This week I learned to back up my data files with more diligence. I also learned that I shouldn’t boast of finishing a task early, as I am liable to then fall far behind (particularly if I don’t save my work).
Most importantly, I learned that we don’t know what we don’t know, and we can’t learn it until we know something.
As I was immersed in the newspaper coverage of significant dates in American History, I found that my vague idea of the Civil War  as being somewhere around 1862 kept me from understanding the significance of Lincoln’s assassination within the timetable of the war of brother-against-brother. The great conflict was in the mopping-up stage; Grant had definitively beaten the Confederate troops. And President Abraham Lincoln, the man who took up the burden of holding together the Union, was shot in a theater where he was out for what was termed by one report as “an evening of respite”. It’s suddenly more tragic, and those long lines formed by a mourning populace seem so reasonable a response by a shocked nation.
Over the weekend, the relative of a Timothy Hughes Rare and Early Newspapers employee was touring the facility and paused over text running down the right margin of the cover of a small periodical from the 1920’s . “You know who that is,” she asserted. We didn’t. We thought it was an issue about the game of hockey, positing the question whether it would or would not last in the United States.
It turns out the featured author of the issue was one Rose Wilder Lane, the woman who penned the tales told by her mother of pioneering days  in what eventually came to be called The Little House on the Prairie series. An accomplished writer and reporter, many of her short stories were published in Harper’s Bazaar and Saturday Evening Post. When Rose was in her seventies, she traveled to Vietnam  in order to provide a female perspective on the war for the readership of Woman’s Day Magazine. And I learned all of this because someone who knew a bit, put together pieces and asked a question.
Juxtaposed with this whole journey following strands of the known into discovery of the unknown, was an overheard discussion about the lack of liberal arts education received by the up-and-coming generation. In an era of information available by voice command, almost everything that can be known is, theoretically, accessible. But how will any of us know the questions to ask if we don’t have a base of knowledge from which to begin? A narrow foundation must by its very nature constrict the breadth of potential growth.
Anyway, this is a great place for contemplation of deep things. And, since I lost my first draft, I have the opportunity to contemplate the same subject for the second time. 🙂
By the way, the Liberty Magazines  are nifty compilations somewhat in the vein of the later Reader’s Digest, packed with advertisements and helpful hints right beside news of the day.