August 4, 2013

What revolves around what?

Sitting on the wall above the Potomac River at the base of the Rumsey Monument in Shepherdstown (where I've ruminated before), watching a pair of black vultures sitting on top of the world (quite literally) preening each other, I thought of something from an episode I recently watched of the BBC series, Sherlock (episode 4, A Scandal in Belgravia, to be precise)-- In his blog of their adventures together, Dr. Watson exposes Holmes' ignorance that the earth revolves around the sun.  Holmes' lack of this knowledge becomes a source of incredulous amusement to those around him, but he aggravatedly demands "What does it matter?"  As he explains to Watson, his brain is like a hard drive and he cannot clutter it with data that is useless to his purposes.  He may have had that information in his hard drive at one point but, if so, he'd long ago deleted it. He has a point.  What, indeed, is the value of such information?  I'm sure many intelligent, educated folks out there would cite all that we've learned about the expanse of space and how we may end up needing to live on another planet some day so we'd better learn all we can about them but, really, for the average person, how does that impact their day to day living?  If a child were born tomorrow and the parents decided to keep him ignorant of the fact of the earth's rotation around the sun, say, home-schooled him and contrived to keep the information from him as far into adulthood as possible, would his life be any less fulfilled, less interesting, less meaningful, or less productive than any of us who are cognizant of this astronomical fact?  Hell, there are tribes of isolated indigenous people who are unaware of the workings of the solar system as we know them.  And yet those people live, love, laugh, create and procreate and function within their own societies just as ably as any of us who are supposedly more advanced.  

I saw a film this afternoon that was a very complex exploration of the very complex subjects of love, relationships, family, and communication.  Our knowledge of the earth's rotation around the sun did not come up at any point in the film and seems to have no bearing on the matters it addressed.  So, what impact does a basic awareness of the workings of the solar system have on a basic awareness of the workings of human nature?  Which of the two is more pertinent to daily life and, thus, more important information to store in our mental hard drives?

Another example--  Last weekend, I stood in a "sky meadow", a huge section of steep hillside in a state park in Virginia that farmers had cleared of forest ages ago for grazing their livestock.  The field is now covered with wildflowers of all kinds and the trail transects growth as tall as my shoulders. First I saw a couple of butterflies-- Huge yellow, black &/or pale blue ones, then little speckly orange ones, then tiny little blue/brown ones.  Next thing I know, I'm looking around at what had to be a couple hundred of them.  I have never seen so many butterflies in one place in my life.  It was so gorgeous I just stood there for the longest time with a big ol' fool grin on my face.  In moments like that, what difference does an awareness that the earth revolves around the sun matter?  The sun is in the sky, we are standing on the earth, the butterflies are fluttering in between, and that's enough.  Isn't it? 

Disclaimer:  I do not state anywhere above that I believe learning about the solar system is unnecessary or irrelevant, so please don't make that assumption.  This was all just random rumination, the sort of stuff that clutters up my own mental hard drive. Worth thinking about, though.  I think.



The Crow said...

What was the name of the film, Kali?

To be awash in butterflies - how wonderful.

KaliDurga said...

The film was Stories We Tell-- One you might enjoy, Martha.

lostgander said...

Definitely worth thinking about, and can be extrapolated to a lot of other information floating around, I think. Somewhere I was reading a quote from a writer the other day, can't remember which one, but the basic gist was that this person reckoned the more you know from a scientific standpoint about nature, the harder it can be to enjoy it simply for how it looks, feels, smells, etc.

(Side note: I love that Sherlock show! I wish the seasons were longer, though, as I burn through them as soon as they appear in Netflix.)

KaliDurga said...

I think that there are definitely people who can enjoy life while still learning as much as possible about the scientific aspects of it. Carl Sagan, Bernd Heinrich, and Edward O. Wilson are examples that come to mind. They're definitely not all like Holmes.

(And I agree! I just discovered the show and watched all six episodes last week. Now I'm jonesing for season three even though I know it'll be months before it hits Netflix. Wonderful, respectful portrayal of a modern Holmes, makes this purist very happy.)