We learn things slowly. Slow learning is ok, however continuous learning is important otherwise the knowledge becomes half knowledge. The baby steps we take make us learn, yet at the same time, if we stick to the only what is written in the book without using our brain, we may get constricted and end up knowing only what we read – result – half knowledge. It is detrimental.
Half knowledge is equivalent to goat eating a piece of paper that had information. Goat would digest the paper but not the knowledge on that paper. I will share some examples.
H for Hen ‘and much more’
My daughter – Adviti – is learning alphabets – both Hindi and English. She has difficulty in saying ‘R’ and few other Hindi alphabets so she mixes up few things. In alphabets, she says E for Hathi. Because she knows the photo and she knows the name of the animal in Hindi. She used to say H for Tap tap (for horse). She found pronouncing Horse difficult so she said tap tap because horse runs with that kind of sound. We found it funny, but we wanted to correct it. Now we teach her H for Hen. Once we were teaching her and for something I said Hand. She got confused H for Hand or H for Hen! This is a learning process, we slowly understand that H for Hen was just for us to learn the alphabet H. H has many more alphabets be it a noun or otherwise. Imagine Adviti restricting herself to H for Hen alone! She will miss a multitude of things in life (more than 33000 words starting with H included). Half knowledge can restrict one’s horizons.
Knowing book by page number is not knowledge
The second incident is about half-knowledge but knowing some stuff to the T. I loved Chemistry subject, in standard 12, and especially a textbook ‘Comprehensive Chemistry’ the most. My special liking was Organic chemistry. I read the book multiple times such that I remembered the page number, the image of the page, and the content of the pages. Even after a year, when someone asked me a question, I responded – open Comprehensive Chemistry, go to page 236, it is on the left side of the book, in the center, there is a picture just below the picture read 2nd para (say the last para) you will get the concept. The answer to your question is – “XYZ”. Do not search for the book and pages now – I am talking about 1998, many things might have changed by now in the textbook :).
Knowing such details of the book (One book precisely) did not make me an expert in Chemistry for sure. Because all that was mostly bookish knowledge with few experiments in Chemistry lab of School. At best, I had a photographic memory – not expertise in Chemistry, isn’t it? Even a Ph.D. may not say (s)he knows the fundamental subject line Chemistry / Physics completely.
The other incident happened with my cousin brother and my eldest sister. They were talking about the education system of India. My cousin brother said there are downsides to teaching kids a medium (language) that is not the mother tongue. He recalled a neighbor who used to call an elephant – ‘Hathiphant’. This coined word is a mix of two words; Hathi a Hindi word for Elephant and part of Elephant – Phant. Merge these words and you will get Hathiphant. This confused toddler learned both words at home and in confusion made the Elephant a Hathiphant. Half knowledge can make one jumble multiple things and make a conclusion that may be incorrect.
This has happened to me too when I was a student. We learned something and later that something became another thing (Hathi to Elephant). Let me tell you how can q kid get confused. I learned – I live in Dhar (a small city in India). Later, I learned- I live in Madhya Pradesh, lastly, I learned- I live in India. How is that possible? A 6-year-old cannot understand why and how can one person be in three different places? Later it was clear what living in three docent paves meant😄. In 3rd we had nine planets, later Pluto was removed from the list, funny isn’t it?
Well, no it is not funny. We keep on learning. If we stop learning and improving our knowledge becomes half knowledge. This half-knowledge is harmful. Our learning makes us understand that our knowledge is limited and we are consistently adding to our body of knowledge. Alas! Some people, knowing one book, feel as if they’ve known everything. Reciting few books by page number and chapter plus paragraph didn’t make us intelligent or omniscient.
I had a photographic memory of the Chemistry book, but I wasn’t fully aware of the field of Chemistry, isn’t it? Well, but why am I talking about it here? This applies to spirituality too, have you heard people reciting verses from books? Do they have the knowledge, mostly no? They at best have a photographic memory to vomit words from a reference book. Knowledge and experience on the spiritual path are pristine, once you hear those enlightened masters you quickly get connected. I have met a few of such masters in person, I have that first-hand experience of witnessing the presence.
Similarly, in businesses too, not all business grads become successful managers or entrepreneurs. Becoming a successful business person requires more than the degree, knowledge, isn’t it?
The point is, be it the path of spirituality or business, or a toddler learning language, we keep on learning and experiencing new things. Every experience is unique and thus, if we assume that photographic memory of any certain book is the knowing everything; it is – in effect – detrimental to not just one person but everyone around. On the path of spirituality and religion it a disaster for sure.
Every situation demands a unique set of tools. I think that is why Krishna was needed on Pandavas’s side during the Mahabharat war. Yudhisthir – and all Pandava brothers were – (was) predictable. They went by the book, defeating Pandava’s won’t have been tough for Kaurava’s because they knew Pandava’s would go by the books all the time, besides having a bigger army. That is where unpredictability and Krishna’s intelligence came in handy. Experience of bending the rules could play in the hands of those who understand the situation and learn from experience. Those who learn from and are ready to learn from the experiences do not have half the knowledge. Be ready for learning, implementing, experiencing, and continuing it lifelong.
Image source – Flickr