Earlier this week, I read an article that said it is good to have lots of books on your shelves that you haven’t read yet. I laughed, and thought surely this must be fake news. But the source (Inc. magazine) was legitimate and the story was based on research by bestselling author Nassim Nicholas Taleb. The thinking is that having many unread books (assuming that you do read some of them, of course) both fosters a sense of curiosity and reminds you of your ignorance.
I guess this way of thinking falls into the same category as the more you learn, the more you realize how much you’ll ever know. Whenever I take a deep dive into a subject, I find this to be true. It was certainly the case with gardening. Just when I learned how to prune a hydrangea, I discovered there were other types of hydrangeas that had different pruning requirements. As I quizzed myself relentlessly to learn the names of plants in nurseries and botanical gardens, I discovered that there are more than 350,000 known plant species, not to mention cultivars and hybrids. I even discovered that gardening wasn’t just about growing plants; it was also about garden design, landscape architecture, horticulture, botany, arboriculture, environmental sustainability and even meteorology.
Photography is that way for me, too. I’ve been taking photographs and learning about photography since I was a kid. And yet, no matter how much I read, shoot, and take or teach workshops, I can never begin to grasp even a significant portion of it all. I discover that it's not just about taking pictures; it's also about art, storytelling, lighting, science, computer technology and so much more...yes, even meteorology. (Landscape photographers obsess over the weather just as much as gardeners.) There are so many photographic processes, both new and historic, I’d love to try. So many photographers I’d love to read about. So many exhibits and photo books I’d like to spend time with. And then I realize, there will never be enough time to take it all in. The field of photography, like nearly everything else, is changing rapidly and growing exponentially.
So I’m glad to know that it’s okay if I haven’t read all of the books on these shelves and that it’s natural to discover how much I’ll never know about the subjects I’m most passionate about. It helps to both tap and satisfy my sense of curiosity and gives me something new to look forward to each day, even if it does remind me of my ignorance.