Sunday, January 8, 2012

Ambush Wisdom

There are times in our life where pearls of wisdom are presented to us. The catch, however, is that that very wisdom isn't always delivered by a sage-like figure or for that matter immediately recognizable as such. You can never truly predict who it may be that will deliver some valuable insight into your life, often enough it simply ambushes you when you least expect it.

Over the years my own father has proven to be an effective agent of wisdom's attempts to ambush me. Now my father would be the first to deny any allusions to being described as brilliant. Instead he is more likely to site his own deficiencies at spelling and dismiss such claims entirely. But be that as it may, to me, mental prowess is something far more than education or I.Q.

As a child I often find myself(as I still do) gripped with curiosity. Unfortunately for me though I also would find myself struggling through school. I can't recall the precise event with any certainty, but I can recall something my father said to me once that has never failed me. I had approached him about the name of a plane I believe, since I was fanatically obsessed with various military vehicles and aircraft and I was certain he could tell me the answer. Without pause he looked down at me and quipped: "Look it up."

Confused , I am certain I must of sat dumbfounded for several minutes before he repeated his answer. Was it a clever cover up for something he might not have known the answer to? That I can say with some certainty was not the case at the time. As I got older I heard the same answer more and more though, and I am sure some of them were his own way at saving face in front of his children. But, either way, it directed me to a line of thought that hadn't occurred to me. Up to that moment I had always gone to someone else for an answer and then accepted it as fact only to move on.

Soon after my father first said those three little words to me I found myself grabbing one of our Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedias and began looking up the answer. Once I had located the answer another subject sprang to mind, driving me to reach for another book. I can easily recall countless times where I would set cross-legged in the floor with most of our encyclopedias laid out before me. Each entry would end with mentions to similar or connected subjects that would spur me on. And let's not even get into when I was introduced to Grolier and Encarta encyclopedia cd's, much less the introduction of the fabled search engine.

I could spend hours simply looking up information, something I often would be found doing. Where once I struggled with class work in a way that left me feeling, well - let's just say mentally inferior to my peers, I was now a master of some areas. In truth, I spent most of my elementary education  split between the learning disability class and a standard one. Until one day I was sent from class to another room at the request of my teacher only to find a mysterious test awaiting me. It asked me questions on areas that I had been pouring over on my own, so it delighted me. The shock was when they informed my that my teachers had suggested me for the schools governor's cup team. A team predominantly consisting of the best of the academic team, and one that now requested I join as an alternate for all subjects. Since it was assured to me that there would be no public speaking or quick recall involved I decided to consent.

Ever since then I have been regarded among my peers as a go-to resource on a number of different subjects. A fact that has never lost a sense of irony with me. And one that  all began when my father ambushed me with such basic wisdom. If there is something you seek to know; look it up. How many times a day do you see someone pondering the name of some actor in a movie, or some other piece of information only to shrug and go on? Our brains are a muscle, a fact many either forgot or take for granted. And as we age it is often a boon that we owe ourselves to keep it sharp.

Consider this: Have you learned anything lately? If not, don't you think it's about time you did? It is literally as simple as thinking of something that your curious about and then: look it up.