Drawing From An Aristotelian Adage
Every time I have a conversation with someone who is wise and considerably well-versed in a subject, I am unfailingly reminded of a famous Aristotelian adage:
“The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.”
I have enjoyed books for as far as I can remember. If there were any shortage of poetry on the joy of reading, I would certainly try to add to it — but there isn’t. One thing I will still mention, however, is how much I cherish the apparent boundlessness of knowledge, which is the reason why no human with a relentless and sincere appetite for knowledge and the means to acquire it has ever seen a day without wonder and delight.
Although I feel a tad upset every time I finish a book, I find comfort in the fact that my reading list almost inevitably grows longer every time I cross an item off it. This is how I gradually came to terms with how little I know — and how whatever little I knew was most likely not absolutely true.
What I am about to attempt next is a mathematical demonstration of how a true philomath can lead a life of an impressively high quality. While I admit that everything I am about to say is almost completely arbitrary and might sound crazy, it is the best reproduction I have come up with of how things are in real life.
Let us assume it to be true that knowledge can be measured in terms of the number of topics a persons has learned with verifiable correctness.
Let’s say that I have correctly learned x topics in a subject S.
Knowledge(S) = x
If you truly enjoy reading books, I am confident that, more often than not, you have ended up adding multiple topics to your reading list after finishing one.
Let’s assume that for every topic you learn, you discover n new topics to be learned. With every topic finished, the perceived expanse of acquirable knowledge grows.
P(x) = (n+1)x
Where P = perceived amount of acquirable knowledge
I(x) = P(x) - x = nx
Where I = our acknowledged ignorance--how much we know we don't know (and would like to know in future)
Now, if we simply plot the graph depicting how our acknowledged ignorance varies with our knowledge:
This relentlessly rising blue line is the secret to a simple, relatively cheap, and truly enjoyable life.
As long as we sincerely love, cherish, and enjoy acquiring new knowledge, there will always be another book to crack open, another page to turn, another day of wonder, curiosity, and enjoyment.
Icing On The Cake
The only string attached, of course, is that one must have the necessary resources to acquire new knowledge — which translate to time and money in most cases.
As far as money is concerned, fortunately, there are numerous ways to generate an income by using acquired knowledge. Teaching and blogging are two great examples which come to mind.
Generally, a good book will set you back by $10–20 on average. Thus, if you read one book a week, that’s about $1,000 a year spent on books. However, the knowledge acquired after a year of reading for blogging — or, say, 5 years of reading to prepare oneself for a career as a professor, can easily pay for itself in the long term.
Quite luckily, to the best of my knowledge, neither teaching nor blogging are so time-consuming as to deprive one completely of time to acquire new knowledge.
To summarize, a life sincerely committed towards acquiring new knowledge (and a career built upon it) will not only be highly fulfilling, but financially self-sufficient — hence making it a great plan for simply and joyfully braving the human condition.