Monday, December 07, 2009

Quick, what's the capital of...

The other day, someone in the course of conversation, casually asked, "What's the capital of Latvia?" Without batting an eye, I said, "Riga".

In school, I was really crummy at geography. I liked maps and rivers and things, but capitals of Europe all just kind of blurred together in one big unpronounceable heap of consonants, the kind you usually find toward the end of the alphabet.

Today, I'm writing something to do with Croatia, and the first thought I had was, "Is that a country now?" In European history, it can be difficult to keep track.

I have to say that one of the things I appreciate about the work I do is finding all kinds of things out about the world.

That reminds me of an excellent piece of advice John Muggeridge game me once. He said, "Hilary, the best way to approach journalism is as someone who doesn't know much. Start by admitting that you don't know, and then work on finding out. Finding things out and writing down what you have found out is the golden core of journalism. People who start out thinking they already know everything they need to know, end up writing for the Toronto Star."

David Warren once told me that someone once asked him at a party what he did for a living. He is fairly famous in political and journalistic circles in Canada and the US, so he didn't usually have to answer that question. He said this gave him a curious sort of liberty, so he said, "I write the stuff that goes between the advertisements in newspapers".

It is well, I think, to go through life knowing that you really don't know very much and that most of the stuff we do, unless we are building telescopes for NASA or developing cancer vaccines, is really not very important.

1 comment:

Mark S. Abeln said...

Ah, the wisdom of Socrates was that he knew that he was not wise.