Thirty For Knowledge

“Knowledge, may it be said, is higher than magic and is more to be sought. It is quite possible to see what is happening and yet not know what is forward, for while seeing is believing, it does not follow that either seeing or believing is knowing.” – James Stephens

I like to shit-talk myself. A lot, actually. Self deprecating humor is how I function. Maybe it’s Dunning-Kruger effect, maybe I am actually just terrible. But one thing I cannot bluff my way through is just how much of a scientist I am.  My body may be a heap of corpulent junk but my brain…my brain is voracious. It craves knowledge, feeds on it. It rends fleshy, sinewy fact from the corpse of fiction to fuel it’s ever-burning fire of curiosity. It hates naivety. It is predatory and vicious in it’s quest to fill in the gaps and chasms that halt its progress forward and on to other questions. It is beautiful and terrifying at the same time.  And it’s ALWAYS been like this. When I was younger, I was that kid in school. Pudgy, awkward, and buried in a book. In elementary school, I would finish with my work a half hour before other kids. Not content to sit and dawdle, I would fidget around until my teacher would let me go read in the hallway. Scholastic Book Fairs were like a bi-monthly Christmas for me. Summers were spent raiding the local library’s book sale and going through a pallet of thirty books in a summer.  Now? Now I don’t read as much. I SHOULD, but I don’t. Because I have the internet. When I’m in pain, or stressed, or need some sort of distraction, I turn to the loving embrace of Wikipedia. I’ll watch “How It’s Made” clips on Youtube, browse Google Books for old Sherman tank repair manuals, and read blogs on how to build a forge.

I am, roughly, a week away from my 30th surgery and that means I spend a lot of time alternating between panic attacks and thinking a lot. One thing that I have been thinking about is why I crave knowledge so much. Why it entertains me, why it sustains me, why I do it. And, after much thought (and plenty of cigarettes and gallons of coffee), I think I have figured it out.

I have spent my whole life NOT knowing

My physical conditions are rare, to say the least. What I was born with has only been seen in, perhaps, a few handfuls of people since medicine has been rigorously documented. It is still poorly understood why it happened and how to fix it successfully/without complications. A lot of my surgeries were based on the need for more information about the situation and condition because there wasn’t any literature to go on. And it continues to get stranger, become more esoteric, and venture into less documented medical territory. At this point, they’re not even sure what’s causing the pain and discomfort I’m feeling. This surgery is partly exploratory, to see what’s going on, as so many have been. My mental problems also stem from not knowing. After years and years of surprise surgery, infection, hospitalizations, and procedures, my mind craves control. It needs to KNOW what is going to happen. My brain, as science has taught it, seeks to eliminate independent variables and control the experiment so that it may better interpolate the results.  Knowledge of procedures, medicines, and conditions is soothing. It’s predictable. One less variable in the experiment of life.

As Hobbes wrote in Leviathan, Scientia potentia est. As G.I. Joe has so eloquently taught us, knowing is half the battle.  Knowledge not only stokes the furnace of curiosity but also settles the mind’s doubts and uncertainties. While knowledge and fact may be found false or biased in time, it is still an anchor for the brain, preventing it from being adrift on a sea of “what could be”. It builds a strong foundation to stem erosion of the unknown. It steadies and guides when it seems there is nothing reliable and no direction. It is power. It is strength.

It is hope.

“Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will.” – James Stephens