It is often said that we “learn something new every day”. However, this morning I decided that I needed to spend more time learning broadly instead of simply circulating in the rut that has become my comfortable mental exercise hall. I read a newspaper each day (online) and try to stay reasonably connected with the world around me. However, while I can tell you that a man in Warm Springs was arrested today on charges of having killed his friend, that Oregon’s gas prices have fallen by 20 cents over the last eight weeks, and that the weather we have experienced lately is out of the norm, I really haven’t learned anything outside of my typical boundaries of exposure. I read technical blogs, political blogs, and more often than not pop onto wikipedia when I encounter a term or reference with which I am unfamiliar. However, this still has a tendency to cover only a very small surface area of knowledge. In short, my depth in certain areas is continuing to grow, but my breadth across knowledge areas is becoming (has become) quite stifled.
To stem this tide of shallowness I have decided to take it upon myself to learn about something quite off my typically beaten track each day [that time allows for such endeavors], and furthermore to share the information I learn here as a way of re-enforcing the knowledge in my own mind. It is one thing to read, it is quite another to write about what you have read and learned in a (hopefully) meaningful fashion. I have no intention of fulfilling any kind of completeness of information, nor of indexing, compiling, or otherwise organizing this information in anything but a collection of interesting trivia. This is not an effort to document new information, rather a place in which I might take the time to share a little of what I learned each day.
So today, dear reader, we are going to learn a little about the poet Robert Burns. I chose Robert Burns because I like some of his poetry and yet found when I queried my mind that I knew little about him beyond some surface facts about his Scottish heritage.
Robert Burns was born on January 25th 1759 in Alloway on the River Doon, South Ayrshire, Scotland. He spent only a little time in school and was educated primarily at home by his father. His father was a farmer and Burns started working on the farm at a young age. After working on the family farm for a short while, Burns became a tax and customs official (exciseman) as he needed to earn more money to support his growing family. He was 15 years old when he wrote his first poem: “O, Once I Lov’d a Bonnie Lass” and one year later he was sent to finish his education at Kirkoswald, later writing the songs “Now Westlin’ Winds” and “I Dream’d I Lay”. Robert continued to write poems and songs, including many famously quoted works such as “To a Mouse” and “To a Louse” from which the quotes “The best laid schemes of mice and men, gang oft agley.” and “Oh wad some pow’r the giftie gie us, To see oursels as others see us.” are known, respectively. Robert Burns is the national poet of Scotland and is remembered annually on or around the poet’s birthday of January 25th, a night known as “Burns Night” or “Burns Supper”. The traditional dish of course is haggis, ushered in with bagpipes.
Thanks for reading and thanks for learning.