Monday, November 7, 2011

What is learning?

A recent read has been "The White Goddess" by Robert Graves.  Unusually, it took me a long time to read it.

I read quickly, devouring books, greedy and delighting in them.  But there are some that I have to really work on and not because they are badly written.  Far from it.  But because the books are dense with meaning and background and demand intellectual attention and stretching.  The White Goddess was one such.  Anything by Roberto Calasso has the same quality.  Two intelligent and thoughtful men, and I have to work hard to follow their thoughts as they work them out across the pages.  Deeply satisfying.

Neil Gaiman, Spider Robinson, Tanith Lee - equally referential, much lighter reading, equally satisfying, just not as demanding, possibly because it's fiction.  But then, all writing is ultimately about the human condition.

How much what is implicit as common knowledge changes over the years.
This got me thinking about how knowledge and learning are considered these days.  A Renaissance man (and they were generally men) might be rich with a library of a few hundred books, knowing each of them intimately.  These days, knowledge seems to be valued more when it is specialised, and there are fewer generalists, less recognition that an overview, a broad knowledge, has merit in itself.

And this totally ignores manual skills, which can be every bit as demanding as intellectual.

Not sure if there is a point to this post.... except I am constantly intrigued