snob- a person who believes himself or herself an expert or connoisseur in a given field
and is condescending toward or disdainful of those who hold other opinions
or have different tastes regarding this field.
"I saw a deer in the bush," I replied without much enthusiasm. After all, I had been looking for migrating birds and unusual wildflowers. Deer are common along the river, although not commonly seen.
"That's wonderful," he replied with a lot of enthusiasm. He proceeded to show me a small photo album of pictures he had taken along the trail this spring. I admired each grainy photo of ordinary birds, animals, reptiles and flowers including one of his cat. It was impossible to miss the obvious pleasure he took in walking this section of the river every day.
That evening I read an excellent post by Larry of The Brownstone Birding Blog called 5 Symptoms of Avian Snob Syndrome and it made me remember my encounter earlier in the day. How easy it is to take everyday beauty around us for granted. We can spend so much time looking for something new and unusual that we ignore the rhythms of our immediate world. When was the last time I experienced a child-like admiration for the perfect globe of a dandelion seed head? As adults we classify them as ugly weeds and lose the joy of discovery.
Knowledge can lead to judgemental attitudes and snobbery in many areas of life. We may feel superior and look down on others who are not experts as we think we are in regards to food, health, fitness, child-rearing, religion, finance, fashion, education, photography, etc, etc.
When our girls were young we often rode our bikes to a nearby pond to see the "ducks and geese". I now think Canada Geese are messy, overabundant nuisance birds and am not enthused when I see a flotilla of twenty young birds with their hissing parents. In a couple of weeks this family will be stopping traffic many times a day on the residential street as they walk back and forth picking the best lawns to eat, slowing down people in a rush to get somewhere.
This elderly man from a nearby nursing home was walking with a personal attendant beside the swamp. He stopped and admired the same geese for several minutes and then shuffled slowly ahead. Perhaps his vision was poor and the large birds were all he could see. Like a child, he savoured the moment and enjoyed the brief time he had out of a building.
I continue to look for new and interesting things in this big, interesting world. But I don't want to lose the joy of rediscovery, of seeing ordinary events through the eyes of a child or an elder. Knowledge is easily accumulated but wisdom and understanding can be more elusive. Snobbery is subtle and destructive, arrogant and proud.
"Life is not a race, but a journey to be savoured each step of the way."