Will You Want What You Find?

  Image : Geoff Oliver Bugbee

Image: Geoff Oliver Bugbee

Confusion can be your friend.

Read this lengthy essay on "the value of not knowing everything" for a powerful argument about the usefulness of the humanities and of not knowing, about poor focus and the process of discovering what wasn't being sought.

This excerpt appealed to me in particular.

McNerney brought up Darwin. Darwin, he explained, would never have read Malthus’s 1798 essay on population growth, and thus would never have developed his theory of natural selection, had he been 'searching for birds on Google.' The comparative looseness of information, the unchanneled nature of investigation, joined with Darwin’s innate curiosity, is what led to one of the most unifying explanations of physical existence the world has known. What sparked it all was pure serendipity.
In our age of endlessly aggregated information, the ultimate task of the humanities may be to subversively disaggregate in order to preserve that serendipity. After all, a period of confusion inevitably precedes the acquisition of concrete knowledge. It’s a necessary blip of humbling uncertainty that allows for what McNerney describes as 'the call and response' between disparate ideas. As long as that gap exists, as long as a flicker of doubt precedes knowledge, there will always be room for humanistic thought—thought that revels in not knowing. As long as that gap exists, we will not be reduced to the moral equivalent of computers."

Nicholas Carr also talks about the nature of search in a blog post that also recruits Robert Frost to shed light on the issue, "The Searchers."

Search, Carr says, should change us. Read the piece - and the poem.

Related, I've often thought that Jonathan Fields touches on something essential when he asked how long are you willing to live in the question?

So don't be too hasty to avoid confusion. It may be signalling that discovery is nearby.

Stay curious™

Wayne