One (ἓν) I know (οἶδα) that (ὅτι) I know (οἶδα) nothing (οὐδὲν)! In other words: I know f@ck all! That's about what Sokrates (to whom the quote is attributed) must have said and thought when he spoke that quote sometime during the 5th century BC. What he didn't say though is how frustrating it must be to realize its deep meaning for oneself. We all learn things during our short lives, and often we are so proud of what we know, at least some of us, and consider ourselves big shot SME's (sounds cool, innit... it stands for Subject Matter Experts - Wow!). And we even walk around with our heads leaning left or right from the weight of our overcharged neurons... true story! Problem is, brain neurons are finite. The more knowledge we accumulate each day the more neurons get connected in our brains to form the new memory of the things we just learned, but, gosh, there's gotta be a limit to those connections. And then, as your brain gets busy connecting more neurons, you must be darn sure there's another bunch of neurons some place else in your skull that goes bananas... if it didn't your brain would just explode and even Greg House wouldn't be able to save your ass. So, you wake up one bright morning having forgotten your login password (that's still ok), and as you follow the procedure to recover it from the system (here's the hard bit), the system's like, (...secret question): What is your mother's maiden name? No shit! And you are like...Euh... Euh... WTF! My God, I got Alzheimers! I forgot my mom's name!
Well, as we age, some of these connections naturally fall apart... they must do! (Gosh, what a lesson in pseudoscience you are getting from me today! Whatever...) I'm a living proof of this! I've been residing in this country since mid seventies, but before then I was born, raised, and resided in Greece, all in Greek... until I came here to Belgium to seek and find my 'fortune' in the rich West.
My parents only spoke Greek and no foreign tongue whatsoever, except for my mom, who during the war did learn a few German words from a tiny little book that Nazi's distributed to the natives for propaganda (they might have thought they'd stay there for ever, filthy morons!). And she used to sing to me "Wie einst Lili Marleen...' into the fifties and sixties... And I also remember my grandpa's few swearing 'English' words Yankee style, that he learned when he tried moving to the US at the turn of the century, and worked for six months in an Illinois slaughterhouse, until he realized "it ain't no better place than that good 'ol Smyrna* home". A strike of luck that was. He came back to his wife and newly born twins indeed and later conceived his last daughter, my mom! I wouldn't be here to write this if it wasn't for that funny thought who sent him back home from Chicago. The Butterfly effect! We are all children of Chaos!
Ten years into this country, that's more than 20 years ago now, I came to realize that, indeed, I wasn't capable of forming one descent sentence in the language I had written my Master's thesis on Marine Engineering back in 1975! Forgot my mother tongue all-fokking-together!!! Jesus-Mary-Josef! I was ashamed to admit it. But it's still like this. Cross me! Shoot me! I'll have to work for days to translate any single of these blogs of my own writing into my mother tongue! Yep... those damn language neurons in my skull gave way to new formations for my learning of Dutch and French. And so, I ended up as someone who can't speak one single language properly! A real shame!
One thing I hadn't forgotten though, never ever. Counting and swearing! I don't know about counting, but swearing only feels good when you do it in your mother tongue, trust me! Don't know why, but that's the way it is. You'll never forget swearing. I still remember hilarious moments of flabbergasted compatriots of mine who met me after all these years to find out that I couldn't even phrase the very basics, but still remained more than fluent in swearing and counting. Even so, I hadn't lost my Alexandroupolis accent of the North East either (με και σε) despite the five years I spent in college, in Athens. How about my non-Greek colleagues laughing their ass off hearing me giving hours long lectures in Dutch or English but still fall back to my mother tongue to do simple arithmetics (προπαίδεια). Curious, innit? I'm sure some real scientists will have an explanation for all this.
Is there hope for us? If you believe Ray Kurzweil and the folks of The Long Now Foundation, there must be. By Ray's beliefs, there's soon to be the singularity point (in say, fifty years something or even less) when computers will become smarter than man, and when, nanobot implants in our brains would connect us subconsciously via some sort of future wireless connectivity to large knowledge bases and instantaneously turn us into Nobel Prize laureates! Or something. I said that once to a friend and she was like, I'm glad I'll be dead by then! How about you? Do admit though, with our human knowledge accumulating at the pace we witness today, unless something like those intelligence enhancing nanobots came up, our great-great-grand children will have to go to school until their mid thirties to even learn how to sell shoes... or they'll have to become Utopia citizens on another planet like those armchair lying fatsos we saw in Wall-e!
*Yep, my family from my mother's side initially lived in a small village not far from Smyrna (modern day Izmir), until they got pushed into the Eastern Aegean sea by the Kemal troops during the last and largest Greek-Turkish conflict almost 100 yrs ago... Was a tough war... both sides forgot their 'human origins' and acted like the filthiest vermin, cutting young pregnant women with their bayonets to massacre unborn babies out of their mother's womb. Yep, both Greek and Turkish 'soldiers' loved that sport!