Sep 23, 2010

Wiser than Socrates

Socrates has been called one of the wisest men who ever lived. Why? Was it because he influenced human thought more than perhaps anyone prior? Was it because he died for his convictions, being the first martyr to the cause of independent thought? Was it the beard? Maybe it was the beard, but most scholars agree he was wisest because he only knew one thing: nothing.

That being said, I have to disagree. Except for the beard. That thing is epic. As I've gotten older and have been in school since before I can remember, I find I know even less than nothing, and no one is praising my wisdom or knowledge. True, I never ate hemlock, but I did have some bad enchiladas one time, those almost killed me.

I'm nearly ten years older several people in my drawing class. I love drawing and have been doing it since I could hold a crayon (and slightly before that, so I'm told.) Yet, these people, only eight years older than my leg, make my drawings look like they were done by an enthusiastic six year old. (Granted, my drawings themselves make them look like they were done by an enthusiastic six year old, but it isn't so glaringly obvious when compared to nothing.)

I've had my job for nearly a year, and there are so many things I don't know. Now that I'm one of the most senior scan technicians, (senior=being here the longest) a lot of people are coming to me for answers I don't know. How do I close out of a telnet line? I don't know, I just close the terminal. How do I test for an information disclosure vulnerability with a Domino Server? I don't even know what that is! Ask a manager. True, at least I know more than I did when I started, but most of my knowledge is from memorization, nothing I have really internalized. I know a customer needs to increase their cipher strength, run their TFTP in a chrooted environment, but I don't know how, or even why. (FYI, this is me complaining. You don't need to explain these to me, those of you (Ammon) who are more technically minded than me).

My other classes are just as bad, if not worse. Finance? I'm almost 30 and don't know how to manage money. I know I should invest it, but what does that mean? Where do I invest it? My teacher is going on about protecting your capital, and I'm like I don't have capital! Do I? How can I protect my money when I have so little? How about I stop paying my HOA so much for doing so little? That seems like a smart idea, but everyone tells me that's bad.

Ethics and Values, I feel like a psycho-heretic for having views contrary to happy valley. Not that I'm some Nihilist or (shudder) liberal, but I just think I know a bit more than some, and often have a contrary view. Case in point. We're studying Immanuel Kant and Kantian ethics. (Named after guess who). Long story short, Kant was religious and tried to align religion with logic and principles. Kant said (among other things. Holy moly that Kraut was verbose) doing something selflessly for someone else has no moral worth. In other words, you shouldn't help others to feel good about yourself. Someone asked "How could he be a Christian? Aren't we taught 'men are that they might have joy?'" I raised my hand and explained that first of all, that quote is from the Book of Mormon. True? Absolutely. Available to Kant, who died in 1804, a year before Joseph Smith was even born? Probably not. The classmate then said "Well, the Bible teaches the same thing." I'm sorry, have you read the Bible? Christ's ultimate teaching and rule: love. True. But the Bible doesn't really teach that men are that we might have joy, it teaches exaltation through suffering, growth through tribulation. Kant was expressing that the reason for helping others isn't to feel good, it's because of a duty inherent in all of us. We should do good because it's good, not because we get good feelings because of it. Everyone looked at me like I was from Kolob or something and I actually heard someone gasp when I said I too was Mormon. I wasn't saying Kant was right or wrong, I was just explaining what he was saying.

Austin, according to his Ethics classmates.

Ok, that last paragraph isn't so much about what I don't know (or is it?) than about what other people don't know.

Sometimes you gotta vent. People often tell me I'm a gifted writer. No, it's true, they do. I just submitted a bunch of my writing to the school literary magazine Touchstones and I already think I'm going to get rejected, as I did a few years ago.

I'm just complaining right now, thanks for listening. I just feel not only the older I get the more I realize there is I don't know. I am also realizing the older I get the less I know than people younger than me. And that's sad. Maybe that's what Oscar Wilde meant when he said "the old believe everything, the middle aged suspect everything and the young know everything."

That's right. I just can't end a post without quoting Oscar Wilde. At least I know him better than most people, Richard Ellman excepted.


Ross & Amanda Goodman- but mostly Amanda :) said...

I hate my hoa more than most anything on earth.

Tracie said...

Great post hon. You are a great writer. :)

I will never be so arrogant as to believe that I (or anyone else) have all the answers.

Another thing I've learned: Just because you believe something at one point in your life doesn't mean you won't change your mind later. Things that I was so sure of as a mature 19-year-old have completely exploded in my face by the exposure to new thoughts and new ways of thinking.

Mark said...

I had a similar experience comparing CSUN and BYU. While at Northridge, I said, "I think a woman has the right to choose her path - a career or a homemaker/mother are equally valid, and it should be her choice" I heard cries of neanderthal, suppressor, reactionary, chauvinist Mormon pig. While at BYU, I said, "I think a woman has the right to choose her path - a career or a homemaker/mother are equally valid, and it should be her choice" i heard cries of California liberal, feminazi, and worst, California Mormon. and mostly I still believe it, but I guess where I stand depends on where you stand.

Ammon said...

Whoa, this might be your most entertaining post ever! I love how you started with Socrates Johnson. I love his quote "All I know is that I don't know. All I know is that I don't know nothing. And that's fine."

Oh, wait, that's Operation Ivy, not Socrates. My bad.

Also, I'll spare you the lecture on TFTP this time, but you really should be using SCP instead.

Jacob I. McMillan said...

If it makes you feel any better, *I* consider you one of the wisest men who's ever lived. ")

Which piece did you submit? The vampire one?

Austin said...

Amanda- HOA stands for "Incompetent Morons Who Steal Your Money." They're so incompetent they can't even spell right.

Tracie- Thanks, sweetie. I think so too, but I love when people agree with me. You make a very good point. We're always learning and always growing. I just feel behind the curve when I was younger I felt way ahead of the curve. I'm beginning to suspect that it was more youthful egotism and less actual knowledge that made me feel that way.

Dad- I've never heard that story before. So funny and so sad. And true. The best kind of story there is.

Ammon-That's because Socrates Johnson is the best guitar player in the world. We don't use TFTP, we usually tell our customers not to. I don't know what SCP is, but when we use FTP it's only to test for anonymous FTP logins. And the terminal usually doesn't work so we use fireftp.

Jake- It does make me feel better, thank you. Yes, the vampire one was submitted, as well as the Crazy Cat Lady, a poem, a scene I wrote at the end of my creative writing class about women who use animals like spiders and snakes for personal grooming, an excerpt of the Dark Room that's on BTBL and I think one more but I can't remember.

Ammon- Yes, I left a long comment, but it's not as long as the original blog entry, I checked.

HailerStar said...

HOA = annoying. Tho I've seen that if you fight them it usually ends up nasty and in court.

I rather liked this post. Only because I understand where you're coming from (by going to college with a more mature perspective than you had the first time around). That, and it's nice to know other people - besides myself - are struggling right now (because I'm dealing with rather a lot and you know 'misery loves company, bro!')

Also, I agreed completely with what you said in your ethics class (as it is completely stupid for someone to expect Kant to understand or theorize by the BOM principles when he'd never read it, etc).

Thanks for being you! And expressing your worries and humanity (as it lets me know I'm not alone!)