Let knowledge drop
The Retune Blog - 27th October 2023
As I write this I’m sitting in the British Library alongside a huge glass enclosure containing six floors of ancient exquisitely bound books. It’s really impressive and must contain centuries of knowledge and wisdom. I’ve just sat beside these books to have a coffee after coming out of the library’s equally impressive collection displaying culturally iconic texts, including the Magna Carta and Lindisfarne Gospels.
It’s all really impressive, and I guess priceless. But, of itself, is it valuable? Some of the video’s in the exhibition discussing the Magna Carta make the point that it is really more of cultural value than the legal significance of the text which has had a lasting impact. It has allowed people to root their analysis and challenges as part of a British heritage when challenging the status quo.
Likewise, looking at the titles of some of the books in the enclosure beside me, huge ancient books on opera perhaps offer us more of an insight into the development of certain aspects of our national culture and identity, but are perhaps less significant to how the majority of people make sense of life today.
None of this is to say that historical and cultural value is not significant. It absolutely is in terms of understanding our shared historical development (or indeed counter-cultural response development). But it is what we do with this knowledge that can be transformative.
In Let Knowledge Drop, the late Tupac Shakur, explores the importance of a personal knowledge of our cultural heritage before going on to link it to becoming a foundation for the transformation of our present life experiences:
Why should I be forced to play dumb? I know where I came from, so I'm goin' to claim some … Now I know the reason we must excel, 'cause if we don't, we'll end up in the cell … Let knowledge drop.
I love this idea, that by growing in knowledge as to our cultural heritage, this can provide us with a transformative approach to how we live in the present with real tangible effect. I guess it provides us with a perspective which is not rooted in the present and so helps us to move from creating a perspective which is primarily shaped by contemporary socialisation.
The question is, how will we use our cultural heritage this week to challenge the narratives that we live out in our own lives? You don’t necessarily need to go all the way to the British Library, but it does take some time thinking.