Monday, June 11, 2007

Look It Up!!

I got a haircut last week and no one (besides my wife) has said a thing about it. I don't know why. My barber calls it a "Caesar cut." I don't know if that's because I look like a salad, or a roman emperor. There are many things I don't know.

You might say that in a lot of ways, I'm an agnostic. That word comes from the Greek term a-gnosis, without knowledge. An agnostic is a not-knower. That much I do know, or at least I think I know. Some mornings I get up not knowing much, but at least I know that I don't know. That's better than being a person who thinks he knows it all, while the rest of us know that he doesn't.

You may have heard that "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing." That's actually a misquote of Alexander Pope's Essay on Criticism (ca.1709), in which he says "A little learning is a dangerous thing..." When I teach a Bible class, I will often start by saying, "Much of what we know, just isn't so." And I have a Dictionary of Misinformation to prove it. I believe that there's nothing more dangerous than ignorance. Some may even be so bold as to say that if you are ignorant, you might justifiably be called an ignoramus. I don't know about that. That's pretty strong language.

I was taught (and now teach) that the key to learning is repetition, repetition, repetition. My teachers were not the first to come up with that idea. The apostle Peter wrote, "So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body...And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things (2 Peter 1:12-15)." You see. Repetition, repetition, repetition.

I'm aware that I've mentioned before how important it is to educate yourself about mental illness, specifically depression and bipolar disorder. As Peter said, "I will always be ready to remind you of these things." Now, when I say educate yourself, I mean that you have to assume responsibility for acquiring knowledge of these things (and others). It's not likely that anyone else is going to teach you, so you will have to teach yourself.

My Dad only had an eighth grade education. In his generation, that was about the equivalent to having a high school diploma. Even though he eventually became an electrician, he frequently impressed me with the extent of his knowledge about a variety of subjects. One of my strongest memories is of him sitting in his chair reading, with a dictionary on the floor beside him. When I would be reading my own books, and would run across a word that I didn't know the meaning of, I would say, "Dad, what does this word mean?" His reply was always the same. "Look it up."

That was his method of teaching me to teach myself. It worked for him, and it has worked for me. We have had the same philosophy about self-education. As a child, one of the best presents I ever received was a set of encyclopedias. I nearly always had one volume in my hand, one in my bedroom and another in the bathroom (yes, I do). Even now, I keep at the ready my dictionary, thesaurus, personal library of reference books and more importantly, my computer. I'm a person who wants to know. Now, not only I, but all of us have a world of knowledge at our fingertips. If we don't know much about depression and BPD, it's because we don't want to know. We have at hand books, magazines, pamphlets, DVDs, support groups, and the WWW. There is no excuse for ignorance. Don't be an ignoramus.

This is another of my attempts to motivate you to "get in the know." Educate yourself. Look it up. And give other people the benefit and the blessing of your knowledge.

"The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out (Proverbs 18:15)."

["I'm so low, I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

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