Tuesday Musing: difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something


After having a conversation with Mr. POF over at Physician on FIRE  that I should post more than just my usual featured post of the month - I agreed with him, so this my attempt at creating more episodic content per week.

I am going to call this section Tuesday Musings. Each Tuesday, I am going to post a quote and then post 100 or more words, sharing my thoughts on said quote  hopefully adding some insight that you may have not thought of. 



The next Monday, when the fathers were all back at work, we kids were playing in a field. One kid says to me, “See that bird? What kind of bird is that?” I said, “I haven’t the slightest idea what kind of a bird it is.” He says, “It’s a brown-throated thrush. Your father doesn’t teach you anything!” But it was the opposite. He had already taught me: “See that bird?” he says. “It’s a Spencer’s warbler.” (I knew he didn’t know the real name.) “Well, in Italian, it’s a Chutto Lapittida. In Portuguese, it’s a Bom da Peida. In Chinese, it’s a Chung-long-tah, and in Japanese, it’s a Katano Tekeda. You can know the name of that bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird. You’ll only know about humans in different places, and what they call the bird. So let’s look at the bird and see what it’s doing—that’s what counts.” (I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.
- Richard Feynman


Knowing the name of something is what we spend our time figuring out during our school years. “ How many presidents are there?” “ what is the capital of Florida?”

Digging deep into the how's and most important the whys is how we “know something”.  I think this holds true when getting to know someone. Instead of asking what's your favorite food, ask why is pizza your favorite? How does eating pizza make you feel when you take that first bite? Most of us do not share the same specific situations, but we can relate to the emotions. You don’t have to know how it feels to lose a pet but you can relate to the feeling of loss to a loved one or item that you have experienced.

We spend so much time trying to gather useless information that we are missing the details the hows and the whys.

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