Fence posts

Imagine a semi-tractor truck, the 53 foot long variety, filled with fence posts. These fence posts would be, say, four inches in diameter and, I don’t know, six feet long. So, a flat bed trailer, of the kind you might see tooling down the interstate could easily carry in excess of 4,000 posts. A whole bunch, I’m sure you’ll agree? We might call that “significant”?

Now, let’s take that load and plant the posts in the ground, say with six feet between posts. Ok, eight feet between posts. Yes, vertical: they are fence posts.

At this point, a cow in a field wouldn’t even notice, let alone stop chewing. You, on the other, are probably ready for a break. To the cow: still insignificant; to you: where’s the beer?

Tomorrow you come by with some wire and you connect the dots, oops, I mean posts. Whether he knows it or not, the cow’s world has changed. Yours too, since you don’t have to chase the cow very far. By the third day, the grass on the other side of the fence is looking pretty good to the cow, and you can’t remember what it was like to have to look for the cow.

The point of this is that I have several friends who are very, very good at remembering facts as tho they are fence posts. I mean, astoundingly good. I have one friend who could probably do the equation for hexagonal packing of circles in a rectangle in his head (it involves the cosine of 30 degrees; take my word for it: a task not for the mathematically challenged, like me). Several others could derive the equation. I went to the internet.

But, could any of them derive any meaning from the possible fence before the cow does? Nope. You see, merely being able to regurgitate facts, while useful for winning the car and the dream vacation on a game show, does not naturally bestow wisdom or understanding. Yep, total recall is fascinating; and for people like me that are lucky if the Random Access Memory between our ears works even on rare occasion, all I can do is shake my head (no, vigorous shaking does not spill out smarts). Besides, now we have computers to do our memory storage work, and retrieval, as well (and you thought I recalled the equation for hexagonal packing from high school algebra? No, my teacher would never think so.).

If you’re going to take the time to remember something, make it relevant. Find out how it connects to other things, like your values, your morals, your ethics. Your future. A four foot barbed wire fence is significant to a cow. An eagle couldn’t care less.

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