A Veneer of Knowledge

One of the few card games I recall playing in my youth was Authors. If I remember correctly, the object of the game was to trade cards until you had a full set of cards representing an author’s major works.

As a result of playing that game, I was a young nerd who could reel off the most famous writings of Louisa May Alcott or James Fenimore Cooper WITHOUT HAVING READ A WORD OF THEIR WRITING.

I also had collections of cards for identifying mammals, and a nifty rock identification guide. I tried to imitate my mother’s impressive knowledge of flowers and birds. I still am trying.

That was Phase One of an education, and it has lasted almost six decades. As Phase One draws to a close (I hope!), I find myself possessing a veneer of knowledge. It isn’t all bad. Knowing just a little about this and that opens the door for many useful and fascinating conversations. But sometimes I look back on a conversation and am embarrassed that I confused my Authors cards. To my creative writers group: “I referred to Nathaniel Hawthorne, when I meant James Fenimor Cooper!” Last night, I came home after a conversation and realized I had spoken of the Fifth Amendment, when I should have referred to Article Five. Scratches in my thin veneer of knowledge reveal the particle board below. I want more. I want better.

Phase Two of my education is going to take infinitely longer. I’m not a fast reader. And some things just take time to learn. For instance, it takes walking around a lake many times, over many months, over many years to know more than rudimentary facts about the plants and animals I observe there. I can’t help but think of the latter chapters in Job. There, God poses questions for Know-it-Alls regarding basic facts that weren’t listed on their mammal identification cards.

This is why I love eternity, and the infinitely creative God who enables Phase Two of my education. Piece by piece, over time without end, the particle board and its thin veneer will be replaced. I’ll come to really know.

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