“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”– Confucius
General knowledge has always been important to people all my life although I don’t know why. Before you go on to tell me exactly why and how important it is, just hear me out. As a child, to me, general knowledge seemed like irrelevant over-glorified information that would make me look smarter than my peers at school and cousins I met once a year.
Of course, my school was instrumental in making ‘GK’ both an achievement and a competition. I didn’t care for it much until I started to collect so much irrelevant information that I forgot it when I really needed it.
Honestly, every time in a conversation when someone asks me a question I know the answer to, it’s like looking for a book in an old library that doesn’t use computers to catalogue its books, but rather those old drawers filled with reference cards, commonly called card catalogues. By the time I’ve gotten to the answer, the other person has made an assessment of my intelligence choosing to believe that I didn’t know the answer and was pretending to have forgotten it.
Today, I downloaded an app for quizzes. I recently graduated to a phone with more memory so obviously instead of downloading apps that will actually help me in some way, I’ve been downloading all those that will only sit on my phone consuming my memory and battery life in equal portions. After a point you spend more time watching adds and telling the app you’re not rich enough to buy their in-app purchases over and over again until you get annoyed and uninstall it.
So I’m currently in the honeymoon phase of having excess memory on my phone. I won’t name the app, because I don’t want to accidentally provide bad press for the app…or good press, you never know. I thought I’d be learning new things, instead, I’ve only been using it to make myself feel smart. The minute I got on it, I chose exactly which topics I’d do quizzes on, the ones I was sure I’d have the answers too.
Instead of learning anything, I have actually been mostly just answering questions on movies and novels, and mind you these quizzes are as basic as basic can get. I won’t dare to do a quiz on Maths, or Science or anything that I know I will fail spectacularly at.
General knowledge has been a scam, I always knew it was one. As someone who loves context, for me GK is rigid, it doesn’t allow me to really think and sometimes we think too much and mix up an answer. There was a time I was constantly taking GK quizzes for “fun”. I was a kid without friends so my options for fun weren’t too many.
Well, it boosted my ego, without really helping me in any other way. I was very good at answering Math questions in GK quizzes, but put me in the exam hall, and I’ll just give you an obnoxiously large rough work column, questions copied directly from the question paper, failed attempts to answer them, basically a paper that cries, “Have mercy on me!”
It’s funny that all the pointless news in this world, politicians who continue to prove their education was a lie and statues more expensive than an island, will one day be “GK” for the future generations. They’ll sure think we had an incredible sense of humour. But that’s the thing knowing names of famous people, knowing dates, knowing objects and numbers doesn’t really mean we know anything.
I used to think that with GK I could do anything, it expanded my insight, I thought. I was told it was important for aptitude tests and my career. But I think I did fine despite my constant thought, “I know this! I know this! What was it?!” So you might meet me someday and you might ask me something related to GK and I will try and give you an answer, but if you ask me for my opinion the GK will come naturally.
General knowledge is nothing if it doesn’t come with context and opinions. The quizzes I’ve been taking today have been related to fictional worlds and I am trying to pacify myself thinking that if those fictional worlds were real, and I was a part of them what I know would count as general knowledge. But it’s a small consolation.
I’ve been doing quizzes on Harry Potter among other topics, but what’s the point knowing that Harry chose to keep the invisibility cloak of the three hallows without knowing who he was, why he kept the cloak, and how did he come to have that choice?
What I am trying to say is this – there would be no quizzes if there weren’t stories. All facts, all dates, all people have a story. When you detach the story from the object, you render it useless and forgettable.