Specialization is the key word today. Those who want to become rich and famous need to hone their skills and achieve excellence in their choice of profession, vocation or industry. The main objective is to raise the standard so high that demand gets greater than supply. Anyone desirous of obtaining services or reaching out is made to pass through a grilling experience before getting access. Thus, a heart patient would only go to that cardiologist who has carved out a name and reputation. Similarly, celebrities flock to the best designer in the country in order to look unique. To maintain their popularity, actors do their utmost to perform flawlessly the role they are assigned. Those skilled in the art of culinary are embraced by five-star and seven-star establishments that are more than willing to pay a heavy price to retain them. Academics whose quality of teaching and research are applauded attract the largest number of students yearning to benefit from their knowledge.
Mastery in certain area means that someone is extremely focused and fully attentive to smallest of details so as to have complete control over the faculty. Such persons do not allow themselves to get easily distracted and usually concentrate on that single point. They spend hours in close confinement to improve their abilities which is certainly commendable. Day in and day out they seek betterment through learning. The urge to excel, the spirit to compete, the desire to touch the heavens are the stuff of which masters are made.
Undoubtedly, this is not a piece of cake. This comes at a heavy cost in terms of efforts, fun and frolic, relationships and sometimes even health. A lot is sacrificed before a bit of success is attained. Nonetheless, there is a kind of addiction to growing into better and better and of course, the sky is the limit. The journey towards perfection goes on but never ends. Many a great scholars and high achievers have struggled hard, confronted all kinds of obstacles, bore resentments and jealousies and eventually perished but remained deprived from reaching the zenith of perfection because this is the only forbidden fruit.
For thirst that is unquenchable, no amount of assimilated knowledge is enough but the problem is that the spectrum of scholarship seems to continuously expand with more and more information. There is a constant revelation of ignorance as veil upon veil is lifted off secrets of the unknown. The hardships of research are multiple and just as one thinks that one has hit rock bottom, a cover peels off to indicate a new abyss alluring the curious towards further investigation. This is an unstoppable process that will continue to move on as and when undiscovered mysteries keep on surfacing.
Conversely, those who are content with little awareness and not interested in garnering facts and improving their savoir faire are the happiest ones on this earth. For them nothing is disturbing. Whatever they know is more than sufficient and as long as they are leading normal lives, they are least interested in enquiring into the details of different things. If someone tells them that after death a human being becomes a star, they readily believe so. Rather than going into the truth of the matter, they find superstitions and common folklore easier to accept and digest. For example, there is a myth many believe to be true and that is, fingernails continue to grow after death. The fact is that energy, important for sustenance of the body tissues comes to a halt after death and as dehydration sets in, it causes retraction of the skin around the nails which gives the illusion of growth. There are many such misunderstandings that ignorant continue to harbor and relish.
For them Edgar Degas, a French artist has a most suitable comment although it pertains to his work but can be applied anywhere: “Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do.”
On the one hand, Hazrat Ali (AS) has provided six characteristics of an ignorant: these are: being angry without possessing any virtue, making small or idle talk, showing out of place generosity, unable to distinguish friend from foe, revealing secrets when forbidden from doing so and trusting just anyone. On the other, he went onto glorify knowledge declaring it honourable, encouraging people to take it from anywhere possible while wisdom has been referred to as more profitable than wealth.
Majority of the people of our country, especially women, consider attainment of a couple of degrees as the pinnacle of education. Once they have passed through colleges and/or universities, they feel that there is no point in studying further or enhancing their comprehension about various issues whether relevant or unrelated. Reading romantic stories is fun but a scholarly treatise is a big NO NO. Whereas working women may be engrossed with their professional expertise, generally housewives pay little attention to broadening their mental horizons. Consequently, their children also suffer from lack of consciousness regarding vital information, popularly known as general knowledge. As a result, their perception about the world becomes foggy and stereo-type.
Orson Scot Card, a famous American science fiction writer says: “The education that prepared me was my general education classes, which I tried to avoid when I was a stupid undergraduate, but which gave me the foundation of general knowledge that makes a career as a writer possible.”
One cannot emphasize enough the importance of knowledge and learning for every person. This is something that should not be limited to educational institutions but must be adopted as a habit. Merely accepting whatever is told without affirming the truth is height of ignorance and which should be avoided. A human mind, like the computer, has the capacity to absorb unimaginable extent of information, analyze and filter out unwanted items. The more varied one’s erudition, the wider would be the scope of enlightenment allowing many myths to unfold their secrets. There is no question with respect to specialization but simultaneously one should not be shy of learning about other subjects yet at the same time abstain from proving oneself as all-knowing because the more you learn the less you know.
There is no denying the fact that our exposure to the world is limited so very few can claim multi-faceted experiences in their lives yet we keep on learning from other people’s circumstances if we develop our consciousness on the right track. Seeking knowledge in the traditional manner through books, discussions, seminars and now the new fad of browsing the internet has made knowledge accessible to one and all but in spite of these if we remain ignorant then our directions need to be readjusted.
The writer, lawyer and author, is an Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)