The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing. – Socrates
There is a series on Amazon Prime called Librarians – where a group of misfits rush around averting magical disasters.
Every once in a while one of the characters drops a line that has echoes of a paper somewhere.
“Reality is just a shared narrative we agree to believe”
“Architecture is just art we live in”
Anyway, in one of these episodes they’re rushing around and stop to discuss trees.
We’ll get to that in a second, but if you’re actually watching the series – SPOILER alert…
Someone once said to me that there will come a time when you’re working for someone younger than yourself.
That’s a bit of a transition point – a point when all of a sudden someone younger knows more than you or is given more responsibility.
I had a chat the other day with a developer – around the same age as me, perhaps younger and I asked what sort of environment he worked in.
I got an answer filled with words I had seen but didn’t really recognise.
I’m sure Kubernetes was in there, and some new programming languages – maybe there was a whisper that sounded like Java.
And there are others, hot shot whizz kids, doing magic with database queries and programming that I didn’t know you could do.
Not yet anyway – I like to think that if I spent the time I could figure it out.
At the same time, there are new and different things to figure out.
Like people and groups and organisations.
The thing is that knowledge of one type will only take you so far.
Take textbooks, for example.
Some writers are brilliant at using simple words to explain complex concepts.
Sometimes you need complex words to explain complex concepts.
But how often do you need complex words to explain something simple?
Often, however, the purpose of writing seems to be to obscure rather than explain – to demonstrate how clever the author is rather than help the reader understand something new.
Which is why, after a while, when you’re finding the path you’re on a little too much the same the thing to do is find a different path, one less travelled.
And find it before the motorway being built alongside your own path ends in yours being reclaimed by weeds.
Doing that has nothing to do with age and everything to do with attitude.
In the episode I refer to above, the baddie wants a branch from the tree of knowledge.
A huge, sprawling tree stands there, and the baddie breaks off a branch.
The hero destroys the tree and the branch rather than let it fall into the wrong hands and the baddie, thwarted, rails and departs.
The hero’s partner asks why he destroyed the tree of knowledge.
And the twist is that the huge tree wasn’t the tree of knowledge.
Knowledge is young, always growing.
It’s the small tree that is going to grow.
The young have an advantage – they are ready to learn because they don’t know stuff yet.
For those of us who are a little older, we may need to forget that we know so we can be ready to learn once again.