Judging the Relevance of Previously Learned Knowledge

Sometimes I get so preoccupied with what I know or wish to learn about, sometimes to the point of arrogance.  The truth is, while knowledge previously learned has found application long after it was learned, sometimes it’s best just to research it at the moment when it’s relevant.

Some things are just common sense situations, as much of say, psychology or history, is.  Coursework just adds jargon and other added insight to it.  But in the natural sciences (the area where I have overall leaned toward), little day-to-day relevance tends to be seen.  In some disciplines, like chemistry, if you were a cook wondering about why certain things behave the way they do (e.g., why oil and water don’t mix), it may make more sense to understand that area of chemistry.  Countless other examples abound in many branches of science.  But scientific knowledge is often seldom relevant (and thus forgettable) until something warrants learning about it.

Keep in mind, our days are becoming more and more “numbered” (cf. Ps. 90), and we shouldn’t pile ourselves with unnecessary baggage, in this case, knowledge that you’ll never use.  This is similar to senior citizens ridding themselves of their material things, even though that is deliberate.  In the case of knowledge, even though unintended, people retaining less of it as they age shows an internal, yet analogous process of removing “clutter.”

Any collection, aside from those created by hobbyists, has an intended purpose.  Here’s an analogy.  Food and clothing aren’t worth anything unless you eat and wear it.  Concerning weapons, an arsenal is useless unless the weapons are to be used.  Considering collections of records, CDs, or cassettes, they aren’t worth anything unless you play them.  Considering calories in your diet, if you don’t burn them, you’ll get fat.  And so on and so forth.  Accruing anything is not worth anything unless you use it.  The same is true with knowledge.  Fortunately, if knowledge isn’t used, chances are you’ll lose it!  At least here there are checks and balances!  I personally think the Lord is directing a person in a certain way when some knowledge bonds more than others.  It works just like a colander, strainer, sieve, etc.; keep what you need, dump what you don’t.

This is a natural process, and indeed apparently supernaturally directed.  You don’t truly know anything for its genuine purpose unless you have faith in God (Prov. 1:7)  Moreover, unlike wisdom from God, worldly wisdom will not solve any problems in everyday life.  (cf. 1 Cor 1:18-31).

Solomon was also right about the ever complicating process of the acquisition of knowledge.  “Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” (Eccl. 12:12).  There is no need to hold allegiance to all the facts in a book, course, or other source of knowledge.  Once you finish, you can move on.  After all, your knowledge base is meant to be retrieved from when necessary, not dwelt on.  In fact, excessively trying to salvage knowledge can be a form of idolatry, as it may not only take priority over its normal use, but also displace devotion to God.  As for the first clause of the Eccl. 12:12 passage, look no further than Google to prove that.

As a college student, both general education and major courses are designed as a foundation that directs the path for working adult life.  They are not meant for their own sake, as much of what I’ve learned so far up to now (from both college courses and elsewhere) can be a blur sometimes.  Often, only one or a few courses in the degree provide substantial impact on one’s career, the rest can be laid aside.

So, since life here on earth is short, and we shouldn’t waste our time dabbling into pursuits that are typically intended to lead to others.  Our learning should be modest, and we should come to terms with what is and isn’t important.  Quite often the most exhilarating learning just comes spontaneously.  And as far as jobs, sometimes the training received therein is more important than the source background.

Finally, “fuzzy” knowledge from years past, when applied to a current situation, may themselves lead to a learning experience itself.

Well, keep your eye out for the garbage truck headed for the “Learning Landfill!”

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