Skipping the Line

Today I listened to Lex Fridman’s second interview with Eric Weinstein and in it, they were discussing The Theory of Everything (the actual theory not the film) and after Fridman kept asking Weinstein to explain it to him in a way he could conceptualize, Weinstein said something along the lines of:

“You want to ask me about the Theory of Everything, but you haven’t even digested the Theory of Everything as we’ve had it since 1928… when Dirac published his equation. So for whatever reason, and this isn’t a hit on you, you haven’t been motivated enough in all the time that you’ve been on Earth to at least get as far as the Dirac Equation.”

That really struck me because it perfectly lays out something my mind has reached out toward for a long time (and I also had no clue what the Dirac Equation was). We all want experts to explain complicated things to us in bite-sized snippets we can digest, but we aren’t willing to read any of the hundreds or thousands of books and articles published on the subject. It’s simply not possible to know something just by being told about it in a conversation once. I had inklings of this idea a couple years ago and that’s when I really started to get away from asking questions on forums and trying to prostrate myself in front of more educated peers. A lot of the time I was doing that, I wasn’t even getting correct information to begin with because they themselves were far from experts.

It’s impossible to study and memorize everything humanity has learned in the brief time since we began recording knowledge. That sucks, especially for people like me who have a gut feeling that we only exist to learn everything there is to learn. I will die not knowing the (correct) answers to most of the questions I have. That’s at least mildly annoying.

So my takeaway from the last two years and change since I cleaned up my act and started living with more of a focal point in front of me is that I need to rely far less on other people, most of whom are lying simply to make themselves appear intelligent, and learn things for myself. This is a very slow process and takes a lot of work but it’s the only way I’ve ever felt like I’ve actually learned something. My father spent hundreds of hours plopped in front of the television watching that abominable “How It’s Made” show and I doubt he ever really understood how gumballs were made in the end.

This is also the first post I’ve ever re-read a day later and edited for clarity in the history of this blog. A good milestone, I think.

11 thoughts on “Skipping the Line

  1. Sometimes, including in the area of physics, I know that I’m unlikely to learn enough to actually understand, so what I look for is enough information to have some sense of what I don’t know, thereby reducing what I don’t know I don’t know.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Physics is a tough subject; to me it’s like philosophy in that it’s an attempt to understand the fundamentals of how “all of this” works which makes it interesting to read about but incredibly difficult to study. Not least because neither philosophy nor physics are just *one thing* but many subjects which rely on yet more subjects to understand even the basics of. My understanding of both has taken a leap recently due to college coursework but I still wouldn’t claim that I have any sort of expertise on either!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Such a great post. You are so right. People want to be spoon fed information for brief moments and life isn’t like that. To understand an idea it rolls around in your head for days, weeks, months, even years and sometimes you understand it deeper and deeper. The layers of a thought are thick. Most linger on the top layer and aren’t interested in peeling back the layers. They are happy appearing that they are knowledgeable about something when in fact they know of the thought not what it actually means.
    Off to read some more about togetherness/ loneliness.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah I agree. People are learning bullet points so that they can win arguments against other people who only know bullet points. Real learning is HARD. Reading Beyond Good and Evil for even twenty minutes fatigues me, lol. And on top of that I usually don’t even understand what I read so it’s also somewhat depressing. But it’s a practice and often days later I recall something I read which suddenly becomes useful.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes reading is a practice. And when you are doing something either mundane or if you are in the flow sometimes if you’re really lucky you can have an epiphany from what you read. That makes it worth it.
        Then again I do like crime novels and all sorts too.
        The bullet point people tend to be the loudest too never spouting an original thought.
        Silence in a conversation is as important as the words.
        Some are afraid of the gaps.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve become way less able to concentrate since smart phones and SM.
    I used to love learning, but now, I struggle to focus.
    Mr. UT, on the other hand, has learned how to build so many cool things, and fix things by studying books and videos.
    xo
    Wendy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s a time and a place for everything, technology-wise. I tended to develop an obsession quickly so that I wasn’t watching videos to learn something, I was watching them to turn my brain off while believing that I was being productive, lol. Mindfulness, as always, appears to be key.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I get this because I love learning new things! It saddens me to think that I’ll die not knowing the answer to certain things. I’m guilty of looking for bite sized knowledge but I tend to use that as building blocks to then further my understanding of a subject!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess deleting all my posts reset who was automatically approved to comment on my blog! I was hoping you’d comment so I could tell you that I can’t leave you comments again haha. No biggie but didn’t want you thinking I suddenly had nothing to say. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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