Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Word List #14: How Spring Break 1970 Never Ended
There are many definitions of knowledge. We may begin with Aristotle, who divided knowledge into three parts: theoretical, what wants knowing; practical or praxis, which ought be known; poetikos, what we think we know before it gets shoved way back in the fridge and turns into something else. One may augment this catalogue by consulting other philosophers, Descartes, Hume, Kant, Locke, Mill, all of whom explored particulars --method, substance, sensation, synthesis, transcendentalism, intuition, induction and deduction-- but I never went beyond Mill for a simple reason. When I was in grade school, people knew only half what is known now so encyclopedias just went up to M. Our school did get an advance Britanica that went clear to end of the alphabet. We were excited and suspicious. Some of us snuck into the library and peeked. Volumes N through Z were just blank pages.
When it came time to go to college, we students were asked to write our choices on a special form with a special IBM pencil and turn it in to the office. I wrote "Chico State" on mine and it was fed into the school computer, a recently upgraded Babbage Engine designed for weaving 19th century textiles but could sometimes calculate polynomials during lightning storms. It enrolled me into "Coccinellidae" which I, being young and adaptive, figured was close enough.
When I got to college it was immediately obvious some mistake had been made. The desks were tiny. I didn't fit. And all the courses were on the same subject, aphid-eating. When I asked what majors were offered, the registrar answered, "Aphid-eating, of course! For lady-bugs there are no other professions." I was refered to a counselor who didn't ever seem to be in.
I am still haunted by the idea that I may have stepped on him during my first frantic visit.