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Everyone has heard the old saying, 'Knowledge is power”. Although it is a phrase that you think would be used in regard to education and intellectual pursuits, it is more often used in reference to finding out what your enemy or opponent is up to so you can crush him like a bug, either figuratively or literally. That's a little depressing, but given human nature, not necessarily surprising. Being a person who is fond of knowledge of all kinds and actively engaged in pursuing it whenever possible, I like to avoid thinking about knowledge in terms of a weapon and prefer to think about it as a tool, or even just a really cool thing. On the other hand, I have come to realize that the phrase, 'A little knowledge is a dangerous thing', is very true. It seems pretty obvious that just because someone knows a little about how the brain works and can accurately cut into a cantaloupe doesn't make him a brain surgeon. That is an extreme example, of course, but it never ceases to amaze me when people who can put new spark plugs in a car imagine that they are mechanics and like to tell you exactly what is wrong with your vehicle, or people who can make a mean pot roast or bake a good apple pie think that they are master chefs. I see this kind of attitude demonstrated frequently whenever my teenage son and his little buddies play video games. Their favorite games are what they call, 'First Person Shooter' games, meaning that it involves toting around a virtual weapon in a virtual combat situation and shooting at virtual enemies. To be perfectly honest, I occasionally play these games with Chuck, and they can be tons of fun, no doubt about it, but having been in the Army, I have a very clear understanding of the reality of handling combat weapons versus whatever my little virtual soldier is doing. I sometimes watch the boys play or listen to their commentary and I have come to realize that some of them actually believe that being able to achieve a high score in these games somehow translates into a bizarre reality where they are Annie Oakely crack shots. I find this weirdly annoying, largely because it has no basis in reality and manages somehow to discount all the raw talent, training, and practice that actual crack shots put into their accomplishments. So, naturally, I have to give the boys a hard time because although I don't care for arrogance generally, I really hate it when it has absolutely nothing to back it up.
One day they were playing the game and got caught up in a discussion about which among them was the best sharpshooter. They can sometimes take this kind of competition very seriously and the dialogue can get somewhat heated. That's when I jumped in.
“Stop arguing, guys,” I said loudly, “The fact of the matter is that none of you are sharpshooters. You are a bunch of lazy teenage boys sitting on a couch and staring at a screen with a little box with buttons in your hands. There is no resemblance whatsoever between what you are doing and actually sharpshooting, or for that matter, anything else that is real.”
When I say things like this they always get their little teenage boy egos all in a bunch and get a little huffy. How dare I cast aspersions on their view of themselves as skilled virtual warriors? They launched into a noisy protest, listing their various virtual awards and high scores. They told me that I had absolutely no idea what it took to be good at the game, that it took lightning fast reflexes and dead-eye accuracy and a whole bunch of other qualities that I couldn't possibly ever attain or understand, all of which could, in fact, would translate into actual skills in real life. Whoo boy...someone takes their little virtual world waaaay too seriously. Naturally, Chuck was not saying a word; being my son he has been forced to learn what being a sniper really entails and has watched numerous documentaries on war and combat, and has no illusions on the subject. He just sat and stared at the screen with a look of pained resignation on his face.
“Are you serious?” I asked the band of deluded brothers, “You guys wouldn't have any idea what to do in a real combat situation if someone wrote instructions in crayon pinned them to your shirts and pointed you in the right direction. Most of you would be totally exhausted after 10 minutes of dragging yourself around while carrying your school backpacks and a curtain rod much less full combat gear and a 50 caliber anything. Just trying to do the math necessary to calculate all the factors in order to take the shot would take you 6 months and have your brains leaking out of your eyeballs. Sitting on your cushy rear ends on a comfy couch and playing sniper in high definition requires no skill that would ever translate to anything useful in real life and would end up creating nothing for you but a bunch of bad habits that some weapons instructor would have to beat out of you.”
My tirade was greeted with uncomfortable silence. Good, let the little darlings think about it. I smiled at them and handed out my killer homemade cookies, “Look, guys, I'm not saying that you aren't good at the game. All I'm saying is, keep it real.”
Not a bad bit of advice for a generation that seems to spend a huge chunk of time functioning in the world of virtual unreality. Keep it real, or at the very least, know the difference.
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