What Is Worth Knowing?

Maggie and Ben are constantly asking us to tell them stories.  We do our best, but they admittedly can wear us down at times.  Ben asked for one today, and I didn't really know it, so I suggested they tell me.  Maggie busted out an incredible recitation.  It's called "The Night Kitchen", an old Maurice Sendak story that we have an animated version of.  She can't have seen it more than six times, but she went on for minutes, reciting it perfectly.

Never has my brain felt so old.

Throughout my medical training, I often would think back to my undergraduate self, sitting in class, no notes to be found anywhere, soaking in what was being said with rapt attention.

Then I'd shake myself back to the lecture already in progress, and realize that, despite my concession to take notes, I wasn't going to take away much from this hour of listening.  It's not a dramatic shift, and my overall capacity for learning is fine, but the change feels real.

And so now Maggie's brain, my college brain, and my current brain seem to be points on a straight line, of which the slope is not positive.


Not really.  It depends on what I'm trying to steer my mind towards, but the crux of the matter is that I'm finally learning that not everything is equally worth knowing.

"Here in the information age, what is it exactly that we are so incredibly well-informed about?"  A quote passed on from James Paternoster.

Some things are very worth knowing.  Given my life, the French language and the Kirundi language are two of them.  Scores of medical concepts are worth knowing.  But not all of them.

I've had years of devouring books, going from a lecture at work to an NPR article in the car to an evening of reading.  I'm thankful for these things, but there is much vanity here, and I'm pretty sure many of us run a risk in the digital age of being reduced to info-mongering.

What is worth knowing?

"Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up."

If my brain is gradually slowing down, but that which I know is more apt, more useful, more true, more beautiful, have I just gotten a consolation prize?  Or is it a trade only a self-centered info-mongerer would turn down?

I'm glad for the stories.  I'm glad for the wisdom of so many that I've gained from.  And yet it may just be that a few minutes of solitude would express something more worth knowing.

By the way, rural Africa should be a pretty good place to learn this lesson, but there is still a choice to be made.


Eric Selle said...

Wonderful blog post! I can relate.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, Eric Selle! Thanks for this (rachel...or eric? sometimes i like to guess at which of you wrote it) ;)