This I Believe

Maria - Kings Mountain, North Carolina
Entered on January 17, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe in knowledge. It was the need for knowledge and the search thereof that propelled human beings from their caves, animal skins and obsidian hammers to skyscrapers, synthetic fibers and laser-guided diamond-dusted power tools. Some may say that growth of human knowledge is also to blame for the global warming and nuclear weapons. But I believe it will be knowledge that will ultimately keep humanity from destroying itself. After all how can one restore the environment or learn to communicate with others without wielding the nuclear whip, if they don’t know how?

I believe in asking questions – and not just the right questions, but all of them and of every kind. This particular stance got me into a lot of trouble throughout my professional career, when, for example, I asked why it was mandatory for company employees to take the project management training du jour (which took 30-something hours and was of no practical use to them until they actually became project managers), while they barely knew how to use Microsoft Office they were expected to use on a daily basis. Jokes aside, if we don’t ask as many questions as possible, how are we to know, which answers are missing? Too many times those who ask questions are labeled either “stupid” or “trouble-makers”. I call these people brave. It takes great courage to aks a question, especially when you know that the answer may not be what you espect or – worse yet – the answer may not exist and it is up to you to find it.

My favorite description of venturing into the area of unanswereable questions come from the Strugatski brothers’ Monday Starts on Saturday

” ‘My dear fellows,’ – Fedor Simeonovich said, having made out our handwritings, – ‘This is Ben Betsalel’s problem. Cagliostro has proven that it had no solution.’

‘We know it has no solution,’ Junta said, instantly bristling, ‘We want to know how to solve it.’

‘T-that’s a strange way of thinking, Ch-christo… H-how can you look for a solution, if there isn’t one? M-m-makes no sense…’

‘Forgive me, Theodor, but you are the one who has a strange way of thinking. It makes no sense to look for a solution when it already exists. But how do we handle a problem, that does not have a solution?’ ” How, indeed? We won’t know that the problem requires a solution until we ask.

I believe in learning. One’s tenacity at asking questions may lead him to knowledge, but one must be willing to absorb it, which always requires effort. It may not be clear, whether this is the knowledge you’ve been looking for; you will not know whether it will answer your questions or create more of them, but learning is the only way to find out.