Charlie's Blog: Corollary To The Grand Unifying Theory


Corollary To The Grand Unifying Theory

The art of knowing is knowing what to ignore.

I have written previously about my Grand Unifying Theory, and there is a corollary to that theory. The definition of a corollary is that it is something that follows naturally from a proposition. With the GUT, you discover what to do and follow. You also discover what you should ignore. That corollary is as important as the theory itself. I will now explain.

You can't know everything. We are swimming in a vast ocean of information and knowledge that is available to us. But if you don't know what you're seeking, it's pointless having all of that information. It doesn't do you any good. Information only becomes valuable when you begin selecting what to ignore.

The best example I can give on this truth is my conversion to Roman Catholicism. I have spent decades reading and seeking after religious and philosophical truth. That seeking represents the survey stage of things. I have been varieties of Protestant, an atheist, and even a devotee for a time to the ancient Stoic philosophy as a coping mechanism. Then, I stumbled into Roman Catholicism. It was the answer I was seeking. It came to me at a similar stage in life as Saint Augustine.

When I became Catholic, I tossed out a lot of books I knew were garbage. Today, I don't waste time reading anything from Protestants. I know to ignore them. Whatever is happening in the world of Protestants holds no interest for me. I can say the same for Buddhism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Hinduism, Islam, and all secular philosophies, sects, religions, or whatever. I don't need to know the wrong answers when I already have the right answer.

There are two basic types of knowledge--the necessary and the trivial. Most knowledge is trivial. You will hear this from high schoolers and college freshmen taking classes they know they will never use in their lives. The argument is that learning Shakespeare, Spanish, and algebra will make you a well rounded person. Most people want to learn what will make them a lot of money. This would be necessary knowledge.

Necessary knowledge is relative to the individual. Home economics is great for someone who wants to be a homemaker but not so much for someone who wants to be a welder. This is why they throw a variety of subjects at you. Each person has to find his or her thing.

Once you have found what is necessary after surveying the options, the next step is to ignore the trivial. This is a hard task. Trivial knowledge can be entertaining and even enlightening. Watching a documentary about the Mongolian Empire won't do much for you in the present, but it is fun to watch. Should you ignore that documentary and others like it? Like I said, this is a hard task.

A better example would be learning an ancient dead language. This requires discipline. Suddenly, without the fun aspect, it becomes easier to decide against learning that language. It is fun reading Sherlock Holmes but not so much fun studying forensic science. I wouldn't study that stuff unless I was working in a crime lab.

Trivial knowledge should be fun. If it isn't fun, then it needs to be necessary. And, if it isn't necessary, it needs to be ignored. This brings us to the Grand Unifying Theory.

The trivial and the necessary exist in the worlds of various disciplines. Today, sword fighting is trivial. People prefer firearms. Learning how to be a samurai in our age would be a waste of time and life. No one needs to be a samurai today. This art has been edited out of our modern society. Samurai arts are interesting trivia, but they are not necessary for modern warfare or self-defense.

In my original post on the Grand Unifying Theory, I used the example of the granny shot from basketball. Once you have settled on that as your free throw strategy, should you also practice the overhand shot? Why would you? You would be a fool to do that. Why abandon or supplement what works?

It would be nice to know everything, but this is impossible. Once you acknowledge this, you come to the inevitable conclusion that knowing what to ignore is more important than knowing everything. Wisdom is not vast intelligence but selective ignorance. You choose what not to know. That takes courage because you have to live with the consequences of those choices. What happens if you run into a samurai with a drawn sword? Hypotheticals like this undermine confidence in selective ignorance. On the other hand, what does the samurai do when he runs into Billy the Kid with a gun in his hand? We can play this game forever.

When it comes to necessary knowledge, you have to choose the probable over the hypothetical. You are unlikely to face Bruce Lee in the street, but you are likely to face a violent untrained thug. Knowing how to deal with that likelihood is a better use of your limited time.

Once you have established what is most probable, you need a strategy for that situation. This brings us to the complex and the simple. Complex strategies tend to fail while simple strategies tend to succeed. Ignore the complex and choose the simple. This is the Grand Unifying Theory. Win at checkers instead of losing at chess.

When it comes to the trivial, it should be fun. When it comes to the necessary, it needs to be simple and to work. Ignore everything else. That is the corollary to the Grand Unifying Theory. It is also my lifestyle. I would like to say I planned it this way, but I didn't. I just learned things that were either necessary or fun for me. It is only now in my analysis that I see what I have always done in my life. I suspect that you, Gentle Reader, have been doing the same thing, too.