I don’t believe in much. I’m not what you’d call an easy person to convince. I have to be really inspired to believe in something. But there is one thing that I do believe in, and believe strongly, and it is that knowledge is the stuff of life and learning is what makes life worth living. I get up each day knowing I will go to bed a wiser person. Knowledge is what sets me apart from the Neanderthals of tens of thousands of years ago and from the Neanderthals of today. Knowledge is not the evil sin that many religions make it out to be nor is curiosity, which enables learning. If I had the chance to go back and warn Eve not to eat the apple of knowledge, I would tell her to grab it and go make some apple pie. Knowledge is synonymous with being. “I think therefore I am,” Rene Descartes once said. I would say, “I think therefore I am, and I learn therefore I am human.”
But while knowledge is synonymous with being, it is not synonymous with school. And this is a disappointment. School was where I really used to practice my belief in learning, but now school seems to be all about devouring facts to regurgitate later. That is to learning as bulimia is to eating. I don’t actually learn anything. All it does is give me a faint lingering taste in my mouth that I have learned something, but it is false.
But I have not let this falling out with school dampen my fervent belief in the power and good of learning. I still want to learn, to understand! I want to see the world! I want to dream and talk and discuss and ponder! I want to believe…
When I pick up a book, it fills me with excitement. The knowledge that flows from a book is like water from the fountain of youth… It is timeless. It is beautiful. It sweeps me up and carries me off on a wave of thoughts and possibilities that swirl me and twirl me until I am dizzy with knowledge.
This desire to know, my belief in learning, began with my parents who read to me every night and answered all my millions of questions as I wondered, wide-eyed, at the world. They taught me to always ask questions and never just accept what someone tells me. They might have regretted this later when I applied this approach to them, but really, they should have seen it coming. When I talk to my parents, my family, my friends, and my teachers, I am filled with awe at the knowledge they possess. These people are real and they live real lives. I long to know all about them, what they’ve seen, what they’ve heard, what they’ve felt, and to know what they know.
I owe my parents, and all my family, so much, because they made me the insatiably curious and knowledge-crazy person that I am. I will always strive to learn.
This I Believe
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.