How do you know so much about so many things? I mean, come on, physics, relationships, history, neuroscience, pop culture, international politics, philosophy, economics, spirituality, literature… basically everything! How the fuck do you do that?
The thing I wonder is why doesn’t everybody else? There is so much amazing stuff out there worth knowing, and it’s so much fun to soak it all up.
Let me be the first to say that I am not an expert in any of those subjects. I’m merely fluent in them. I’m a mile wide and an inch deep (maybe a few inches), but that’s all it takes, and the best part is that once you start accumulating subjects, you start to see how they’re all connected. They all intersect.
That’s my trick, by the way. That’s why it seems like I know so much, because I recognize how physics connects with pop culture or neuroscience connects with spirituality or politics connects with history or literature connects with philosophy.
That’s really all I’m doing, just making connections between subjects. I mean, sure. You have to love reading and totally nerd the fuck out sometimes, but it’s so worth it. Once I’m interested in a subject I get voracious. My face is constantly exploding from all the new shit that occurs to me.
Seriously, you should try it. Once you start seeing the patterns that connect everything, it’s fucking magical.
51 thoughts on “On knowing stuff”
I’m a voracious reader, but I read almost all fiction (particularly thrillers and mysteries), which will only get one do far. I would love a Coquette reading list – maybe both fiction and non-?
Maybe even a Coquette book club?
Coquette opened my eyes to a lot of different subjects through the reading recommendations she’s posted under the tag: http://dearcoquette.com/tag/books/
I’m not sure if you’ve seen that content before? Apologies if you have!
This, too: http://www.amazon.com/Coke-Talk-Companion-Reading-List/lm/RK1W1DP028U8S
So much this. I’m a gemini and a book lover and people ask me all the time how I dabble in so many things and have interests all over. I think you put into words what I never could.
The quintessential meaning of “well read.”
She also doesn’t waste her time on Facebook.
C’mon, Dad. A balanced life allows for time for both.
Ditto. I think I had it for 5 minutes 10 years ago and promptly said nah! Also love it when people say BUT HOW DO U NOT HAVE FACEBOOK and I’m like easy. I’m amazed that people think you need it or they cannot live or communicate without it.
I am not the least bit surprised at your varied interests and pursuit of constant knowledge in so many fields.
I am always humbled and thrilled at your ability to not only call bullshit out when you see it but also drop some seriously needed wisdom. I love that you’re giving us a daily fix and as a super long-time reader, I’m giddy to wait for your next published project.
I started off reading lost, broke, unsure of my life, couldn’t commit to higher education because I feared what it would cost me. I reread your posts in my darkest times–homeless, unemployed, after being victimized sexual assault.
Has it been six years later? I have an awesome steady career, mentor other young women entering the tech industry, am a female guitarist for a touring band and have the ability to stay cool and figure life’s puzzles out. Your baddassery is my bible.
You have inspired me to start my weekly task of learning something new again!!
What is something you have recently learned? ( To anyone reading this!)
Catherine the Great commissioned excellent furniture. NSFW http://dangerousminds.net/comments/catherine_the_greats_dirty_dirty_furniture_collection
Also : http://i.imgur.com/IXDkdjr.jpg
Proud to share that name.
Thanks! That stuff is amazing.
I saw retroperitoneal laproscopy yesterday. Fascinating to see the aorta beating through a camera inserted through a hole in the stomach, and a much more delicate surgical technique than peritoneal laproscopy.
Oh, I do that too. It’s the best/worst.
Best in that I can make more informed decisions (and have more confidence in them), understand and learn new shit faster, give better advice if I’m asked etc.
Worst in that the more I learn, the further I get away from those who don’t. Communication and understanding keep getting more and more difficult, the number of people I can really talk to keeps shrinking, and the existing connections are getting shallower. I don’t have the patience of a teacher, I’d be absolutely fucking terrible at it. And I don’t know how to deal with this, exactly. I can’t very well lock myself away or spend all of my time with like two people I have left until we merge into a monster made of pretentious assholery and random body parts.
Reading this back, I realize it might be too late. God, I’m an asshole already, aren’t I? What do I do now?
Nothing about being well read made me stop loving the vampire diaries, and you don’t need to be well read to be an asshole.
That’s on you.
Being well read just allowed you upgrade your particular flavor of assholery to pretentiousness.
I think you’re projecting a lot here.
I’m pretty dickish to other assholes.
And I’m not whining about maybe kinda sorta being one.
I love coquette, but I’ve been a bit put out by the fans lately.
Just keep reading. Raise the stakes, enlarge the intellectual/mental pool you’re swimming in & regain perspective. Feeling oppressed by how much more you know than other people is a sure sign of how little you actually know.
Meet new people and don’t take a holier-than-thou attitude. While there are certainly the dummies of the world, I’m consistantly surprised by how people have things (maybe not superior intellect, but life experience,) to contribute to bettering yourself.
Talk to the weird bag lady at the bus stop. Take a cigarette break with someone you normally wouldn’t. People give themselves away in the way they speak. Observe and ask. Figure out their lives. Let them tell you how they’ve lived and learn more about yourself.
You sound like Olivia on ‘The Bachelor’ who “likes to talk smart things” and “can’t relate” to the other girls. This comment is exactly why I find so many autodidacts insufferable.
No matter how well-read or how smart you are, people always will know things that you don’t. Even if it’s just their own personal experiences, or knowledge they acquired casually. Learn to appreciate that.
That’s my attitude. Only boring people are bored. (Yes, I know how facile that is.)
I’m not pretentious, that part was a joke. The last part of my post I added later, after I was left wondering whether I’m an asshole because I don’t have the patience to explain things to people so we can get on equal footing when discussing something, or otherwise prevent misunderstandings. It makes me feel like I’m stuck teaching someone the alphabet, and I don’t want to be a teacher.
Saying I know more about some things than someone else isn’t pretentious in and of itself, it’s a fact. Everyone knows more about something than someone else, it’s just how it is. It’s bad form to actually say it out loud, and I never, ever have, but sometimes people hear it anyway. The kind of insecure people who equate knowledge with self-worth (and there’s a lot of them, thanks, society) tend to assume everyone else does, too. So if it turns out I know more about something than someone else, they assume I think I’m better than them, too (or worse, they actually believe I’m better than them) and everything is fucked before it even really began. Of course, the more I know, the more often it happens. Then it’s like walking on eggshells, it drains all my energy and I get a literal headache. I’m left feeling miserable and there isn’t a way of knowing if it even made a difference. Then I wonder why I even care so much. But if I don’t, what kind of a person does that make me?
I find a solution to that specific problem is to try leveling with people. While you may not find yourself making deep connections with people who give you a headache, but simplifying your language in a way that you can describe an otherwise complicated idea can help harvest meaningful discussions with people who otherwise wouldn’t get it. It takes some practice, but if you work on ignoring the sense of frustration that comes with explaining something you may be able to find that you’ll be able to have more intellectual discussions and feel less isolated.
On top of that, having two people who you completely connect with is an accomplishment in itself if that’s something you struggle with. I’m not sure what feild you work in, or if you’re studying something, but expanding your social life can be done through those things along with using your two friends as a way to socialize with some other people you feel you can level with.
As for the concern that people think you think you’re better than them, I would probably ignore it. It sounds like an insecurity that is being exacerbated by your inability to connect with people you don’t feel intellectually compatable with. I have four of those people in my life, and I feel rather fortunate (three are long distance and one is my partner,) and it’s a refreshing feeling to have real talks with those guys, but with the outliers, I tend to appreciate what they have to contribute (albeit, sometimes just surface entertainment,) and not toil over the lack of depth.
For example, in the past I’ve struggled with feeling like these connections weren’t genuine and that I wasn’t a real friend, but I pushed those feelings aside and replaced them with getting down and enjoying discussions with them. Those who frustrate me completely are usually ignorant people who aren’t down for any type of learning experience, and it’s pretty easy to drop them.
Enjoy your intellect. Try to feel less alone because you aren’t.
The language I use isn’t the problem, it’s that I simply don’t articulate a lot of connections I make that are obvious to me, because I’m not a special snowflake and I assume they’re obvious to everyone. So I get blank stares when I say something that seemingly came out of nowhere. Then I’m in that shitty situation where I can either let it go and feel awkward, misunderstood and isolated, or go back and explain whatever process I just went through in my head, like an asshole. As if anyone cares about my thought process and wants to hear me essentially talk about myself. So, in order to keep the conversation flowing, I have to slow down and it drives me insane. It’s a constant source of anxiety, I’m either holding back or in anticipation of having to hold back. It feels like I’m patronizing people, even though I’m not. Or am I? I can’t tell anymore, all I know is I end up feeling like an asshole no matter what I do.
Ok, so you aren’t pretentious. Here’s a thought: do you think the people you talk to go through as many feelings as you during these conversations?
Wow. This is excruciatingly relatable to me. Typically when sober and not sleep-deprived my talking/writing style get summed up as very concise, blunt, dry, to the point of being somewhat abstruse or pythic (some people find me very rude because of that and I don’t get it).
People are always surprised when they get to know me because i’m just a big sensitive pansy.
Any thoughts on that, coquette ?
I think you’re over-thinking it. I mean, I really don’t know you, but I think I get it. You sound panicked.
Breathe into it, calm down, and interact. When you’re done with the interaction, put it in the trash. The less you give a fuck about these interactions, the ones you are obsessing over, the easier they’ll get, and the more nonchalant you’ll seem. Eventually the “blurting things out” problem can be something you use as a tool for conversation.
You’ve got shit to say. Don’t be afraid.
So, in summary: “read a fucking book”?
Or the fucking internet! The repository of all human knowledge at your fingertips. Get lost in that shit.
Why is it I always feel a little embarrassed admitting I don’t read many books, even though I read a shit ton more than the average person? I’ve never been so captivated as I am by the rarely traversed personal blogs people keep, or by the rantings and ravings you find in the corners of the internet (time cube, anyone?). I feel like I have to defend the quality of both information and narrative you can find with a few google searches, and justify it all with, “and of course I read the classics… I’m not completely uncultured!”
My ‘favorite books’ section on OKC will be the death of me.
For the time being, almost every scholarly article ever written is available for free online. Its not exactly legal but until the ISPs step in, its available. Have at!
What blows me away is less the amount Coke has read and more so the breadth of information she has stored away for recall and connection to other areas of study. Any tips for maximizing retention? Take notes on everything?
The best way to retain and synthesize is not to try to remember but to read slowly and attentively, and to just relax.
It’s a bit circular, but once you start making connections, you’ll have an easier time remembering. The connections act like anchors so the knowledge is no longer floating freely in your mind, prone to drifting into unused corners.
Yep. There’s a certain gravitational force to learning. The more you accumulate, the faster the rest of it sticks.
I take notes sometimes, but a big chunk of it is making deliberate mental connections. Louis L’Amour talks about this in his novel Ride the River.
“We all remember that way, after a fashion,” I said. “Somebody says ‘George Washington,’ and right away you think of Mount Vernon, of 1776, of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, Valley Forge and all that, and each one of those things tips you off to another set of memories.
“Well, we just extended that, a-purpose. We didn’t just kind of do it by happenstance. We sort of extended it out further and further, and as youngsters we were taught not just to learn something but to learn something else that went with it. Pa, he used to say that no memory is ever alone, it’s at the end of a trail of memories, a dozen trails that each have their own associations.
“There’s nothing very remarkable about it, or even unusual except that, like I said, we do it a-purpose.”
Me too. This post describes me to a tee, except I’m not good enough at retaining details to speak as intelligently about what I’ve read. The knowledge is in my brain, but I have trouble remembering which philosopher said it or which theory of physics it comes from.
Ha, you know, I know of someone who demurred when people complimented him on the breadth of his knowledge in the same way – http://www.deviantart.com/art/Hitchens-001-406384628
I miss Hitch, deeply, in a real and painful way. I miss his dry razor wit. I miss his writing. I miss his voice.
I miss his insight. There will be things I think, but in a muddled way, and then someone else puts it just the right way and there is so much clarity! That’s Hitchens for me.
Yeah. Well, he was your teacher. He made a conscious choice to be that for whoever would listen, even if his medium and style of communicating were very different from most teachers. And you internalized what he taught and you’re passing it on, which is probably just what he was doing coming after important teachers of his own. Also, your medium and style is different from what most people associate with ‘teacher’ as well, come to think of it. So that’s a connection you have, one that a lot of people can’t claim.
I agree, Bruce! Good comment.
God Is Not Great was a watershed book for me. It gave me the courage to acknowledge and own my (dis)beliefs.
[All the chapters were good, but the one that was especially novel to me and appreciated was the rejection of the “Eastern Solution.” Sure, what people are now calling “mindfulness” (I prefer “metacognition” or “self-awareness”) is better than living your life obliviously in reactivity and denial, but USAian piecemeal picking out the groovy parts of Eastern religions annoys me so much.]
Yes!! All of this! Once you see the underlying patterns or formulas a lot of things just become obvious.
Talking about finding relations, you might like this brilliant divulgation (well, so-so) article by Barry Mazur about the mathematical approach to them:
It made me feel in love with Category Theory. And by the way, if you’ve read Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, you may recognize how the approach is so similar to the tale of Ersilia.
All the best,
Invisible Cities was the book that changed how I relate to everything. You can pick it up repeatedly over many years and still find something new. Thanks for the link.
This is how I know your zodiac sign is Gemini, Coquette.