Favor Observation Over Knowledge

Favor Observation Over Knowledge.jpg

One morning, I noticed that a sapling outside Silke's house had been chewed upon. It was a school day, so when the kids arrived I called them over and pointed it out. I don't think they would have noticed it otherwise. We looked at the bite marks, then talked a little about how the water and minerals flow up the inner bark of the tree, sort of like the blood in our our veins, and that if the bark was entirely chewed off the little tree would die. We talked about the rabbits that have little to eat and are looking for food after a long winter. We built a little protective shell out of an old pot. In this way, a passing observation turned into a rich biology lesson.

I was in my mid-twenties before I learned that rabbits and other rodents will eat bark off trees midwinter. But I could name half the animals in Africa and most of the parts of a human cell.

Knowledge without observation tends to ring hollow. Whereas observation almost always draws us into a deeper curiosity. It's not that rabbits and trees are better than zebras and endoplasm. It's that we can touch them.