Posted in Special Long Essays


New Years Day, 2010 – While reading Bernard Werber’s new masterpiece God, a thought flashed in my mind. It was an idea that I had previously thought of but never acted on. It was an idea relating to Edmond Wells’ (well, actually Werber’s) Encyclopaedia of Relative and Absolute Knowledge.

I have always respected Werber who frequently applied the vast amount of knowledge he compiled in there in many of his works, in the most creative ways possible. Not because he was simply collating all the knowledge of the world, but because he created a dictionary of how to use that knowledge, what true knowledge is, and thoughts and philosophies of his that have never been heard of anywhere else.

Even more amazing is the fact that he started this massive project when he was just fourteen. Fourteen! The reality is that at that age, most teenagers prefer playing sports, gaming, socialising and dating rather than “boring” books. But Werber seeked knowledge. Instead of who won the soccer game, he was more interested in the lives of ants. Instead of learning names of celebrities, he learnt the history of ancient Greece. Furthermore, to make sure he did not forget what he learnt, he steadily compiled a knowledge tank that is the Encyclopaedia of Relative and Absolute Knowledge.

The most likely reason I adore and respect Werber so much is probably because I feel that his way of thinking is similar to my own. When I read his books, every page makes me nod in agreement as I learn, understand and empathise with his words. Above all else, I empathise most with his passion, because I too have had a hobby of collecting knowledge since I was young. The knowledge we gain from school is limited, the reason being that students follow a curriculum set by a department. Because of this, I frequently questioned my teachers; I felt not getting the most out of those who have learnt far beyond my current knowledge to be a waste. Thanks partly to that, even in university I had a better general knowledge base than many other students and also gained valuable life lessons. The point I am emphasising the most here is that seeking knowledge – beyond that which is given to us – is the fundamental basis of the Encyclopaedia of Relative and Absolute Knowledge

What I am saying here is not the fact that Werber or I studied intently as students is ideal. What I respect is his passion for knowledge. The Encyclopaedia contains not just facts he rote-learnt from textbooks or classes, but things he researched, pondered and experienced himself. Yes, true knowledge is not something that one learns because he is forced to, but the precious reward one gains from passionately searching and researching. Also, the vast amount of knowledge left by our predecessors should not be blindly absorbed, but rather processed and analysed by each individual so that he or she can decide whether they think it is the truth or not.

This is what Werber refers to as, and what I emphasise as “relative and absolute knowledge”.

History, science, religion: all of these fields are bound to contain both truths and fiction. Therefore, each must be scrutinised and picked apart by the learner. I consider an encyclopaedia that stores all of this knowledge to be more valuable than any book in the world. And thus I decided: to record everything I know, and everything that I will come to know, here in my own book before it is too late.

I will name this book directly after Werber’s and call it the Encyclopaedia of Absolute and Relative Knowledge (note that I have switched the “absolute” and “relative” for the sake of differentiating from the original, and for the acronym ARK that will be used henceforth). This is due to the fact that regardless of copyright, it is not my original idea and was conceived by Werber. Also, there will be many entries that will be from the original Encyclopaedia, as many contain priceless information and ideas that I want to keep and already know now. However, these will only be Werber’s knowledge that I have looked over, thought about, totally agreed with and found to be so important that I must repeat them.

As a side note, I will write all of my entries in Korean to my best ability. This is because I want to record my thoughts in my mother tongue, which is my most precious language. If there is a need in the future, I will translate it to English. I wish that (the very few) friends who share my way of thinking will some day read these as well.

Lastly, I want to continue writing this book for the rest of my life. So with that thought in my mind – and the hopes that I will have the willpower and endurance to fulfil it – I hereby start my very own Encyclopaedia of Relative and Absolute Knowledge.

Jin Kim

5th January, 2010

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