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PostThe Adventure of Learning: Gary Moore Reflects (John Eipper, USA, 11/13/21 3:40 am)
Gary Moore writes:
A beautiful reminder from David A. Westbrook (November 6) that learning is an adventure.
The idea--that learning is an adventure--has been hackneyed almost into invisibility, but its majestic power remains. Bert went farther (with his learned interlocutor John Schlegel) to remind that the essence of adventure, including learning adventure, is fun. Tolkien pointed out drolly (in every bygone hippie's adventure-Bible) that the hard facts of real adventuring--into the peaks or the horizon--are actually miserably uncomfortable, since Mama is not out there preparing your hot cocoa. But that irony only deepens Bert's meaning of "fun."
To be driven by the thrill of the unknown--the "fun" of adventuring geographically or intellectually--is to again meet the hackneyed commonplace obscuring the sublime. The Unknown, the Beyond. These are what call to the scholar in the stacks (following what Arthur Koestler dubbed his intuitive "research angel") or to the physically miserable Dr. Livingstone yearning to map the Lualaba River. Just the mere physico-perceptual fact of the horizon is a talisman, compressing every inchoate inner roar of "What's out there is more than I know!"
And in the adventure, the very meaning of knowing something is that it gets you that much closer to the next step, into trying to learn or figure out that which you don't know. It doesn't have to be the giant step all the way to God. Just that next locked door on the indefinably lengthy way is somehow transfixing--because it's right there staring at you, demanding inquiry.
The "fun" of it is a quiet insinuator, long-habituated as merely the routine of seeking a research goal, and yet in anybody's Bible that horizon is God. Even to the atheist, there is That Which Is Beyond What I Know. "The beyond" doesn't have to be distant galaxies or an old guy sitting on a heavenly throne, but something as overwhelmingly yet familiarly unknown as...memory. Why can some savants remember nearly everything they've experienced, and on what day (and not just autistic savants but completely unmarked people like actress Marilu Henner, whose one-in-a-million mystery is dubbed HSAM)? Why, physiologically, can't I do that? I know from the rare astonishing flashes that every memory is in there--somewhere, lurking. So why can't I access them, when Marilu can? That, too, is The Beyond. The thrill of thinking of striking the priceless jackpot, of breaking through to the next level of The Unknown.
Eureka! (Sounds like fun?)
What a fitting anthem Bert has called up for the mysteries of WAIS, whose fundamental engine is the unfathomable drive in all us to express what we know--or to reach for what we long to know.
JE comments: There's one affliction all WAISers share--the thirst for travel. Do we go places to learn new stuff, or for the sheer thrill of it? In my case it's the latter, although I cite the former as justification.
I had never before heard of HSAM (highly superior autobiographical memory)--or if I had, long ago I forgot about it. (!) Its opposite number is SDAM (severely deficient autobiographical memory).
HSAM may be as much of a curse as it is a blessing. How often does forgetting bring us peace? WAIS is many, many things for me, but on a persona level it's a mnemonic tool. What year was I in La Paz, Bolivia? Well, check the WAIS archives.
The late, great Randy Black was a citizen of the Republic of Amnesia. In case you forgot, here's Randy's 2011 explanation: