It is better, of course, to know useless things than to know nothing.

It is better, of course, to know useless things than to know nothing. – Seneca

"I know nothing. I can do nothing. You must do it for me." How long will it take for that to get old?

“I know nothing. I can do nothing. You must do it for me.” How long will it take for that to get old? Whether an employee, a team-mate or a friend, who wants to have to deal with that? Have you the time or energy?

What does that mean?
That is my mantra! I know more useless stuff than just about anyone else out there! But why would that be better than knowing nothing? To me, that’s a very interesting question. Take a moment to consider how would you answer it.

What has to happen for someone to know nothing? To me, that means they either have a mental defect or deficiency which makes it very difficult for them to learn. The other is that they have a discipline defect or deficiency which causes them to not put forth any effort towards learning.

Someone who knows useless things, on the other hand, is trainable or teachable. They have shown they can learn, and they have shown some interest in learning something, even if it’s usefulness is dubious.

To me, that is the basis of this quote. Knowing useless things means there is hope for eventually learning more and better things. Those who know nothing are not as likely to be as useful now or in the future.

Why is being able to learn important?  
Imagine going through life not being able to remember anything? Not being able to grasp or hold any knowledge or skill. Imagine how frustrating a life that would be for a person to live. While there are a handful of people on the planet with genetic disorders, most of us can be trained.

Whether we apply ourselves and actually work to remember or practice enough to cement the skill, well that’s another issue entirely. You can only go so far with enthusiasm and creative story telling (lies). At some point, you have to either show you have learned, or leave.

Whether it’s a job or in making friends, it’s true. If you were making new friends and they all were into skiing, they’d expect you to try it as well. They might even take some of their own time to help teach you. What will happen if after they spent half the vacation teaching you, you still were just as bad as the first day?

Where can I apply this in my life?
Life is a learning experience. You will be taught, even if you don’t really want to learn. Those lessons are usually the most painful. In darker centuries, they were often fatal. Starving to death because you refused to learn enough to hold down even a menial job is a tough lesson, right?

For most of us, we call what we use for a living “knowledge,” what we use for fun “information,” and the rest is usually labeled “trivia.” While the individual titles may vary, the basic idea is the same, some things are useful, others are less so, and some are completely useless.

When it gets interesting is when one person calls something trivia and another calls it knowledge or at least information. Ask a sports enthusiast about the statistics on their favorite team, and be prepared to be buried in trivia. But to them, it’s not trivia, right?

That distinction helps make life interesting, doesn’t it? But the fundamental point of the quote is proven. Even if you aren’t into sports, you know that person can, when they are properly motivated, apply themselves and do things with their mind and memory, right?

Not all of us are employers looking for employees, or people in search of new additions to our circle of friends. However, in all walks of life, we encounter others, and size them up for any number of reasons. But few people want to have people who know nothing around them. I don’t, do you?

While those with a medical or genetic condition might revive our pity, they aren’t of much use to anyone, are they? Those who are willfully that way are even less useful, as they tend to aggravate you in addition to depleting your resources, since you have to do everything for them, right?

What I just said may sound kind of cruel, especially if you are one of those people who make a living by not being able to do for yourself. However for those of us who have put a great deal of effort into knowing things and being able to help others, it’s a grim fact, isn’t it?

So what do you know? What can you do? How useful or useless is your knowledge or skill? Can you learn new things and take care of yourself? Or are you useless?

From: Twitter, @philo_quotes
confirmed at :
sourced from: Letter LXXXVIII: On liberal and vocational studies, line 45.
Photo by potzuyoko


About philosiblog

I am a thinker, who is spending some time examining those short twitter quotes in greater detail on my blog.
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