Questioning My Quest for Knowledge

October 7, 2011 / Philosophy, Psychology / 8 Comments

I’ve always been an inquisitive child. My bedtime story books were primarily encyclopedias. It’s not out of tiger mother coercion. It was simply the thrill and joy of knowing how the world worked. I loved learning about the stars, the plates beneath the Earth, the times before mankind dominated the world.

Into my teens, I became more fascinated with society. How the world ended up going into two world wars, and why the French Revolution happened.

And as I stepped into my college years, I discovered the world of political philosophy. What is a good, virtuous life? What is a good, virtuous society? Justice? Love? Beauty?

Or is it Truth and Wisdom?

Now into my 20s, my pursuit for philosophical knowledge progressed into my thirst for psychology. Why do people do the things they do, say the things they say? More importantly, why do I do the things I do, why do I say the things I say?

Then, I could see — see how the world really worked. How one act, one thought, one feeling can affect the whole world. And that everything in this world was connected one way or another.

I thought bliss would come with knowledge and wisdom. I thought truth and enlightenment would make life more fulfilling.

But it didn’t.

I’ve fallen into a funk recently. I can’t bring myself to read another book and my Google Reader has been showing 1000+ for the past few weeks. A part of me can’t help but feel like that there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. That my generation will be forced to clean up the impending mess that humanity’s collective actions of the past and present are bringing. It’s a dreadful feeling. A lost hope. A lost generation. (The link points to a fantastic read by Umair Haque, by the way.)

The same part of me also wished I hadn’t embarked on this journey. I used to scoff at the idiom Ignorance in bliss. But now I’m starting to see that there’s perhaps some virtue in ignorance.

But of course, one can’t possibly unsee what one sees. I can only continue walking until I reach my destination. Hopefully, the Sun Socrates promised will still be waiting when I get there.

  • “Then, I could see — see how the world really worked. How one act, one thought, one feeling can affect the whole world. And that everything in this world was connected one way or another.”

    Can you not, then, see the beauty in this? Yes… As we gain more knowledge in the workings of the world and people, we see many things… but if you are able to take an observer point of view, not only focusing on the negative emotions that these information invokes, but also the beauty of it… Then we can say we truly appreciate the world, life, human kind…

    • Ivy

      Sure, there’s beauty in knowledge. But there’s also suffering. Where there is light, there is darkness. While it’s empowering to know your own actions matter, you will see that some systems in the world are inherently created without sustainability in mind and only serve to stagnate, or worse, slowly eat away at humanity.

      And for those who see this, we know it will take a tremendous amount of energy to turn to the titanic around before it hits the iceberg. And the inconvenient truth is that one’s man power is not enough.

      So yes, knowledge can be used to appreciate the beauty the sea. But someone has to use it to notice the iceberg and try to save us from impending danger as well.

  • I’m exactly like you… my mom bought us a couple encyclopedia’s when we were little and I loved reading them! Now when I’m bored, I read random articles on Wikipedia. My favorite subject when I was younger was astronomy (the universe still fascinates me) and I loved history, especially Ancient Egypt.

    I fell into a funk earlier this year too (partly because I got like 5ox time more busy than usual) and didn’t want to do reading or even blog-hopping; I literally had tens of thousands of unread posts in my reader. I’m getting back to it though!

  • I like learning about new things and I enjoy it, but I discovered following the news and anything political-related is making me become irrationally angry. My mum constantly tells me to follow what’s on the news, and every time I take that advice, I just find myself getting angry at the whole world. Therefore, I think ignorance is bliss — at least for me — so I try not to follow the news as much . . . but I cannot avoid it all the time. Like right now, I just discovered an incident that affects me and many people, and now I am feeling quite bitter and cranky upon learning this news.

    I definitely feel much more cynical with my perspective nowadays. That youthful optimism of mine has been long gone.

  • yeah… I try not to listen to the news… I like to believe everything is okie dokie, because there’s nothing I can do about anything. Voting and protesting seems to be getting us no where. Our politicians are useless. Sad, scary, I try not to think about it.

  • Gosh I totally understand what you are going through! I’m feeling almost exactly the same way nowadays too. Been reading up on psychology as well (briefly read about philosophy a few years back, have always been a non-fiction fan since young). But some part of me somehow refuses to give up on humanity. I believe that putting our psychology knowledge to good use can have powerful influence over the society’s behaviour and mindsets.

    We know very well the shortcomings on mankind. And it’s rather unfortunate that while we have enjoyed numerous technological advancements over the years, our minds have not progressed very much.Greed happens. Crime still happens.

    I agree that one man’s power will never be enough. However, I’ve always been fascinated by powerful figures who can inspire/motivate millions of people to become fiercely loyal to an idea, and to take action. Think about Hitler. Think about Steve Jobs, even. =/

    Dark times ahead, but we must do something!

  • AM

    I think you may have to look into what kind of knowledge you are seeking.
    It appears to me that you have associated wisdom, even truth and enlightenment rather with intellectual knowledge.

    But knowledge is but one expression of the sun (of consciousness), and true enlightenment comes, I believe, when you become aware of the sun itself.

    Psychology, if understood profoundly, may show you a lot about you. But if it is limited by materialistic beliefs (not saying this as to you, but as to certain famous psychologists), it cannot lead you beyond. If you are truly seeking the essence of what you – always, and beyond the changes of form – a r e, you will see much clearer.

    Just thinking about solutions, even putting them in action in the outer world, is not necessarily the ultimate remedy for mankind. Change will occur, when our actions do not come from the place of thinking any longer, but from what I described as the “sun”. Things can fall “in place” then, much of what would otherwise come, can be averted, and “to clean up the mess” will be nothing dreadful, but (I hope) a joyous task or even vocation of creating the new, from which everything will change.

    Good luck !

  • RC

    The paradox of knowledge is that the more you know, the more you know what you don’t know too. This knowledge keeps a child’s curiosity within me.

    And although I have grown more skeptical, I have also grown more open-minded. In a way that acknowledges the cruelty but also appreciates the kindness, the greatness and the “mundane” that humans and Nature are capable of, often from the most unexpected backgrounds and circumstances.

    In contemporary times, there is great reason to be cynical and pessimistic. But there can also be great satisfaction when we make it through a day in such times.

    Because against the odds, we did.