Carrying Around the Machinery of Knowledge

San Francisco composer Dan Becker sends a quotation from Krishnamurti relevant to the discussion of music theory. Perhaps not the most profoundly stated truths in the world, but one would certainly like to see these sentiments acknowledged in academia on a more regular basis:

The function of education is to give the student abundant knowledge in the various fields of human endeavor and at the same time to free his mind from all traditions so that he is able to investigate, to find out, to discover. Otherwise the mind becomes mechanical, burdened with the machinery of knowledge. Unless it is constantly freeing itself from the accumulations of tradition, the mind is incapable of discovering the Supreme, that which is eternal; but it must obviously acquire expanding knowledge and information so that it is capable of dealing with the things that man needs and must produce.

So knowledge, which is the cultivation of memory, is useful and necessary at a certain level, but at another level it becomes a detriment. To recognize the distinction – to see where knowledge is destruction and has to be put aside, and where it is essential and to be allowed to function with as much amplitude as possible – is the beginning of intelligence.

Now, what is happening in education at the present time? You are being given various kinds of knowledge, are you not? When you go to college you may become an engineer, a doctor, or a lawyer [….] and so on; but nobody helps you to be free of all traditions so that from the very beginning your mind is fresh, eager and therefore capable of discovering something totally new all the time. The philosophies, theories and beliefs which you acquire from books, and which become your tradition, are really a hindrance to the mind, because the mind uses these things as a means of its own psychological security and is therefore conditioned by them. So it is necessary both to free the mind from all tradition, and at the same time to cultivate knowledge, technique; and this is the function of education.

I remember that when I was young I once nurtured an ambition to be known as the world’s smartest and most knowledgeable musician. Today that seems laughably perverse, like wanting to be the world’s tallest locksmith, or the world’s fastest-swimming accountant. Life has taken a tremendous toll on my memory, and I seem to no longer understand the complicated theories and philosophical positions I did when I was young. And I keep getting this eerie feeling that every decline in my intellectual abilities is accompanied by an improvement in my music.