This I Believe

James - Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Entered on August 29, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: question, work
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This I Believe

I believe in the reach, not the grasp. I believe that any goal that can be reached is a goal set too low. I believe in the Black Monolith found in 2001, A Space Odyssey. I believe in the quest for the unknown. I believe in the search for knowledge.

One of the most profound influences on my educational development was the viewing of Arthur Clarke’s / Stanley Kubrick’s 2001, A Space Odyssey – not once, not twice, but at least seven times that I can remember. I didn’t care that much about space travel, even though I was a confirmed trekkie. I wasn’t captivated by HAL and the wonders of the computer world. What kept me coming back was that Black Monolith. What was that perfect block of marble that always was one step ahead? I had to know. Why? I didn’t know, but I knew that I had to know.

Never before had my young mind been so occupied by an intangible idea. I had, until that time, lived in a world of concrete thoughts of basketball, money, and food – not necessarily in that order. This Monolith mesmerized me. It baffled me. I still don’t know what Mr. Clarke intended the Black Monolith to symbolize. The answer that I reached, albeit a very personal one, has served to formulate my outlook for life. It became my religion; it became my God. It was simple – it was the “Unknown.”

Once we touch the “Unknown,” we discover how much more we don’t know. But we do instinctively know we have to search for – no, we are instinctively drawn to – the Unknown. That reach, that attempt to discover the Unknown lets us grow. It causes us to learn. It develops our being. It gives meaning to our lives. It is knowledge.

If we attain the known, we cease to reach. We no longer need to know more. If we attain our goals, we stop short of our potential. We have to continue to reach, for to grasp is to stop thinking; for all practical purposes, we cease to live.

I couldn’t believe in God, for God had all the answers. And if all the answers existed, then all we as humans had to do was wait for God to tell us those answers. While we waited, we would fight over the “answers” God revealed to some and not others. But why would God dribble out the answers to all life’s mysteries? When would all the answers be given to all the beings on earth? After they killed each other?

If we could all agree that the answers to life were Unknown and that they were personal, then I could agree that I may be wrong and that you may be right. If we could live with uncertainty and the Unknown, then we could agree to allow each of us to search for the answers in our own personal way. If I was never sure that I had the answer, then I couldn’t fight with you. We could agree to allow everyone to reach for the Unknown. We could live in peace.

I had to believe in the Unknown, the Black Monolith. I had to believe in the reach, not the grasp.