Posted on August 18, 2011 by Colin

There Was a Time

 

There was a time when it made sense to spit on wounds.

We didn’t have a very good understanding of disease or germs of any of the medical science that we understand today, and enough stories were told about the healing properties of human saliva that it seemed like a smart choice to expectorate on any flesh wound within range.

There was a time when it made sense to kill anyone who claimed that the world wasn’t flat.

To say such a thing went against the church’s edict, and to do so meant that everything that society was built upon — the very fabric of what kept civilization ticking away — was wrong, and in the minds of those making the decisions, a few lives were worth sacrificing for the sake of maintaining power and stability.

There was a time when it made sense to keep marriages traditional and races from intermingling.

As far as we knew, allowing a man to marry a man or a black person to marry a white person would lead to death, destruction, and the sentencing of various peoples’ souls to hell, not to mention the social instability that was bound to happen should something along those lines occur.

There was a time for these things, but today is not that time. Not anymore.

Back then, we had all kinds of beliefs that later proved to be untrue, and we’ve left a goodly number of them behind.

Yet for some reason, we’ve decided — out of laziness or, stubbornness, or sheer ignorance — to hang on to others, not because they’re true, but because we’re uncomfortable with change.

Clinging to old, factually-inaccurate ideas, simply because your family or church or politicians refuse to update their mandates based on new information, is the easy way out of having to make decisions for yourself. What’s ‘true’ will change based on the time, because as a species we continue to learn and spread the knowledge that we come up with. But to have access to the most up-to-date knowledge and not using it is tantamount to not having it at all.

There’s an excellent quote attributed to Mark Twain that goes like this: “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.”

The same thing applies to knowledge in general, regardless of how the information is taken in.

If you have access to knowledge but choose to ignore it, or to deny its validity because some other entity tells you to ‘look away! look away!’ due to incongruence with its traditions or tenets, you have no advantage over the poor, ignorant souls of the Bronze Age who didn’t have access to the fruits of so many centuries of trial-and-error, study, and scientific experimentation.

There was a time when there was an excuse for ignorance; we simply hadn’t built a proper infrastructure for learning and retaining knowledge, and those who wanted to learn would likely never gain access to the resources they needed to do so.

Today we have the opposite problem: an abundance of knowledge, and too-few people willing to take advantage of it, either ignoring facts to back up their own opinions, or simply lacking the ambition to reach out and take it.

What field of study are you incredibly ignorant about? European history? Algebra? Fundamental coding languages? Cooking? Parcheesi?

Try choosing a topic per week to study: you’ll be amazed at how the times have changed.

There’s no time like the present to fill the cracks in your knowledge, and these days the plaster is free (though you’ll still have to apply it yourself).