Break a Mental Sweat

Benjamin - Plymouth, New Hampshire
Entered on April 28, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30

I believe in the unending pursuit of knowledge. That’s right, I said it, I like to learn. In fact, I’ve always been keen for new ideas. When I was a “wee lad” of about five, my mother first began to teach me how to read. I knew the alphabet by then but just hadn’t made the connection between the Alpha-bits floating around in my cereal bowl and the title of my favorite book, which consisted entirely of pictures. Each day, I would sit in her lap and we would read a book together. I would follow along in the book, struggling to figure out the enigmatic words and phrases while my mother would read aloud.

After about six months of this, I had begun to read simple phrases and slogans. It was at this point that my mother felt I was ready to learn about the “English rules of usage”. The operative word for me was rules. I didn’t want any more rules. As a feisty young man almost half a decade old, I couldn’t stand the thought of more rules; however, my mother, being quite clever at nearly four and a half decades old, decided to reward me with a cookie each time I learned a new rule. Every day, after we were done reading, she would teach me a new rule and quiz me on past lessons. Eyeing the cookie with a glance that said, “You’ll soon be in my tummy”, I would repeat, “’I’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’…”, and so on. Needless to say, I was a hefty five year old. In any case, my mother’s trick worked and I learned the rules of English. At the age of six, I was fairly proficient at the art of reading and it had become my favorite activity. I read anything I could get my hands on, books on trains, space, rockets, electricity, even physics and psychology. The first three categories I had no problems with, but I needed my mother’s help conceptualizing some topics in the latter three.

As I recall my reading lessons with my mother, I remember that she always used to tell me, “When you learn to read, you will open the door to a whole new world.” As a child, I would hunt for a door to some adventurous land–probably like Narnia– then give up thinking that my mother was joking. Of course, I know now that the “new world” was knowledge itself. Ever since the time I learned to read, I have always had a thirst for knowledge. My unending quest to quench this thirst has led me to explore topics such as poetry, computing, geometry, and history, just to name a few. I think it was Socrates who once said, “There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance.” I couldn’t agree more. There is no harm in learning about a topic; in fact, learning as much as one can better prepares him to analyze what he learns in the future. So, now that you have heard what I have to say, go forth into the world and learn something for yourself. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. If nothing else, you’ll be able to wow your friends with your seemingly prolific knowledge of exotic plants and Raku pottery.