How Things Work

Ryan - Oak Forest, Illinois
Entered on December 10, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30

Growing up, my family always kept a full bookshelf. The bookshelf contained all my parents books: my dad’s course books from school and religious books and magazines, and my mom’s supply of craft books. However, a section of the shelf was designated for me and my younger sister. This section, although it may have been small in the beginning, was a world of excitement and adventure for me. Inside the tomes displayed on the hard oak shelves were worlds of space travel, sea pirates, best friends, and bitter rivals. However, no book on that shelf captured my imagination as much as a collection entitled, “How Things Work.”

In this series, each book would have a different topic. They ranged from practical science, to anthropology, and even astronomy. Each page would offer a new item or concept with a colorfully illustrated depiction of exactly what was happening to make something work, or make an idea one that everyone could understand or relate to. Each page also had a small note titled, “For Parents,” that would add details to the finer points of what exactly made a clock tick, or what the chemical reaction is that makes a firework explode.

Aside from the things written about inside the book, like whether or not there is a way to make glass stronger, the books taught me a valuable lesson that has defined who I am as a person to this day. They taught me that human ingenuity to recreate the world is insatiable, they taught me you can have more fun learning than playing, but above all, they taught me to never stop questioning the world around you. So many people in our world have lost this yearning to know exactly why the sky is blue, instead accepting the first answer they get. In a time when there is always someone trying to get ahead of someone else, information can become a valuable commodity. The world is full of mysteries, and the next person will always try to sell you an answer for a nickel. Had everyone simply accepted what they heard, we would live in a world where the Earth is still flat. We live, however, in a world where experimentation and discoveries are held above all in the hierarchy of learning. Knowing that you questioned tradition and discovered the truth is the most astonishing feeling you can have.

A simple collection of children’s books can hold so much meaning. While it may not seem important for a toddler to know why there are seven days in a week, something even most adults would simply guess an answer to, what is important is a child’s longing to discover. This is a beautiful characteristic that the world does not cherish as much as nature has. We are all born with a curiosity that could kill the cat nine times in a row, but let it die off as the world hands us our answers. You need to always wonder how things work.