Blank Slate

How much do we actually know about the subjects that fascinate us? When the topic is related to computer technology or Star Trek, I can generally answer just about any typical question a person might have, but there’s a lot that I don’t know about specific technologies that exist or the minutia of a universe that does not.

For most of the past decade I’ve been operating well within my comfort zone for things I know, occasionally branching out and expanding skill sets, and getting things done. Heck, it would be fair to say that because I’ve been operating primarily inside well-travelled patterns that my current lifestyle has been possible. This year there is a lot of new, though, which is showing me just how little I know about subjects that are going to be incredibly prevalent over the next few years, if not decades. It’s as though I’m a blank slate.

Fortunately there are a number of people I can call on to help me learn about some of these matters. For the work-related items there are colleagues. For kindergarten-related items there’s Reiko, the boy’s teachers, a next-door neighbour who happens to be an elementary school teacher, and the Internet. For parenting-related items there’s just about every person over the age of 40, plus a myriad of books, TV shows, and podcasts. For religion … this is a tricky one that I can’t quite quantify with words just yet but, having avoided any study or practice for two decades, there’s a lot to rediscover.

Being outside the comfort zone after such a long time is a good thing, though. We are challenged to explore new ideas, new activities, and new potential. We’re given an opportunity to take on more responsibility and maybe even re-examine the ones we currently have. We can learn. We can remember what it’s like to not know.

Some people have told me that I “always have the answer” they’re looking for when they come with complicated questions relating to databases, algorithms, complex math, and the like. A quarter century of experience can give anyone a vast pool of knowledge to draw from when helping others, and sometimes it can seem as though we’re answering the same question again and again and again. This has created some frustration with me recently. However, with my abject lack of knowledge about how kindergarten works in Japan, I have been able to see things from the other side again. I’m sure the boy’s teachers have already tired of my questions and incessant mixing up of ソ1 and ン2 when filling out the seemingly endless run of forms by hand3. The same with my questions to colleagues about something they know well that I’m just now coming up to speed on. The same with parents who likely roll their eyes when I ask about various tricks to get young kids to put their pants on without complaint rather than parade in front of the big glass sliding doors wearing nothing but a shirt and a smile.

There’s a whole lot that I don’t know and, the more I learn, the more blank my mental slates seem to become.

  1. The katakana character pronounced “so”.

  2. The katakana character pronounced “n”.

  3. Reiko has bugged me for years that I write my name as “Jainso” in katakana. ジェイソン vs. ジェインソ. Do you see the difference? It’s there if you know what to look for.