Wednesday, January 10, 2007

I'm Not an Expert

I've been thinking a lot lately about experts. It started with (cue the shameless self-promotion) "Here's the 80s" . JP and I started that blog for one reason and one reason only: we love the 80s. We don't consider ourselves experts. We both have favorite bands that we know a lot about and could, in those cases, be considered experts on some level. But we don't know tons of stuff about who produced who and where groups got their names. We do not have all sorts of information about the time that Biff McBifferson, lead guitarist for Smarty and the Pants, got into a bar fight with bassist Chuck Chuckerson over his dalliance Lola, the 3rd backup singer from the left, and so he left to form ChaCha and the Dogs and how their first big hit "Scratch This" is really all about what a lout Chuck was. Most of the time, if we have factoids like that, it's because we read it on Wikipedia right before publishing the post.

But we have a very enthusiastic and knowledgeable fan base, who seem to be full of such information, and while I can't speak for JP on this, it sometimes makes me feel a little I should spend the next several months immersing myself in the history of the 80s so I can do a better job of pontificating about the details of the era. But then I think, "Hey, this isn't public radio". I don't think people are going to come to our site and stay there because we're founts of information. I think they'll come because it's fun. It's eclectic. It's a place to spend an average of 12:51 listening to great music from a great era. Period. And frankly, I think if we got too heavy on the information it would be a lot less fun for the people just looking for a good song.

There are some things I know a lot about: cooking and entertaining, for example. But I'm not Martha Stewart. I know how to save a broken sauce, which herbs compliment which kinds of cuisine and am a fair hand at pairing wine with food. I still think red Hawaiian sea salt tastes exactly like kosher salt. I just use it sometimes because it's super pretty. I love giving people cooking tips, but I try to do it only when they ask. Because while sharing information is fun I don't want to seem like an insufferable know-it all.

I am not an expert on gardening. I go to my friend, Lorene, for that. I certainly can tell when someone has a lovely garden but I can't identify every plant and I don't know any of the Latin names for any of them. (Except sage, which in Latin is salvia). But Lorene tells me that it doesn't matter if I know the Latin name for plants because even if I did they wouldn't come when I call them.

I know quite a lot about Henry VIII and his 6 wives but couldn't have a meaningful conversation about the economic forces at play in the Tudor period. Idaho is the Gem State. Deciduous trees are the ones that lose their leaves. White vinegar makes a good non-toxic cleaner. You can power a clock with a potato. Gerald Ford was our 38th president. Lincoln was the 16th. 3+5=8

I know things. But there are a lot of things in which I am constantly engaged about which I know virtually nothing. Parenting, for example. Totally making that up as I go along. I can give good advice to friends who are pregnant or have small children, owing to the "been there, done that" principle. That still doesn't make me an expert. I couldn't sell out seminars to people clamoring for my wisdom. I'm still learning how to write. I spell well and know enough not to split infinitives. But every day I realize how much is left to learn.

So what is it about experts? Why do some of them seem so interesting and others are just plain insufferable? Why do we rely so much upon experts in lieu of figuring things out for ourselves? This is not to say that having experts is a bad thing. It's not. We need experts to fix our computers, help us address the problem of global warming and guide us over the rocky shoals of raising a teenager. Experts have the ability to inform, empower and challenge. They can also bore you to death.

I've been listening to a lot of experts lately and here's what I've figured out. I love the ones who are so passionate about their topic that they just can't help sharing. People like that make even the most obsure subject fascinating. That's a good thing. I just don't like it when people share their knowledge because they want you to be impressed with their "depth". It's sad when someone needs you to be impressed with how much they know. People should have a more profound definition of themselves than that. I don't want to be known for knowing things. I want to be known for loving them.

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Blogger jp opined...

You've got it all wrong. Biff played bass guitar while his brother Bart played lead. Chuck Chuckerson was the drummer, and he didn't dally with Lola, he dallied with her sister Lana, who was one of the original backups dancers before she got that nasty rash.

January 10, 2007 9:48 AM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

Frakkin' Wikipedia.

January 10, 2007 9:53 AM  
Blogger Jon opined...

That was a beautiful post. I'm glad you love lots of things.

January 10, 2007 10:07 AM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

Thanks, Buck.

January 10, 2007 10:15 AM  
Blogger Kendall opined...

Well said!

January 10, 2007 10:18 AM  
Blogger jp opined...

No Wikipedia here. I'm an expert on all things Smarty and the Pants. I was even following them back when they were still called Smarty and the Jockey shorts.

January 10, 2007 10:45 AM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

Yeah, you and that one Danish guy.

January 10, 2007 10:50 AM  
Blogger Grish opined...

I have a hard time with this sometimes as well but it doesn't bother me as much as 'the experts' belittling others because the are not experts as well...

January 10, 2007 2:19 PM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

Ooh, yeah! I hate those kinds of "experts".

January 10, 2007 2:21 PM  
Blogger Iwanski opined...

I know a lots and lots of things, and I hate most of them.

Now I hate myself.

January 10, 2007 4:06 PM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

But I understand all that knowledge comes in real handy during Trivial Pursuit. That's a reason to love yourself.

January 10, 2007 4:12 PM  
Blogger Red7Eric opined...

I'm approaching expertise about a few things that I love, and am perplexed that my effusiveness (effusion?) about these cherished topics is sometimes mistaken for pretension. Gotta work on that. Great post, pretty lady.

January 10, 2007 5:42 PM  

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