Monday, August 30, 2010

Musing Monday...Knowledge Is It's own Reward...Right?

This week’s musing asks…

How often do you actually put into practice what you learn from reading nonfiction books (if you read nonfiction, that is)?

Ok, I think this question presumes that the non-fiction we are talking about is "useful" non-fiction. I mean, you could read a book about, say, the greatest battles of WWII or the history of streetcars and I am not sure how one would use that knowledge. Now, if it was a book about how to build a streetcar, yes, that might be something you could, however unlikely, put into practice.

I am a great believer in the idea that you can learn just about anything in the world you might want to from a book. Yes, practically, it might take some trial and error to get it right, but books offer us all this knowledge, just there for the picking. It is why giving someone the ability to read is so very important.
One summer, when I was in college, I completely redid a bathroom using one book for all my knowledge, The Reader's Digest Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual. Completely, from new water resistant green wallboard, new ceiling, tile floor and walls, new fixtures...all things I had never done before, using that one book. I have many 'practical' non-fiction books in my library, on gardening and cooking and birdwatching and star gazing and knot tying. Yes, knot tying
Yes, books can be very, very useful, very practical.

Now MizB, our host for Musing Monday at Should Be Reading makes an interesting comment in answering this question, to the effect of what use is all this stuff she reads, all this knowledge, if she does not use it?

Oh, that seems, somehow, such a modern idea, even a sad idea. Not uncommon certainly, but not one I like.
All knowledge must be useful or it has no value. Knowledge that is not used is a waste of time. Everything we do, everything we learn must be useful, practical, have some payout. Take my interest in lighthouses. I have had people, people I know in RL, ask me what is the point of reading about them, visiting them...what is the point? Can you write a book, can you make any money at it? I studied Greek, ancient Greek in college. It had no practical use, except that I enjoyed it. I enjoyed learning it, figuring it out, glimpsing, in a unique way, a culture that existed thousands of years ago. But no, it will have no payout. I like lighthouses. I think they are beautiful, often in beautiful places and that beauty is it's own reward. I think their history is often fascinating, the stories engaging, and that is it's own reward. It is uplifting, it is enriching, it is fun.
Knowledge, the desire to gain knowledge, the curiosity about things and the desire to get those answers is part of what it is to be human..even if we can't make a penny from it.


  1. LOL. You make me see that maybe I wrote my question too hastily, without giving it enough thought. THank you! :P

    You're right... knowledge can be taken in without having to have any specific purpose. We can read nonfiction just for the joy of reading... we can read it to know about something we didn't before (but not necessarily need to USE that knowledge).

    Thanks for the "correction". ;)

    ((and congrats on that bathroom -- that's impressive!))


  2. It's not a correction...just a bit of a different opinion.
    the bathroom turned out amazing nice. I was too young to know it might

  3. Thinking of hiring you to redo my bathroo lol. Good for you for tackling and completing your project.

  4. Just being entertained is enough of a reason I think. Still, in just about every book I read, I pick up tidbits. How to properly shoot a sniper rifle. How to debone a chicken. The history of the Greek Turkish war. And in many cases, I DO use it. For example, I was blown away by Devil in the White City, and the history of Chicago's architecture and the World Fair. I didn't go out and design a building, but my brain exploded with questions and interest in the subject, and have since made it a sort of research hobby!

  5. Yes, and sometimes we absorb knowledge and don't really think about it, and then something comes up and that piece of knowledge asserts itself into our "a-ha" moment.

    It was a subtle snippet, perhaps, but lying there waiting...

    Here's what I wrote:

    Click my name for the URL.

  6. I love your comment about how something may not have practical use, but isn't useless.

    I love non-fiction and don't think it deserves its boring and useless reputation.

  7. I'm very impressed that you redid a bathroom using only a book from Reader's Digest. Most impressive!!!

    And I agree with you ... some things are not "useful" but they definitely have value!


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