On Useless Trivia and Facts
By Karen Ballum on May 09, 2012
When I read Stephen Dau's The Book of Jonas my first reaction was that I didn't have much in common with the main character. I was born in North America. I've only ever experienced war through books and movies. It didn't seem like there was much on the surface that Jonas and I would have in common. Yet as I go back through our discussions and look at the pages I flagged in the novel, I find Jonas and I had many thoughts in common, including this one about limited brain space.
"But he is nagged by the suspicion that his brain space is limited, that his mind must toss some things over into the current so that others might be accommodated. It is as though he has exchanged memories for facts, as though whole periods of his childhood have been replaced by lists of questionably useful trivia." Pages 40-41
I have so much useless trivia floating around in my brain it's not even funny. While that does mean I can be an awesome partner on trivia night, it's also frustrating. I've written entire term papers about things I no longer remember and yet can still recall entire scenes from The Facts of Life. Don't get me wrong, I love The Facts of Life but seeing as I was paying for the privilege of being able to write term papers on somewhat obscure topics such as the mortuary temple of Hatshepsut, you would think I would remember that instead.
I sometimes wonder about all the things I've forgotten. All the books I've read and all the papers I've written add up to a lot of knowledge. Is all that knowledge still stuck inside my head somewhere? If I could just connect the right dots could I remember it all or is it just gone? It's frustrating for me to think it's all inside my head and I can't access it. At the same time, it's just as scary to think it's just gone. Does that mean I'll forget the things I know right now?
The thought of forgetting facts is scary to me. I love facts. I love to learn. I think it is one of the reason I love to read so much. When we read we learn so much. I will never be Jonas and I'll never live his life, yet I learned something of what both the life of a child removed from his family and country by war is like. I don't want to forget the stories of the characters in this book. I don't want to forget any of the stories I've read.
Do you ever worry that useless trivia could crowd out the the stuff you want to remember?
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