I’ve often heard iterations of the phrase “the more you learn, the less you know” — if you’re human and you speak English, you’ve probably heard it, too.
I suppose there are as many ways to interpret the phrase as there are letters comprising it, but the way I see it is that one who is completely ignorant cannot even have a grasp on the scope of any particular base of knowledge. The further you sail away from the embankment of ignorance, the more connections you make, and you realize that everything is more more intricate and complicated than you could have imagined.
I am reminded of this thought with every new plant I commit to memory in my newfound appreciation for botany and plant identification. While I do surprise myself with how much I retained, trailing my dad (who is a real biologist) through countless woods as a kid, for the most part I stepped into the forest for a hike and thought in terms of “trees, ferns, and moss.” But the more I discover about the latin names of each plant, the groups of species and families, the more I come to the conclusion that there is a hopelessly oppressive number of unknown entities that I walk past with each step on a walk in the woods.
Yet I am certain that I will never exhaust the wealth of this knowledge, and this thought comforts me. For as certain as I am that there is no end to my education in plants, I am just as sure that my curiosity is endless, too, and that makes for a lifetime of interest.
clockwise: Columbine, unknown mushroom, Athyrium filix-femina (Lady Fern), Vaccinium deliciosum (Cascade blueberry), unknown white flower, Vaccinium membranaceum (Tall Huckleberry), Dicentra formosa (Pacific Bleeding Heart), Rubus spectabilis (Salmonberry), Trillium ovatum, Maianthemum stellatum (star-flowered Solomon’s Seal).
For example of crazy intricate, complicated knowledge: the common plants salal, blueberry, huckleberry, manzanita, and kinnikinnick all have maddeningly similar flowers and leaves (and berries), so if you think you know one (like I did), then you constantly misidentify all of them. As I probably have done, above.