Not real rabbit holes, of course – although I assume they’re fascinating. Maybe I will look them up at some point. Maybe I will become engrossed. No! Today I’m talking about rabbit holes, as in research, as in esoterica, as in one of the only really great idioms – pins-and-needles is also a delight – and as in one of the things that often open up when we’re trying to do something else.
Someone should make a game about rabbit holes. I say this because this week I realised that rabbit holes are the only way I ever actually learn anything. Yes, rabbit holes can be how people come to believe that the moon is hollow or that World War 2 is still taking place on Mars, and rabbit holes can lead to a Goop shopping cart, but they’re also more simply how a lot of fairly standard learning journeys take place following the advent of hypertext and online catalogues and all that jazz. Regardless of the topic, and with me it’s always trivial – a cake recipe, a funny spelling – I like a bit of spelunking in my fact-finding, I like to feel the rope give way and hear the distant sound of trickling water. I like to look up and think: Jeepers! How did I get here? Why have I got tabs open on Dupuytren’s Contracture and deep water drilling and Hubert Julian, a legendary aviator who once skydived over Manhattan in the 1920s dressed in a red leather devil costume? Oh, rabbit holes!
There is a proper way to learn things, isn’t there? Systematic, a bit at a time, follow the curriculum. A phrase returns from my younger years, a phrase that ended promising conversations. “Oh them,” I would say. “We haven’t done them in school.” End of story. Come back later. Come back when I’ve done them in school.
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