My Ongoing Ignorance

I am reminded of my ignorance on an ongoing basis.  Today, it happened when I was reading the obituaries in the Sun-Times and came across the obit for one Albert Murray, someone I’d never heard of.  Here’s the first paragraph:

Albert Murray, the influential novelist and critic who celebrated black culture, scorned black separatism and was once praised by Duke Ellington as the “unsquarest man I know,” died Sunday. He was 97.

The obit goes on to talk about Murray’s ability to bridge the worlds of words and music, his ying to Ralph Ellison’s yang, and the important role Murray played in America’s cultural and intellectual life.  I was an English major in college, have loved to read all my life on a range of subjects and try to have at least a cursory knowledge of what’s happening in the culture.  Murray sounds like someone who — at some point –should have been on my radar screen.  Why had I never heard of him?  Was I sick the day we discussed him in class?

It is sobering to be reminded of just how little we know about so many things.  A lot of us live in boxes that let in little new information.  Try as I may, punching a hole in that box isn’t so easy.

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  • Thomas J. Lee

    You are not alone. I had precisely the same reaction, and I, too, found it humbling.

  • JeanSC

    We’ve all got gaps in our knowledge of items we should know. And so does everybody else. That’s why communication, in a humble, respectful way, is so important for us all. I have a special interest in mitigation of natural hazard vulnerability in appropriate ways. One publication I ran across in this field is FEMA 320 about the “safe room” against extreme winds and tornadoes. It came out in 1999 and I have all 3 editions. Yet I’ve easily run across licensed architects and related professionals who’ve never heard of it. “This Old House” just started their special on rebuilding the New Jersey shore after Superstorm Sandy; nobody seems to be learning from FEMA 320, even though it’s explicitly pertinent to these projects. Of course, I’ve already sent emails about this to TOH and 2 parties in the building biz featured in the 1st episode.
    I never heard of Albert Murray, either, but maybe it was less likely for me anyway: I wasn’t an English major, and much prefer non-fiction writing to novels.