Like many children, one of the ways I learned the alphabet was with an A–Z of animals.
Ever since then, whenever the subject of an animal beginning with X has come up (mainly in games like Scattergories), I've always jumped in rather smugly with the X-ray fish. It was only when I came to write this blog that I began to wonder whether it really existed. Turns out it does, though it has a more common, un-X-related name (the Pristella Tetra). The umbrella bird, my other obscure favourite from that childhood A–Z, also exists (even though it sounds made up). Yay. The adults weren't lying to me.
But then I started to wonder: surely the X-ray fish can't be the only animal beginning with X? So I Googled it – and I was amazed. There are loads of animals beginning with X, from Xantus's Murrelet to the Xingu River ray. For many of them it's their Latin name that starts with X rather than their common name, but all the same. There was me thinking I was being clever to know one X animal, when all the time there were dozens more out there to discover. It's like eating nothing but KitKats for thirty years and then finding out there's a whole sweetshop down the road.
The point of this, really, is that learning is a never-ending process. Once we acquire a little knowledge in a given area - whether it's animals beginning with X or, say, writing techniques - we have a tendency to sit back and assume we're done. We know it all. But that's never the case. However much we know, there's always more to discover. Clinging to the 'facts' we have, without admitting the possibility that there might be more or better or different facts available, only leaves us stagnant. To grow, to change and most importantly to improve, we have to allow for the fact that we won't stop learning until we die. And although it's scary to admit our own ignorance, it's also wonderful and exciting.
I still love my X-ray fish. But now I think I'll give the Xerces Blue a try.
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