All these sets of knowledge were laid out before me, like packages tied in brightly colored papers and curling ribbons, each as enticing as the last. These weren’t just ideas, like the pictures on the pages of catalogs, but complete structures; laws and theories and all the understandings that led to their constructions. Bright packages of knowledge, each a puzzle unto itself--how was I to choose among them?
To open them all would be certain madness--yet how could I resist? Oh, to be no longer limited to catalog poses, to grasp the real thing. If I opened them all at once, would I be overwhelmed? Or would each package fit together with then next like some elaborate clockwork? Would I catch a glimpse of the magnificent machinery of being? Or would I find myself surrounded by paper shreds and scattered boxes, eventually losing focus and, later, my interest?
No, such selfishness is not encouraged. Open one package, maybe two; leave the rest for someone else. Choose one. But which one? Those gleaming packages, enchanting the eye, nearly calling a siren song: come, play with me, explore my puzzles, and allow me to challenge you with my spectacular twists and delights.
The complex and logical geometries found in mathematics lured me with their durability, while philosophy offered the option of taking everything apart. And here was this grand pile of delights called the sciences, a stack of packages filled with endless wonders. Never mind the others lying about, arts and histories, geographies and languages, offering centuries of perspectives and poetry. Who would even have time to explore them all?
Yet... I couldn’t resist the ultimate temptation, to spoil myself and tear into everything. I began to peel away the layers of packaging, brushing past the outside to look at the structures beneath. I was curious; I wanted to see how they were put together. I wanted to see if they were all built in the same factory.
Some might suggest I was about to embark on some religious pursuit, a search for salvation among the ribbons. But no... I had no time for prophets, messiahs, and creators. (After all, they never had time for me.) I didn’t really care who built anything, or even why. Instead, I wanted to see the connections between; poke at the strange bindings that held knowledge together.
With such a multitude of packages surrounding me, this would be a daunting task. I couldn’t so much as lift one before realizing I was out of my league. The connections I sought were carefully hidden beneath layers of puzzles. It would take years to study one immense subject, to unlock the treasured secrets within. Before I could become buried under that weight, I discovered some of the packages were curiously light.
One of these was so light, it could barely be grasped. That gift labeled "philosophy" contained nothing but a question, nearly a warning. "Is anything certain?" And that ethereal question, lacking substance in itself, quickly dissolved the wrappings of a few nearby packages. Under that strange light, I began to see the foolishness of my curiosities. There were no hidden secrets... only hidden puzzles, wickedly unsolvable.
I turned back to the package called "philosophy" but found that it too was vulnerable in the light of uncertainty. Having learned my lessons from Pandora, I knew it would be hopeless to return the lid. So I looked for the other box that seemed curiously light, despite its grand size. There, among the sciences, lay this box resembling our planet, bearing a tag marked "the future". Already I was suspicious... fortunetelling? Not in science, surely. Yet, in the uncertain light cast by philosophy, could it be? How does one draw the line? solve the unsolvable puzzle
I wasn’t required to answer such questions in order to look in the box. Here, I carefully lifted away the fragile papery layers, patterns of the environment, nature and climate, and peered inside. Having feared another wicked puzzle, I wasn’t sure if I should be relieved, or frightened. Inside that box, was not a question, but another task:
"Open all the other boxes."
Obscure title reference here.
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I like it. Very much.
Brilliant! This is why I'm studying systems ecology.
Engaging and thoughtful essay, Karmen!
Thanks everyone! I've had so much work for school lately, this creative outlet was a nice break for me, without getting too far off topic. I'm glad you all enjoyed it.