Don’t Know Much


Where is all the knowledge we lost with information?

English poet, playwright, critic, and Nobel Prize laureate, T.S. Eliot, was born on this day in 1888 (died 1965).

And just think, Eliot said that before the Internet.

People used to know things.

Now we just go to Google.

People used to read a lot.

Now we just go to the television. Or Facebook.

I’m not being smug, I’m right there with you. After all, I’m hoping you’ll read this on the Internet.

I don’t think that we’re necessarily less intelligent than those of previous generations. I do think that we have a severe case of information overload and that sometimes we just think “I don’t have to remember that. I can look it up.”

There’s a lot to be said for knowing how to access that information.

Some of us remember writing those term papers where we had to use the library card catalog and cite the sources just the right way at the end of the paper. We even had to write it legibly or type it on a manual typewriter. There were no websites to search or spell checks to see if we were doing it correctly.

I haven’t written an academic paper in years, even though I keep seeing adds for content mills who want you to write them so students can buy them rather than doing their own work, so I’m not really up to speed on formatting. I just hope it’s still being taught.

For a brief while back in school I actually knew most of the formatting rules. But I don’t use them today and yes, I rely on the tools that technology provides.

I have a style manual on my desk, and my aforementioned English teacher wife. But I try to get it right by myself before I go to them for help.

On a side note my current struggle in the day job is the dreaded two-spaces after a period. The standard is now one, but it’s a hard habit to break. Mrs. Jamison taught me two spaces on an IBM Selectric over forty years ago.

I got an A in the class. Thankyouverymuch.

And let’s not even try to figure out how long it’s been since I’ve been to the library to research material. I do writing research all the time, but I rarely, if ever, leave my desk. I will occasionally read a book on a particular subject for background writing research. More often than not it’s just a search on the web.

We’re addicted to our technology and it’s made us know less. It’s made us learn less. We just don’t have to. Everything we need to know can be found right there in our smart phones. That’s a little sad.

I know that I would need to have my phone surgically removed should the occasion arise.

But let me just say, as I observed over the weekend, if you’re standing in the men’s room with your appendage in one hand whilst you’re texting on your phone with the other, you’ve got a bit of a problem.

At least wash your hands when you’re done. And your phone.

That’s a true story, and I swear he was standing in the middle of the doorway whilst I tried to leave the necessary room.

I was awed to be in the presence of such great importance.

Lyndon Johnson used to talk to his staff while he sat on the toilet. He was crude, but he was the President.

This was not Lyndon Johnson.

I digress.

Centuries ago the wife and I were asked to sing Aaron Neville and Linda Rondstadt’s “Don’t Know Much” at a wedding. We politely declined and sang something else. They’re still happily married, by the way.

And I didn’t even have to look that up.

Also born on this day in 1898, American pianist and composer, George Gershwin (died 1937)


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