Accidental Useful Knowledge

Once I read two books back to back – just for fun. One was A Land Remembered by Patrick D. Smith and the other was Marley and Me by John Grogan. On the surface these two books had nothing in common. One was a historical novel following a family for several generations (1863 to 1968) as they settled Florida. The other was about a family’s life with an incredibly spirited dog named Marley.

Florida_freshwater_swamp_usgov_imageReading through A Land Remembered introduced me to Florida when it was practically undiscovered. Only a few Indian tribes dared to live in the swampy, seemingly uninhabitable land; however even the good land was free range at one time. Those that could weather the unforgiving terrain could travel all across Florida. No fences hindered them. Only bandits, disease or wild animals did that. Families could set up homesteads without much interference. Later as things changed, the land had to be purchased. It was owned and fenced making it impossible for others to travel through on their way to the other side of the state.

I considered this information interesting, but might not have dwelt on it had not it also been addressed in a totally unrelated true account about Marley. For much of his life, Marley and family lived in a neighborhood close to the Intracoastal Waterway separating West Palm Beach from Palm Beach. There were vivid descriptions of south Florida thunderstorms in both books. However, what connected the two books in my mind was John Grogan’s description of Palm Beach County: “what is less widely known is that it is also home to huge farms that stretch across drained Everglades swamps for miles out of town.” I was introduced to those huge farms and drained swamps in A Land Remembered.

1852_U.S._Coast_Survey_Map_of_Florida_-_Geographicus_-_WesternFlorida2-uscs-1853Although I have visited Florida, I have never lived there. I had not sought to discover facts about Florida and its development but there may be a time in the future when this accidental information will be useful.

The same thing often happens to me while I am searching online for information. An innocent search about one subject somehow leads down intricate paths to another subject. The facts I discovered at the end of my search could possibly be unrelated to what I wanted to know at the beginning. Sometimes by the time I am through with my research, I forgot what I was looking for in the first place!

I believe no knowledge is wasted. There have been times when I met someone or was in the middle of a teaching situation when all of a sudden I remembered something hidden in my mind’s data bank that was now applicable to the present. I have a vivid memory of one retreat I was conducting where someone posed a question to me I had never contemplated before. However, just the day previous to that, some unrelated research had supplied me with the knowledge I needed in order to answer the question. Those circumstances often surprise me, but I am confident that God is not surprised. What is accidental useful knowledge for me is part of His plan.

To give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion – A wise man will hear and increase learning and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel (Proverbs 1:4-5).

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