A Love of Understanding
I truly love learning, perhaps more accurately I love that feeling of understanding. When a topic is explained just far enough that you get it. This is one of the things that draws me to Magic: The Gathering, that moment when a build I’ve been working on comes together, that moment where you realize you truly understand.
I’ve had this feeling many times throughout life, one of the best parts of college (of which there were many terrible parts) was this feeling. Sitting there in class and having the professor say that perfect sequence of words that just opens your mind. Suddenly you are staring down from above, the subject has become your oyster and you feel like you have synergized with it fully.
You are, in a sense, symbiotically attached to this information. It continues to feed you and you perfectly harmonize with it. It’s not so much an arrogance, no such hubris as to assume that you have completely finished the topic, but you have reached a point where the flow of information comes smoothly. You keep getting the perfect blocks to finish that Tetris.
I think that this is one of the reasons that I am so hard on people who give up on the world. When people decide that they’ve completed a study, that they “know” something for certain. To be reasonably certain is nice, that assurance is what keeps us sane, knowing that you won’t turn into skittles after reading this sentence is comforting (and if you think it is not, imagine the horrors of falling into tiny sugary pieces).
But that hubris, to act like you have full understanding of anything outside the realm of ridiculous is just tragic. Because that feeling, that truly addicting surge of endorphins is lost. There is no need to delve into biology, philosophy, chemistry, astronomy, or anything else, its all unnecessary when you feel like you know what it all is as it is. This is sad to me, and I think that perhaps unfairly I try to force my drug upon others. I do put it to a slightly higher standard though, because this is the kind of drug that got men on the moon, that invented the automobile, the wheel, the industrial revolution, the renaissance, all these great advances in human kind have been because of the consumption of this infinitely pure drug.
That tingle down your spine when you look at an equation and you can immediately parse the parts. That feeling when an exam question asks you to name and describe the phases of matter and you know, it is your time to shine and it’s a remarkable moment where you realize you are truly growing as a human being.
It can be little things, why is there a mesh screen in the microwave viewing door? Why causes the lights to change? What sequence of events leads to the changes of tides? Do stars live forever? If not, why not? And it is the delight of having these answers that makes the unknown even more delectable. The harder the question the more delightful the inevitable conclusion. The day we come to find out the mechanics of the conscious, I suspect you will find a scientist writhing on the floor in ecstasy. They will need a cold shower and an warm cup of tea before they can retell the discovery. Likewise when we find life of any kind on another planet (or moon). These moments are going to cause minds to explode, colors will be seen that nobody can describe.
I’m excited, and I hope someday the majority of people can feel this way. I suspect with the growing popularity of scientists in the US (like Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, or the Late Carl Sagan and Richard Feynman) we are seeing that the love for understanding, that absorption of intellectual pleasure, is not unique to some high class humanoid. It is intrinsic in us all, we fear because we do not know, and we learn so we need not fear again.