Sherlock Holmes isn’t aware that the earth revolves around the sun. Sherlock Holmes is way smarter than I will ever be.
I’ve been rereading A Study In Scarlet lately, and I think my favorite part is when Watson is shocked to learn that Holmes has no knowledge of astronomy.
“That any civilized human being in this nineteenth century should not be aware that the earth traveled round the sun appeared to me to be such an extraordinary fact that I could hardly realize it.
‘You appear to be astonished,’ he said, smiling at my expression of surprise. ‘Now that I do know it I shall do my best to forget it.’
‘To forget it!’
‘You see,’ he explained, ‘I consider that a man’s brain is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.’
‘But the Solar System!’ I protested.
‘What the deuce is it to me?’ he interrupted impatiently: ‘you say that we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work.'”
It got me thinking, what am I stocking my brain with? I’m certainly not overly careful with only taking in useful information (I don’t think I’d love Jeopardy so much if I didn’t have such a wealth of useless trivia). But really, what is the information that I’m pushing out in order to keep the more consequential stuff in place?
For me, the ‘why should I care’ category is, unfortunately, science. Space, elements, the bones in the human body… I couldn’t tell the difference between a tibia and a tectonic plate if they slapped me across the face. I think science is a really important subject, and I hugely respect scientists. But I’ve never felt called to the scientific realms, and honestly, I have never seen any reason to look further into a subject that will have little bearing on my writing. (Unless I someday write a story about a scientist, then I would willingly dive into the scientific world, with fervor!)
How about you, what’s the subject you pretend doesn’t exist?
PS- For advice, I asked my mom, “what’s something I know nothing about?” Her reply was “dairy cows”, so I figured I’d add that to the roster. I know nothing of dairy cows.
PPS- A parting word from Holmes: “‘It’s quite exciting,’ said Sherlock Holmes, with a yawn.”