The tangibility of knowledge
A guy, trying to appear smart, asked me, what is the 15th digit of PI. I googled and answered— 9. Obviously, the conversation had died quite soon.
Trying to appear smart gets as hard as never before. With the instant access to all the human knowledge, your personal collection of numbers, facts and formulas seems quite small. Whatever you know, you can never beat Google. But humanity still has some leg-up compared to the machines.
I can learn the formulas of ballistic movement from a chalkboard, or I can get them embedded into my body — with scratches and bruises, results of mistakes in a jump. The first will be the factual, distilled knowledge, accessible for everyone. The second one is tangible, highly personal, body knowledge, which converts into the intuition. It becomes the most valuable for a person, and nearly impossible to share.
How to define the most tasty tomatoes from the way they smell. What is that only one right movement which keeps you from falling down on a slippery surface. Where is this tiny but disturbing gap between the claim and the reality, which you feel interacting with a person, a brand, an establishment.
All of those is the tangible knowledge. The difference between knowing and knowing-how, which cannot be crossed by consuming information, but rather in a clash with reality, in learning by doing. Any personal experience, transferred into the words, letters and formulas, looses almost all it’s power.
My father was dropped out of the university in a first year, as he didn’t pay much attention to his studies. His motivation has raised substantially, when he started to work as a milling machine operator. He still has scars on his hands after that period. He entered the university again and finished it with the highest grades possible. How does his advice to me sound? “Study harder”. Like, really?
That’s why the motivational articles never work. People try to distillate, to define and share what drives them, and in this process it just gets lost. The most important things are not to be spelled, but felt, in action or compassion.
So let us go out and do something.