You Know Nothing


At the beginning of my BA in English, a wise professor told me that you begin university knowing everything and leave knowing nothing. He also said that if this occurred then he and the other university profs had done their job. When I first heard this I considered it carefully. I didn’t think I knew everything, I knew there was a lot for me to learn, so for me how could this be?

A funny thing happened, however, as I begun to learn. Every time I learned about something it was never enough, there were holes in what the university profs taught me. I would learn about John Donne the poet and at first I would only learn one or two of his poems and what he was talking about in them. I read a selection of Paradise Lost and hated it. Then in another class I would learn a few more John Donne poems and a bit about the history of John Donne. But in between those 2 classes there were holes where I wanted or needed to learn something and had not. Then in another class I would learn about Renaissance history, then Renaissance Philosophy, then Renaissance writers, the writer’s John Donne and John Milton.

Then I read Paradise Lost in fourth year university and loved it. I found out how in their thinking, John Donne and John Milton were connected – 2 little lines that went something like: though truth and evil near twins be, truth a little elder be. This is a badly quoted line from John Donne that aptly described the truth in Paradise Lost. Satan tried to foil God through destroying mankind, but God was good, God was the truth and older and more powerful then evil, the twisting of what is good. But after I had taken that 400 level course, I found there were still holes. There was still deeper places one could go into the similarities of Milton, Donne, and other writer’s of the Renaissance. There was more history to learn about the Renaissance, true history, and literary history; there was so much more to learn and there always is in anything. This is how one leaves university having learned so much but having really learned nothing in the grand scheme of things.

Each course I took truthfully, did go deeper into what I was learning but what I was learning only really scratched the surface of what there was to learn on a particular topic, on everything. Looking back on what I learned before I would realize ” I know nothing.” But still I would feel a small victory because at least I knew something; but it was not much. I do not know when you become an expert on something or how. I think it must be impossible.

As for becoming an expert, I wish to become an expert on writing. But I have a lot to overcome to become that expert. I need more education, more discussion and guidence, I need a solid reputation, I need time and experience. I need a A lot of things and still I will only know so much and it will only matter to so many people. This is the nature of learning, it never stops, and you can never know enough because there is always more details to be learned or discovered. It also seems that often only a particular niche of people want to know what you want to know. So having a BA in English, didn’t make me a genius, neither did a diploma in Interior Design. Education is a beginning, a beginning I wish for all of you so you too will see there are holes in what you have been taught and there is always more to learn; you know nothing. I’m sorry, but it’s the truth. Ask my professor.

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