It’s Never Too Late To Learn
With my third-to-last semester of college underway, it feels like I’m rapidly approaching a point where I can refer to myself as sort of “book smart.” I’ve accumulated quite a few facts, and now I’m just trying to refine my skills and develop real-world experience. And most of my drama school colleagues could probably say the same thing. But yesterday, in my advanced playwriting class, we had a collective experience that revealed a major gap in our education, and just how far we have to go.
Someone had written a play that casually referenced a character wearing a mink coat. We were discussing the script in class, when we had a realization. None of us, including the teacher, knew what a mink is. Obviously it’s some kind of animal that has fur. We’re not morons. But no matter how hard we thought, none of us could recall seeing a mink or knowing what they look like. You could have told us that a mink was the size of a mouse or the size of a deer, and we would have believed you.
A few Google searches solved the problem, but proceeded to create more. We found out that minks are the size of otters, but their small size raised questions about how many minks are going into each coat. We then had to do those calculations, and figure out how the number changes when the coat is also lined with mink fur on the inside. We also read a 2017 news story about 35,000 mink being released from a farm in Minnesota, which prompted someone to remark “that’s like 400 coats worth of mink.” We had reached the point where “coat” had become a unit of mink measurement.
We could have stopped there and proceeded to actually learn playwriting, but an accidental search for “minkenry” ended that possibility. Once you realize there’s a sport where people hunt and fish using vicious, highly-trained minks as weapons, it becomes very difficult to focus on anything else. Trust me. The number of minkenry articles on the Internet is relatively low, but I assure you that each one is more fascinating than the last.
It’s difficult to explain how this hole in our collective knowledge occurred. Maybe our high school science teachers completely skipped over the mink species, or maybe they taught it, but none of us were listening that day. I honestly think the two scenarios are equally possible. But it taught me a valuable lesson about remaining inquisitive. As art school upperclassmen, we resigned ourselves to stop learning about anything that doesn’t involve scripts years ago. But by indulging our curiosity, we walked out of that