The Need to Understand

Justin - Bennington, Vermont
Entered on March 20, 2008
Age Group: Under 18

Much of my energy is spent reaching for the impossible, to truly understand what I experience. Approaching such an understanding soul on fire and my creativity flowing, but such understanding is intrinsically ephemeral. The slow burn of the gradual accumulation of knowledge, whether found through a biology lecture, featured article in wikipedia, or hike outside, is food for thought, a sustenance for the mind. Rather than a pure thrill or hedonistic pleasure seeker, I often feel closer to an aspirant of understanding. I believe this understanding is the key to my joy of living, and without it my life would feel conspicuously empty.

My attraction to understanding is not similar to the autistic’s proclivity for rote memorization of figures and facts. My search is quite the opposite. Information without connection is meaningless, and therefore useless. The connection between between ideas, the abstract, and knowledge is the thing I value most. I define these connections as true understanding.

My understanding is not, and cannot, be complete. Any entity which achieves, perfect, enduring understanding would seem to me a true God, similar in concept to the state of enlightenment that must be gained to become a true Buddha. By God, I mean that such a being would be beyond the normal scope of humanity to have attained such a state. The nearer I come to understanding those around me, the easier it is for me to have empathy for them and their actions. If I can have this empathy, I can avoid hating those I can’t agree with.

My methods for understanding are numerous and varied. They can be divided into two categories: intellectual and actual. Intellectual progress involves reading, looking, listening, and thinking. Actual progress is action based on intellectual progress, and is more important. I can read the original Golden rule, coined by Confucius, but it is quite another thing to really dictate your actions on the 2,500 idea. In my pursuit of understanding, if I do not act upon what I have learned, I have not learned.

I can pursue understanding until the day I no longer possess my mind. That is a great gift, and I intend to take full advantage of my opportunity to understand my life. Even if I must waste away physically, I can still understand. And perhaps, through understanding it, I can face death without either hate or fear, and thereby conquer it.