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The more you learn, the less you know

  1. Nov 12, 2009 #1
    Does anyone find it immensely depressing that the more you learn about the world around you the less you seem to know about it?

    Do you ever wish you could just wonder through life, blissfully unaware of the world around you like it seems most people are capable of?

    I am in a terrible mood today and I would consider these to be contributing factors.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 12, 2009 #2
    I find it immensely exciting. Every day there is a new mountain to climb, something new to explore. Just when you think you have everything figured out, things change and you are back to square one.

    Yes. But there is a cost to ignorance. Lu Xun asked the famous question that if you were in a house that was burning down, would you rather wake the people up and have them die in agony or let them burn to death peacefully. Another question is whether or not you want to be woken up. Me. I'd prefer to go down fighting. If you are awake, you might die, but you can do something about it.

    (Do you *really* want to know how close the world came to total financial collapse last year?)
  4. Nov 12, 2009 #3
    This is kind of my driving force right now as it turns out. I really could sympathize with someone who argues that life is pointless and we really shouldn't even bother, but I've always felt like I'm not going to give the "world" (as opposed to the "man", "god", "life") the pleasure of beating me without me giving it everything I've got.

    I'm finding myself extremely agitated, depressed, angry, and I don't really know why. Some could say that clinical depression can be treated with medication, but I'm not really buying into this way of thinking. I know that I have been immensely happy in the past, and I just need to find the niche that will make me feel better about what I am doing. Its just that these things take time and I hate waiting...
  5. Nov 12, 2009 #4


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    I am with twofish. I think it is awesome that there is still so much to discover. I find it depressing when it starts to look like we've got all the answers.
  6. Nov 12, 2009 #5
    Maybe if I tweek my outlook I can feel the same way. I have a firm feeling that we will never answer the infinite number of possible questions, but I am determined to try and contribute to the questions that we have right now. I am tired of hearing people talk about all the major andvances in science and technology happening late or after our lifetime. I want to make them happen while I am here today and now.
  7. Nov 13, 2009 #6
    First off, you have to understand that depression is fairly normal. Normal or not, though, if you let it, depression will take over your life and if you have an actual chemical imbalance then its very hard not to fall deeper and deeper into depression. Just being depressed doesn't make you a candidate for medication, but the inability to bring yourself out of the fugue state of mind (or the apparent inability to give a crap. I'm new, can I say crap?) might. As one prone to depression, i can tell you what helps me are the questions. The why, how, when, what, where of anything and everything helps me stay out of areas of thought that would be counter-productive. Basically, if I don't have time to think about it, then USUALLY I don't get depressed. That is provided that nothing happens in my everyday life to kickstart the depression.
    I love the fact that no matter how much I learn, I find new things to ask questions about. With every answer comes more questions. I equate it to exploring a new area (physically). That is also how I treat it, I learn enough to be able to tell someone the best restaurants, convience stores, where the closest Wal-Mart and grocery stores are, and so on. However, I don't know all of the backroads, or the physical address for everyone living there, or even where the police stations are. I am a long term visitor, but not a resident. Basically, I am an inquiring mind, not an expert in any given field. That being said, I might know more about Bremerton, WA (or residential construction, gene therapy, particle physics, or general physics) than a resident of Groton, CT would (a polymer scientist). One day I hope to find something that fits in terms of a specialty (or a place I'd like to live), but today is not that day, and tomorrow isn't looking good either. Until then, I'll keep learning new things and figuring out more questions to ask and wondering how it all could connect from mass manufactoring to nano polymers. Or how to drive from Philadelphia, PA to Gulfport, MS without getting stuck in traffic. Again.
  8. Nov 17, 2009 #7
    Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance .
  9. Nov 18, 2009 #8
    I believe that evolution has granted us the ability to ask the question "do i want to know more or do i want to stay ignorant?" in the first place. So if you want to know more then get out there and do it, or you can live your life on the universal philosophical principal that as long as you behave in life it'll have a happy ending. Wanting to know more about our surroundings is the greatest gift we could ever ask for, besides being able to see color lol, most of us anyways. I love asking why. I love asking how. And I think everybody should too. Specially those die hard (in some cases literally) religious groups who just sound so ignorant when they try to preach about how their religion, or god for that matter, trumphs science. If you ask me science has been suppressed for the last couple thousand years, so religion just had a head start thats all, but were coming
  10. Nov 18, 2009 #9


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    Remember knowledge is finite but ignorance is infinite so you don't really "know less" you know more but admittedly are still just as ignorant as before. However....

    Your depression comes from viewing ignorance as something to be vanquished. You should rather view knowledge as something we build in the empty space of ignorance. Delight in the fact that you will never run out of new things to learn and there is infinite room to grow and explore.

    We never need lament as did Alexander the Great, "that there are more worlds to conquer!"

    We are magicians creating wondrous knowledge out of the vacuum of ignorance! Knowledge is our philosopher's stone with which we may convert dust (ore) into metals and make wealth where there was none. Knowledge is what enables us to transmute waste into fertilizer and thence into food, transmute base metals such as lead, not into gold, but into car batteries and which are more useful. Knowledge took the slime of some mold and cured the sick, fought fire with fire by inoculation against dreaded viral diseases....

    Knowledge took us to the Moon and shall take us to the stars!!!

    And here is the other beauty of knowledge. We can give it away and still keep it!
  11. Nov 19, 2009 #10
    You know, as I have been thinking. I believe that this particular depression was a result of a similar depression I had when I realized that eventually I was going to die. I was very young and I was talking with my grandmother when It happened. I remember that moment very vividly.

    I was at one point looking forward to the point when I would know everything I need in order to satisfy myself, but it was not until recently that I realized that I will never be satisfied and there will never be an end to what I can know.

    Once again I wonder if it is a curse or a blessing to be self-aware. I think you could argue both points really. I often wonder if, and am fairly certain that there is a type of person out there who is devoid of these types of internal conflicts.

    I don't think that I would trade my self-awareness for anything.
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