I have a full-time job, two Bachelor’s degrees, and a night-light.
The latter is one of those big paper stars that houses a lightbulb and hangs from the ceiling. (The degrees are also made of paper.) I call it “Polaris,” and I only turn it on when I’m truly scared. Not when I see a spider in the corner of the room, not when I have recently watched Paranormal Activity, and not after I read the economy report (usually).
Proudly, Polaris protects me. Her soft glow floods the room, but it is just low enough that I can happily sleep without feeling like I have a spotlight from a lighthouse shining at me from the sea of my sheets. Sadly, though, Polaris is only a physical comfort. I have yet to discover a mental remedy for being afraid of things in my mind. And yet this is why I turn Polaris on.
And, of course, that’s the thing about what goes inside our mind, about knowledge itself. There’s plenty of fun facts out there: Baby jellyfish are called ephyra, for instance. These tidbits can fetch you a moment of amusement. But what about when you come across some particularly difficult information to digest or reconcile? When you finally come to terms with your own mortality or when you actually realize that humans aren’t at the top of the food chain?
I’m sorry for the less than cheery blog post, but I have to ask: why doesn’t knowledge come with a warning label? I mean, we actively seek it, and yet we don’t ask what we’re looking for. We don’t stop to ask for directions. We just keep going, picking things up along the way, unsure when or if we will need them. We’re kinda like Frodo Baggins in his quest to destroy the Ring. He doesn’t ask anyone if he’s headed in the right direction. He kinda just points with his hobbity finger towards the horizon, and he goes.
So, we can’t unknow things or unlearn things. There is no “great Ring to rule them all” that we can destroy and forget every hard fact we’ve encountered in our lives. But maybe that’s the point. It isn’t about what we know or understand. It’s more about how we come to fully process things, how we interact with things. I bet you can recall the first time you realized that you would die one day. I bet you can remember the moment when you knew that every person on this earth is living their own life, uniquely separate and independent of your own. I bet you can pinpoint the time when you figured out that you weren’t the center of everyone’s universe (or maybe you’re still trying to figure that out.)
And realizing all of that, have you ever looked at life in the same way?
And that’s the point of knowledge. It’s supposed to stretch and challenge your perspective, not just scare you or cause you to hold on tighter to what you know. And importantly, if you take nothing away from this blog except the fact that I am a college graduate with a night-light, take away this: When you learn something, let it go. It has already changed the dimensions of your mind, so you don’t need to hang on to it. As long as you have a light that you are moving towards, (not into, just towards) like my Polaris, you can rest assured that knowledge will guide you safely home.