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Sunday, February 20, 2005

I have always been pleased with the idea of knowledge as a inclusive force that has the power of bringing people together. It seems to me that with the more you learn, the more you'll be able to discuss with other people and the more you'll understand about what goes on in the world around you.

I was once hanging out with a girl who was into a bunch of ambient electronic music, a genre I'm not all that familiar with. One night, while hanging out at her house, she put on a band I'd heard of, but knew little of. I hopped up and looked them up on-line.

"You don't have to know everything," she said.

"I don't have to do anything," I told her. "But I want to know as much as I can about everything. The information is right here--why wouldn't I?"

I do believe that it's in everyone's best interest to learn as much as they can. More knowledge is always better.

Despite this belief, it's become clear to me that knowledge has the power to alienate as well as unite.

"Who sings this song?" I asked my sister.

"Neil Diamond," she answered correctly. The song was his 1968 hit "Sweet Caroline".

"I wonder if ZD knows that," I said. "ZD, who sings this song?"

"How the hell should I know?" she said.

"It's Neil Diamond," I said. "One of the most famous singer-songwriters of all time."

"Could be fuckin' Elvis for all I know--but I'll take your word for it."

There are two ways in which knowledge has alienated me from ZD. The first is that she considers me to be a pretentious asshole--this isn't the first time I've aptly used her as an example of how little one person can offer the world. The second is that I now think less of her because she doesn't know who sings "Sweet Caroline". I'm not sure if it's fair to use "lack of pop culture knowledge" as a reason not to care for someone--after all, there are probably things that she could teach me about things that I don't know much about1. Regardless of the permissability of my feelings--it happens. Many people tend to have less respect for people who can't adequately discuss things like politics, sports, music, current events, relationships, etc.

RA and I were having a beer at a local pub.

"That guy back there was so ridiculous!" he said.

"I was this close [I hold up my thumb and forefinger to show a space that isn't very big] to just saying 'Excuse me, I have to go because you're a belligerent drunk'."

"I usually just walk away in those situations. If you were to say that, he'd probably get angry because he doesn't understand what "belligerent" means, and then you'd have a fight on your hands."

"Fuck that guy--I don't care if he is a fisherman."

Again--the fact that I have the vocabulary of the average American sixth grader and someone else doesn't is a factor that could potentially get me into a fight.

The weight of knowledge is heavy indeed.

1How to have a terrible, terrible haircut, for example.