(Host) On Mondays, over the next ten weeks, VPR will feature a new series of commentaries from “10 in Their 20s”, in which members of Vermont’s 20-something generation share their perspectives on issues that matter the most to them – from the local to the global. This week, Jacob Levi Kuebler reflects on the importance of knowledge.
(Kuebler) The other day I walked into this party and there’s this guy in there – a shaggy, longhaired rockstar dude – he reminds me of MTV. And as soon as I walk into the kitchen where a bunch of kids are hanging around an ashtray this shaggy longhaired rockstar dude pipes up with a shocking bit of philosophy: “Nothing is really important,” he says, “it doesn’t matter…”
Ah, the hypothetical, existential, postmodern, “It doesn’t matter.”
“You know, I think it does matter,” I say.
“All of it matters but most of all it is knowledge that matters. Listen man, knowledge is the very essence of our existence. It’s what Socrates was talking about so many years ago when he noted that each human is a vessel for the accumulation of knowledge… like a walking storage container right? And if I’m gonna spend fifty years or more collecting knowledge as an innate sensibility – subconsciously filling my vessel, if that’s the way that it’s gonna be then I gotta believe that at least knowledge is important.”
The rockstar dude turns his head away from me like a kitty cat might – slow but deliberate…
“Now look,” I say, “some kind of Darwin guy might argue that survival is, you know, THE most important thing. But realize that even human survival is based on the collection of information, right? Back when we were monkeys we collected information that helped us capture our own food, right? And every day since then, we as humans have gathered endless information about each other, the work, and the universe.”
The kitty cat is staring at me once gain. I lock onto his eyes and say, “Look, I’m not trying to flip you out or anything. It’s just that when I heard you say, ‘nothing is really important,’ which IS what you said, I started to worry that you have shut yourself off to gathering information. You…created a break in the human process.”
Shaggy hair slouches down a little and picks up a lighter from the ashtray. Even if he’s not listening, I want to finish.
“Whatever man, whatever’s clever you know. If you think you’re ready to stop filling up on knowledge, consider someone who’s been to a frat party. They’ll tell you how much it stinks to get to the front of the keg line just as the last of the foam pours into some other guy’s cup. Well you know what dude? Even that little bit of knowledge is important because if you think that it stinks to wait in line for an empty keg, just wait till the earth’s fresh water supply starts to wear thin. Now there’s a line you don’t want to be in. Just imagine yourself sunburned and choking on dirt then try to tell me nothing is important.”
I watch as my hero fiddles with the lighter in his lap and starts to wander off into his own vessel.
“Did you follow me?” I ask.
“Yeah,” he says. “I guess we’re in for it.”
From Williamsville, I’m Jacob Levi Kuebler.
Jacob Levi Keubler is 26. He has a degree in communications from Ithaca College.