useless ephemera, trivia, unless it helps others create a sense of meaning for themselves and others. 

Doyle writes in another Sherlock Holmes story ("The Five Orange Pips") "'A man should keep his little brain attic stocked with all the furniture that he is likely to use, and the rest he can put away in the lumber-room of his library where he can get it if he wants.'" I admit, some of what I love to study belongs in the lumber-room, but hopefully I can keep my attic well stocked, especially if its contents give me the wherewithal to help create meaning. 

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