PeopleReflectionJune 21, 20152So Much We Don’t Know…

Sometimes I can't decide whether to be more fascinated or more embarrassed by all that I don't know...

My hus­band and I just spent a few days in Reyk­javik, and once again, I was aston­ished at how rel­a­tive­ly lit­tle infor­ma­tion I have about the world around me, and how many com­plete­ly unwar­rant­ed assump­tions I make, based on the lim­it­ed and lim­it­ing infor­ma­tion that’s been passed on to me from oth­ers.  For exam­ple, out­side a soar­ing mod­ern church in the cen­ter of Reyk­jav­il is a stat­ue of Leifr Eir­ic­s­son, with this inscrip­tion on the back:



Wait — I had some vague fac­toid in my head about some­body named Leif Erik­son sail­ing west from Scandinavia…but dis­cov­er­ing the US?  And wait — the one thou­sandth anniver­sary of the…Althing?

So I bought a lit­tle book of Ice­landic his­to­ry, writ­ten by an Ice­landic his­to­ri­an, and it seems as though there’s a good deal of evi­dence that a guy named Leifr Eir­ic­s­son sailed from Ice­land around 1000 AD and estab­lished a set­tle­ment near what is now New­found­land.  There is some indi­ca­tion that he may have also sailed as far south as present-day New York.

And yet, every child in the US still learns that “in 1492, Colum­bus sailed the ocean blue,” and became the first Euro­pean to set foot in North Amer­i­ca.  Well, except for that oth­er guy who showed up 500 years ear­li­er.  Iron­i­cal­ly, in 1964, Pres­i­dent Lyn­don John­son declared Octo­ber 9th  “Leif Erik­son Day”, so you can actu­al­ly decide whether to cel­e­brate Colum­bus Day or Erik­son Day dur­ing the sec­ond week of Octo­ber. That is, if you know that Leif Erik­son exist­ed and that he has a nation­al hol­i­day ded­i­cat­ed to him.

And as for the Alth­ing — that’s the Ice­landic par­lia­ment, which has met reg­u­lar­ly since the year 930. It’s one of the two “old­est extant par­lia­men­tary insti­tu­tions in the world,” accord­ing to Wikipedia.

I love find­ing out new stuff…I get excit­ed to real­ize that as long as I live, there will be new and fas­ci­nat­ing things to dis­cov­er every moment of every day. 


  • Duncan M.

    June 23, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    It is a fact that we have a whole life to learn new things. I am sur­prised to see that this major his­tor­i­cal event is not pro­mot­ed at its true val­ue. How­ev­er, it is nev­er too late to learn.


    • Erika Andersen

      August 23, 2015 at 5:49 pm

      Yes — when I find out things like this, it always makes me curi­ous about all the oth­er things I don’t know…so much cool stuff to find out!


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