Knowledge Is Disempowerment.

It can be anyway.

Years back I got the idea that it would be cool to play with “constructed languages.” I read the Language Construction Kit by Mark Rosenfelder and banged out a couple silly fragments of languages, and then I joined the CONLANG-L mailing list, and I started buying and devouring the sorts of academic linguistics books you can find at Border’s or Barnes & Noble’s. (I had been interested in linguistics anyway due to my obsession with the linguistics/philosophy/cognitive science of people like George Lakoff, Mark Johnson, Mark Turner, Ronald Langacker, and company).

I learned more and more but it was never enough. I formed strong opinions on different theories, much stronger opinions than I had any right to hold (as is my wont). But the more I learned, the less I did. I tried to actually make stuff up but I couldn’t anymore. All I had was this big head full of knowledge.

Be careful when you get into a new field of creative endeavor and decide you have to learn all the tricks of the trade, especially if you’re a book-knowledge addict like me. Knowledge is, after all, only the knowledge that other people have gained through direct investigation and experience. Doing the same investigation and having the same experiences, you might have come up with different knowledge. Learning from books is just learning what other people have said about things they have seen and experienced. Be careful not to worship it. Be careful not to overdose on it. It’s a map, not the territory, as they say.

I thought of this recently because I’ve been reading Lore Sjöberg lately and he had a piece which begins, “There’s something to be said for ignorant enthusiasm…” which shows he’s gone through some shadow of the same thing and that’s one reason why we haven’t seen any new Bandwidth Theater cartoons for like a year — he actually tried to learn how to animate “right” — that is, “right” according to the OTHER people in the industry who do it, instead of “right” meaning whatever works for him in the real world — and he’s finding that it’s making it hard for him to actually do anything.

So learn the “right” way to do things at your peril. You may actually be better off ignorant and enthusiastic.