Sometime ago, I was having a chat with a friend who, like me, was learning to swim. “I’ve learnt”, she declared confidently on day two of her swimming practise. I was mighty impressed, and a tad jealous, since I had not made such sterling progress. “I can do a breadth”, she added. I congratulated her, and then, being curious how she had achieved this feat, enquired about what stroke she had learnt. It was the regular freestyle, she said, and she had mastered it all, except the little bit where she needed to pull her head out of the water to breath.
This was exactly where I was in my swimming lessons, and to me it didn’t seem like I knew swimming at all. Until I knew how to pull my head out of the water, I didn’t know swimming. It was the crucial bit that made the difference between knowing and not knowing.
Knowing something is a curious business. Do we really know something if we don't know the crucial bits?