Knowledge Is Not A Bank

Now that my children are getting older, it has come to my attention that I have lost access to some of my own knowledge. I learned algebra in school, for example, but now that my son has taken it, I find that the lessons I had all those years ago seem to have slipped through a crack into some inaccessibly cloudy region of my skull. I know I knew it, but I can’t deny that I don’t know it now. And the same is true for much more than my maths.

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Writing Proverbs

I’ve always enjoyed the book of Proverbs in the Bible. The short, memorable sayings hit hard, like espresso shots of truth. You might say that the book is a bit like Twitter, but without the hot-takes, the cut-downs, and the crazy weird stuff and arguments… so not like Twitter at all, actually.

The whole point of the book of Proverbs is to gather wisdom and knowledge about life and living, and to pass it on to the next generation. Which got me thinking: if Solomon can write proverbs to pass on what he learned about life to help his children, why can’t I? I have lived for a little while now, and I’ve learned a few things along the way. Why shouldn’t I try to capture some of those things in proverbs—short, memorable sayings that might help my children, or someone else?

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Don’t Measure Fashions By Their Age

I’m not quite over the hill yet, but in a lot of ways I’m already old-fashioned. I like old music and old manners and old standards for grammar, and I still don’t get the new trend of using emoji skulls in the place of laughing faces. More seriously, I don’t think that the modern trend of commitment-free relationships has been good for children. Or relationships.

On the other hand, there are some old fashions that I don’t like. I don’t like wearing neckties—who decided that tying a rope around your own neck was a good idea? I also don’t like old systems of religious rules that measure love for God by obedience to commands he never gave. And I don’t like being measured by my social connections or income level instead of the content of my character—an age-old fashion that is still circulating today. So I guess I’m not completely old-fashioned.

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The Dog Knew Better

I grew up beside a mountain in Alabama, with a dog. If you want a happy childhood, that’s a good start. Sometimes the dog and I would go up the mountain, just us, with no particular destination in mind. There was always something interesting up there—little run-off streams and rock outcroppings, sunlight through leaves and the awareness of being among innumerable living things. We stayed together, but not too close. The dog and I were interested in different things, probably because I couldn’t smell as well as she could. Still, we stayed within sight, and if I decided to explore in a different direction all I had to say was “Cinnamon, I’m going this way” and she would change course without complaining. I guess there were smells to discover anywhere we went.

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Googling Wisdom

Where I grew up we called the library “Fort Book” because it looked like it would stand up well in a siege. Inside, there were rows of filing cabinets housing the card catalogue – one card for each book, organised precisely in deep drawers. If I wanted to learn something, those cards were the indexes of knowledge. Now they’re gone. Now the catalogue cabinets of the world have squeezed themselves into a little bar at the top of the screen in my hand. Getting information has never been easier. No other era of history has had the power I carry in my little glowing rectangle. It’s overwhelming. And it’s easy to assume that having access to humanity’s storehouse of knowledge should make me wise. 

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