Where is the life we have lost in living?

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    A guy walked up to me last week in a grocery store with one of those little, seedless watermelons in his cart. “Do you know anything about watermelons,” he asked.

    “A little,” I said. “My grandfather had an acre patch of watermelons in Arkansas when I was a kid.”


    “Is this one ripe?” he asked.

    I picked up the tiny three-pound melon, then thumped it with my right forefinger.

    “Nope, it’s not ripe,” I said.

    He went on to ask what sound it should make when you thump it.


    I tried to describe the hollow reverberation a ripe melon makes when you thump it just right. It was something my grandfather taught me 60 years ago near his farm in Marianna, Arkansas.

    You never know when some tidbit of knowledge or forgotten skill set can become useful again.

    Teenagers who by nature already know everything, sometimes resent it when they’re taken to task to learn something new. How many times have you heard a 15, 16 or 17-year old make a statement such as, “That’s just more useless knowledge?”


    If you’re around these strange creatures much, you’ll hear it often.

    My reply to them each time was this, “There is no such thing as useless knowledge, only useless people without knowledge.”

    Nope, they didn’t like that response at all, but I’ll bet more than a few have used that line on their own children once they hit those wonderful years of adolescence.


    That same grandfather was a bit of a shade tree mechanic. He could repair John Deer tractors and Ford pickup trucks like a pro from years of experience.

    One day I rode with him to a neighbor’s farm who had a two-cylinder, John Deer H that wouldn’t start.

    Grandpa spun the flywheel a few turns, checked the magneto wire for cracks, then took out a ball peen hammer, and hit the magneto on the side with a quick swing.

    The farmer spun the flywheel and the old green tractor coughed to life.

    “That’ll be two dollars,” my grandpa said. “A dollar for swinging the hammer and a dollar for knowing where to swing it.”

    Words of wisdom from a wise man of the American South.

    You can pick up a lot of wisdom, and even more knowledge if you bother to listen.

    Listening is a lost art, it has been replaced by the noise of modern life with its constant bombardment of sound. There is peace, solitude and understanding if you shut down the outside world once in a while and just listen to your inner voice.

    Many people never listen, the polite ones just wait for their turn to talk, while the rude ones just spurt out whatever passing thought has erupted.

    On early morning walks I pass a lot of people wearing headphones as they listen to whatever motivating talking head, music or inspirational speaker currently turns their crank. I prefer to walk and listen to the morning sounds of our community waking up for another day.

    In winter, the sounds are harsher, bouncing off the frozen ground as sound waves find their path to you. The wildlife are muffled as well. Aside from Canada Geese, you don’t hear much in the surrounding farmland, trees or ponds in the winter months.

    That all changes when spring rolls around. You can hear the world awakening each morning as the sun turns the eastern sky purple, then pink before exploding onto the landscape.

    The sound of songbirds greeting the morning, of the skittish scratching of avian feet on the roofs of houses or the quick beat of wings as flocking birds descend on nearby trees.

    The honkers are still there, but in spring and summer there are more of them. We have native geese that hang out here year round, but their traveling relatives drop in for a few months as well.

    Meadowlarks sing to the morning and Sandhill Cranes call in the early hours of the evening in voices that must be similar to the calls herding dinosaurs once made.

    We sat in a deer blind last November as wave after wave of these gigantic birds flew back onto Boysen Reservoir after a day of cleaning up barley and corn fields. They made a racket, but it was an impressive racket. They type of scene nature can spread out before you that makes you feel small and insignificant.

    It’s the song of Wyoming as much as the distant bugle of a bull elk, or the lonesome howl of a coyote in the night, or the boisterous cacophony of coyote pups in late summer as they hide in the heavy brush.

    Is any of this knowledge? All of it is, it’s the knowledge of your surroundings, it’s the soundtrack of our way of life and it beats anything they can produce in L.A. or Nashville. (I won’t go as far as Detroit because that’s where Motown originated)

    Technology has its place, but it is only as good as the person using it. A little knowledge of how intuitive interfaces work goes a long way.

    Have you ever seen people who are constantly bewildered by the simplest electronic device? Most of us don’t understand their problem since almost everything now follows the same format when it comes to a human/digital interface.

    We appreciate the information that the digital realm has brought us, but don’t confuse information with knowledge. They are not the same.

    T.S. Elliot had a famous comment on the difference,” Where is the life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

    The difference between knowledge and information is inside that quote. I looked up Elliot’s quote via Google so I wouldn’t paraphrase it incorrectly, that’s information. Knowing that this is the perfect place for that quote in this column, that’s knowledge.

    Some say knowledge and information are just different sides of the same coin and that idea has merit, but the modern era with much of the storehouse of mankind’s knowledge at the fingertips of the same people who text while driving in heavy traffic adds an entirely new dimension.

    With information, they know they’re on a road, they just don’t know where they’re going or where they are. That comes with discernment and ultimately knowledge.


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