I’ve forgotten more than I ever knew.
In other words the sum total of the knowledge currently in my brain is less than all the things I once knew but have now vanished, like a magician’s rabbit, from under my hat. At what point in my life did I cross that threshold? Certainly as I was growing up and regularly attending school it seemed as though my depth and breadth of knowledge was constantly increasing. I did forget many things, obviously. I crammed for a Latin test, only to forget every verb conjugation except for amo, amas, amat (I came, I saw, I flunked). Also I tried to blank out all the incorrect assumptions I once believed were true. No, there is no Santa Claus. No, the moon is not made of Swiss cheese. No, I wasn’t brought here by The Stork (although my brother always insisted that the milkman had something to do with it). I tried my best to update my fact file constantly to reflect the latest scientific and journalistic evidence.
But then at a certain point I stopped caring. “I before e except after c?” To heck with that, use the spellchecker. How much is 48 times 72? How should I know, go find a calculator.
Also I got set in my ways. I heard that wine was good for your heart and I like to drink wine. Now, no matter how much evidence that might be presented that is contradictory to this tidbit from a study commissioned by the Winemakers Council of Bordeaux, I will always believe I am not drinking a bottle of Margaux but rather an elixir of heart medicine. Nothing will ever shake my confidence or change my mind.
So my knowledge base has fallen off as I forget facts that no longer are relevant to my current circumstances or don’t fit in with my preferred world view. Also many facts have gotten crowded out from lack of use or pushed aside because of my limited attention span or recall ability. Yes I know the pin number for my bank card, I just can’t remember it right after drinking a bottle of heart elixir. Now will this stupid machine please hurry up and start spitting out a wad of 20s so I can go back to the blackjack table while I still remember my strategy for beating the dealer?
Other factors came into play. I stopped going to school and even stopped trying to help my kids with their homework because they need to learn the stuff for themselves (and mostly because I have no idea how to solve for the binomial separator to the nth degree.) Hey, they tortured me with plenty of obscure facts that I was forced to memorize when I was in school and now it’s someone else’s turn to suffer. Plus, maybe if they actually learn this gobbledygook they’ll be able to get a job reprogramming the robotic space force someday and support me in my old age, or at least buy me a bottle of heart elixir for my birthday.
Another reason I don’t need to know as much anymore is the Internet. Any tidbit of knowledge I really want to find I can simply ask the Great Search Engine to locate. I have access to a library far larger than the Library of Congress in my pocket. Even something as obscure as “who was my 2nd grade teacher” can often be answered by the Hive Mind. If I just ask the question on Facebook some old friend will likely text it to me within minutes along with the class photo of me wearing my Daniel Boone coonskin cap.
All of this easy access to knowledge has probably has made us much lazier than previous generations. It is easier to forget things nowadays because we don’t have to face the consequences that they did. If they forgot how to multiply or divide shysters and shylocks could easily take advantage of them. There was no Google or Siri or even a calculator to help them see if they were being cheated. Whereas nowadays, for example, anyone considering signing up for something like Donald Trump’s American Communications Network can easily discover that it is a pyramid scheme that hundreds of people have sued for fraud. Of course just because those facts are available won’t stop many more people from signing up anyways, because The Don promised that he will make them as rich, handsome, and stable as he is. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “We are all born ignorant but one must work hard to remain stupid.” It certainly seems that we have more hardworking Americans alive today than ever before.
But I digress, and I’ve already forgotten what it is I am digressing from. The most important thing to remember is that you will never know it all. So just try to do the best you can with the knowledge you have. Keep exploring, keep learning, and most importantly keep taking your heart elixir.