In my quest to walk and chew gum at the same time, I’ve discovered some interesting things about myself and my fellow humans.

Some of these observations are both funny and sad. Sometimes it’s harder than we think to handle the incongruences life throws at us. Perspective – always an elusive noun.

We make the mistake of thinking most people have the same general information base as we do. That may be why we sometimes find it difficult to understand why people view situations so differently. Case in point, I assume most people know what Homo sapiens means. When one late-night comedian did a “person on the street” interview to find out if we should do anything to mitigate the imminent extinction of Homo sapiens, the ensuing responses were both hilarious and sad. 

My out-loud laughter coincided with the profound sadness this little skit depicted. The summation of responses included: one person not caring one way or another if the species were to go extinct to we should do “something” but not budget too much money to try and save them. So much for my initial assumption. That begs the question:  how many other basic assumptions are in error, and is my perspective somehow skewed?

We laugh at others’ ignorance and what some may do for money/fame. Slapstick comedy has been around for decades. We poke fun at ourselves and others. That’s often a good thing in order to keep our hubris in check. 

When we think we know all the answers to a given situation, we lose perspective. But, when we see firsthand a dearth of basic knowledge it should give us pause, and it may not be a cause for laughter. It may be a cause for concern. 

We’ve seen reports where high school graduates cannot find their home state on a map. We’ve witnessed times when a cashier doesn’t know how to count back change without a cash register providing the answer. We’ve seen evidence of leaders not knowing the basic tenets of the Constitution they were elected to implement and protect.  

It’s humbling to occasionally watch “Jeopardy.” In my younger days I prided myself on knowing a great deal of relatively useless information, and could fair OK when watching the show in the solo comfort of my living room. 

I also know that, in reality, I’d never make the cut for the show. Accessing my memory Rolodex takes longer these days, and some data has vanished. I do think there is merit to knowing stuff. Knowing some basic stuff allows one to think critically and provides the ability to separate the wheat from the chaff.   

Knowing basic stuff allows us to find the truth of situations, not just believe someone else because of our limitations or laziness. It may never earn one a dime or thrust one into instant celebrity, but knowing what the longest river in the world is; the context of “I’ll think about that tomorrow;” why the partition of India may have relevance today; and what da Vinci did besides paint the Mona Lisa can lead to surprisingly helpful outcomes.  

Perspective, always elusive, but worth keeping in mind.

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