In the Know


If you’ve never seen Futurama, an animated sci-fi show created by Matt Groening, what I’m about to relate won’t make any sense. Go here if you want to be in the know. In Episode 3 (“I, Roommate”) of season 1 (written by Eric Horsted), one of my favorite scenes involves Leela catching Fry as he uses their delivery ship’s exhaust to dry his hair after a shower.

Leela: You’re getting a huge dose of radiation!
Fry: And great lift!
Leela: Ugh, do you know how long it’s going to take me to recalibrate these engines?
Fry: Hey! When you look this good, you don’t have to know anything.

                  Philip_Fry   Turanga_Leela

Fry and Leela

Fry’s last comment came to mind after I headed to the phone store to pick up my 99-cent smartphone upgrade. I had long resisted upgrading to a smartphone due to cost. But 99 cents I could handle (though I wound up with a different phone; long story). So, as I admitted why I balked for so long about joining the smartphone crowd, I told the sales guy, “I didn’t want to have to figure out a new phone.”

1357482217_2207_photo (25)

Wow. My parents would be appalled that I admitted to someone, in a proud-to-be-ignorant fashion, what I didn’t want to know. 🙂 And I don’t have the moxie to declare like Fry, “Hey! When you look this good, you don’t have to know anything.”

The conversation at the phone store caused me to think of what I’ve settled for over the years, namely, complacency about my lack of knowledge. When I was a kid, I greeted with joy every opportunity to learn something new. But what is it about becoming an adult and leaving school that makes me blissfully accepting of the breadth of my knowledge? It’s like that old Far Side comic by Gary Larson:


I complain at the drop of a hat about having to make an effort to learn something new. And a cell phone is far less challenging than differential equations or quantum physics. (And I truly wish I’d gone farther in physics than I did.)

This complacency extends to writing. If I write novels (I reason), I don’t have to know how to write a picture book, a sonnet, a screenplay, a tanka, a graphic novel script, or a short story. I don’t have to grow or change. I can be happy with my usual box of tricks as limited as they may be. Except I’m not really. And complacency keeps me from admitting what’s really behind my decision to cling to ignorance: fear of failure. Fear of trying something new and failing at mastering it right away. I have no idea where that fear came from. But it’s kept me away from a lot of great things and great places. And for what? So I could tell a guy in a cell phone store what I don’t want to learn?

468px-Thomas_Edison2I’m convicted by this quote by Thomas Edison:

None of my inventions came by accident. I see a worthwhile need to be met and I make trial after trial until it comes. What it boils down to is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration.

Trial after trial. Perspiration. Making an effort to educate oneself—no matter how long it takes. It’s never too late, huh? Look at Grandma Moses, who took up painting while in her 70s.


What do you want to learn?

Fry, Leela, Futurama logo, Thomas Edison, and Grandma Moses photos from Wikipedia. Phone from The Far Side comic from

18 thoughts on “In the Know

  1. Great quotes from my favourite shows/people!
    I want to learn everything… no wait a minute, I want to KNOW everything. The learning bit is that much harder. Effort required. I think there’s some law somewhere that says ‘every effort shall be equally and wilfully resisted’.
    I think I’ll call it ‘Sloth’s law’.
    Fear of failing is the daddy, making the constant effort required is the lazy, porch-sitting, whiskey-drinking uncle. Family. Don’t you just love ’em.

  2. Love Futurama. I wonder if as adults, we start seeing learning new things as a waste of already precious time. We’re always so busy and the old things work, so learning the newer technology doesn’t have that sense of urgency.

    • Very true, which is why I’ve resisted getting a tablet. I just don’t see the need. But many people seem to love theirs.
      I can’t help recalling how resistant I’ve been to learning new software on the job. For me the issue is a general impatience–having to take the time to read a manual and try and fail and try again. But that’s the nature of many aspects of life.

      • I haven’t moved up to tablet yet. I’m just getting into touchscreen and my iPhone. Touchscreen has a flaw that I now have fingerprints on my screen. Not a smart idea to clean it when it’s on. 🙂

        I was always happy to learn new technology at work because I felt it would give me more to do. It was outside of work that I began thinking ‘what I have works, so why change now?’

      • I have the same issue. And that screen protector is $25!!!
        I’m not crazy about the keyboard on the iPhone. I keep mistyping. I’ve never felt so clumsy.

      • It took me a week to get used to it, but I got my typing speed up pretty decently. I admit to splurging and getting the $90 protector. Figure it helps with a toddler around and I use it for business.

  3. Oh how I loved The Far Side, Linda! I’m with you, I used to love figuring things out, now I just want to throw things against the wall that I can’t figure out. My patience has gone by the wayside. A 99 cent phone…nice! I still have my pink flip phone. 🙂

    • My sister-in-law had a flip phone too. I had a phone you pushed up to get to the keyboard. I loved that phone. But I dropped it too many times. I needed a new one. But the keyboard on the new phone takes some getting used to. My fingers feel fat on the letters. 😦

  4. How can I not respond to a post with both Futurama and The Far Side? 🙂

    But seriously, my wife is the same way with upgrading technology stuff. Phones, computers, you name it… but once I show her how to do stuff, and how it can be done better than the old way (well, most of the time anyway…), she appreciates it.

    We all have those things we hold on to because they’re comfortable. I’m that way with clothes… “There are only a few holes, these pants are still good!” or “No one will ever notice those chocolate stains…”

    The last decade has made me appreciate having someone tell you what you should change after you’ve finished lecturing them on what they should change. 🙂

    • Both of my brothers are the same way, Phillip. I was talking to one of my sisters-in-law the other day about phones. She said my brother couldn’t stand looking at her flip phone another minute and promptly bought her an iPhone. We laughed about that. And I had to call my younger brother when I had set up my router and computer. So, yes, I appreciate having someone walk me through all of the technological changes that need to be made.

  5. Great post, Linda, and I also love the comment from beatthemtodeathwiththeirownshoes. I want to KNOW too–because, as you pointed out, learning is all knotted up with the fear of failing. Like we should know everything already, like it’s a bad thing to be a beginner. Why do we think that?

  6. When I stop learning, I will die. Now, if someone could teach me what to say to all of my thoughtless friends who tell me to my face how they haven’t gotten around to reading my story, I would be swell.

    • I just read that post at your blog, Andra. It’s frustrating, isn’t it? It’s amazing how the praise of other people suddenly makes your friends want to read your stories. Just wait. Once other people start raving about it, they’ll read it. Then they’ll beg to read your next story. And you’ll tell them no, because you know how “busy” they are. But they’re welcome to purchase a copy of it. Yes, I realize that’s my wishful-thinking scenario.

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