Knowledge and perspective

The other day, I was at the library (where else) and there I found a magazine I have never read before, "Filter". Being a magazine for "curious people", it seems to take on any subject that is current and needs a bit of exploring.

One article that made an impression on me concerned the, to the author Christopher Friman, worrying fact that many of us have become so reliant on external memory. We no longer know our parents or partners phone numbers, we rely on GPS for finding our way and google for every fact. Are we becoming dumber? is his question. He ends his article with the interview of a man that has trained his memory and actually takes part in memory competitions. And here is where he manages to make a point that resonates with me. In my own translation:

""To compete was never my focus. That´s just for fun. I learned this for practical reasons."
"Who ruled 1764", I ask.

"It was Adolf Fredrik. He was on the throne between 1751 och 1771. After that it was Gustav the third."
"That´s actually the exact year Johan Sverkersson became king."
"Do you know that you can google this information in about four seconds?"
"When I have learned all the swedish kings I have a structure of the entire country´s history. As soon as I learn something new I can attach that to something I already know. It gives me a context. War, changes in society... I can connect all that to the kings and create a bigger picture of how Sweden has become what it is. If you know nothing and always have to google everything, you create no overall picture. Then, you have no knowledge. Just facts.""

I find this so true. Learning something that stays with you is always the first step to conquer any new subject.

To the left is part of a page from "The Oxford illustrated history of Britain", an overview of the rulers at the time in history that I am studying at the moment, the viking ravages on the poor english, exactly 1000 years ago. Who had their most useless king of all times, surely, Ethelred the Unready.

I doubt there has been, or ever will be, a film or television drama about this time in history. No heroes, just terrorists and backstabbers, all of them. And the ordinary people? Just useful for taxing or robbing. It´s not something we can relate to today, just as they wouldn´t have been able to relate to something as odd as the declaration of human rights. Thank god the perspective of the ruling classes has changed somewhat in the last millenia!

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