Wonder and CuriosityFirst published Jan 17, 2015
Me: When this narrator first came to me, I was walking on the street, heading to the subway. He popped into my head “speaking” in a very strong accent (Russian? Eastern European?) Normally, when I receive these stories, they come to me almost as memories — a combination of images, thoughts, feelings and written words. This one however was somewhat different. It was as if he (or she, but probably he) was literally speaking to me in my head, telling me the story in his own voice. I did not get any of the images or feelings, just the narration.
The voice was so compelling, however, I dug out my phone and started dictating, speaking his words in his accent, as if he were speaking through me; as if I were merely a receiver. Alas, there was too much street noise to get a good recording (and I wasn’t going to do this while sitting on the subway!) The voice, however, still remains very clear in my head, so I have re-recorded the first paragraph so you can hear it. (Click the link below the post.) I honestly have no idea what kind of accent this is, or if it’s even a “real” accent. I’m simply presenting this narrator as he came to me.
The course of my last life was driven by two primary states of being which worked in conjunction with and in opposition to each other. They were: wonder and curiosity. A sunset is beautiful. But why is it beautiful? If humans are descended from apes, by what mechanism did we become us and they become them? Light is faster than sound. What is different about them that makes that so?
As a child, my curiosity quickly surpassed my parents’ and teachers’ abilities to answer my questions. Sometimes, if they had the patience and were curious enough themselves, they might look up the answer in books. I found amazing the notion of such a store of knowledge was available to anyone who could read.
Since I was so curious and filled with so many questions, my elders didn’t always have time or ability to explain things to me. Often, my questions were very complex. I realized that if I wanted answers or more information to fill out my understanding of a subject, I would have to learn how to read and calculate.
While my contemporaries were struggling to learn basic skills, I was far above my age level. Some teachers called me a genius but I never thought of myself as precocious. From my perspective, it was a necessity; it was the only way my thirst for knowledge could be slaked. So I thought.
I consumed books on a wide variety of subjects but the more I learned, the more curious I became; the more questions I had, the more I directed my energy to finding answers. I was fortunate that my family had the means and the connections to send me to university. There, the questions became larger and wider and deeper, and sometimes, even the smartest of the professors didn’t know the answer. If I wanted to get to the nut, down to the marrow, I would have to ask new questions. I would have to look in places theretofore unsearched. I would have to look at facts in new ways in the hopes that I would find what others had missed. I would have to explore and seek and observe.
This is when my life’s work began.
I was happy and proud to contribute to the stores of human understanding, to see my own name in books; to see my ideas incorporated into known science. I was gratified to know that those who came after me would not have to wonder about these things, but would be able to use my knowledge to see even further than I.
But humans can learn only so much in each lifetime. And so, while it appeared that I knew so very much, in fact, in some of the most important things, I knew very little
As a child, I was socially at odds with my peers. I was so beyond them intellectually, I had nothing to say to them. Neither they, nor their petty childhood games held any fascination. I spend most of my early years sniffing out understanding from the pages of books or conversing with grownups or trying my own experiments. Other children had nothing to teach me. By the time I grew into my own intellect, I had no idea how to behave among people my own age. Yes, many of my colleagues were misfits as well, much none so much as me.
Human emotion seemed to me a colossal waste of time. Feelings could not be revealed or understood by the scientific method, and thus they did not interest me. They took the mind away from study, siphoned off energy better spent on more important things.
While I was always chasing knowledge about the world, I never bothered pursuing self-knowledge. That, too, seemed a waste of time. More navel-gazing would have been less time to work, fewer contributions to human advancement.
There are, of course, many kinds of knowledge; more lessons to be learned than there are stars in the skies.. All are ultimately necessary to ascend. Each lifetime, however, offers the opportunity to learn only a few
For all I knew and for all I discoveries I made, this is what I did not learn: I did not learn to be a friend. I did not learn to laugh at myself. I did not learn relax. I did not learn to simply BE. I did not learn to love.