Not many people i know enjoy pursuing the wisdom of ‘useless’ things, specially in a world where knowledge is looked upon as merely a tool for ensuring a good career. Yet from the time of the ancients curious minds have pursued subjects for their own sake and valued the intrinsic interest of knowledge over its material benefit. Take the Greeks for example, they had no practical reason for studying mathematical knowledge; yet they did indulge in such “useless” pursuits and their contributions have been instrumental in making civilisation possible.
Sharing two quotes that recognise the usefulness of ‘useless’ knowledge and experience, the first by the ancient Chinese philosopher Laozi, the founder of Taoism; and the second by the renowned 20th century British philosopher, Bertrand Russell…
“We put thirty spokes together and call it a wheel; But it is on the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the wheel depends.
We turn clay to make a vessel; But it is on the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the vessel depends.
We pierce doors and windows to make a house; And it is on these spaces where there is nothing that the usefulness of the house depends.
Just as we take advantage of what is, we should recognise the usefulness of what is not”
~Laozi (Tao Te Ching)
“Curious learning not only makes unpleasant things less unpleasant, but also makes pleasant things more pleasant. I have enjoyed peaches and apricots more since i have known that they were first cultivated in China in the early days of the Han Dynasty; that Chinese hostages held by the great King Kanishka introduced them into India, whence they spread to Persia, reaching the Roman Empire in the first century of our era; that the word “apricot” is derived from the same Latin source as the word “precocious”, because the apricot ripens early; and that the ‘A’ at the beginning was added by mistake, owing to a false etymology. All this makes the fruit taste much sweeter.”
~ Bertrand Russell (In Praise Of Idleness)