I have always been a bit of a loner. I like people but I really like being alone with my thoughts. There is a unique single-mindedness to the way my brain works and it needs peace and quiet to function properly. Even in college, when my friends all wanted to hit the bars, I stayed home by myself more often than not. When I wasn’t in class, I went to the library and found the most remote corner possible and did my work. During the early years of my career in graphic arts, I spent most of my day in the darkroom experimenting with photography and conjuring up techniques no one had tried before. The darkness really helped me focus my thought process and block out the distractions.
It was about 1980 when I read Carl Sagan’s book titled, Broca’s Brain. It was a turning point in my life, especially the parts about Albert Einstein and Sir Isaac Newton. In Einstein’s case, he spent years working out the special theory of relativity while employed at the patent office in Switzerland. The work wasn’t very taxing and it gave him plenty of time to think. In Newton’s time he spent months in a remote location working on his laws of motion because in 1666 the bubonic plague was ravaging most of the cities in Europe. He chose solitude out of necessity but it helped him devote all of his intellect toward his theories. Sagan even wrote about the brain as a muscle that must be used to be developed and how thinking is actually a pleasurable activity for humans. That’s probably why Archimedes yelled “Eureka” when he proved his theory.
I’m not foolish enough to think I belong in any conversation that includes Carl Sagan, Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton or Archimedes but I think I understand their phenomenal ability to focus and think. The world is a fascinating place, full of natural wonders and endless questions that I need to ask. The larger point that Sagan made in his book was that all of us have brains that are far more capable than we might ever imagine. What I read into that idea was the realization that my existence is a product of my thoughts. Every characteristic that makes me unique is in my head and whatever I want my life to be is up to me to decide and achieve. That was my eureka moment but it also gave me a great deal of peace. I wasn’t bound by the rules of the physical world any longer if my brain could imagine more. The end result was the desire to spend as much time thinking as possible and to ask as many questions as my brain could compose.
Of course, in those days most of what I thought about was my business. It’s only been the last ten years or so that my mind has gone off the philosophical deep end. That’s probably my coping mechanism for the dystopian world of foster care that I have worked in for nine long years now. Reality is painful but thinking is bliss. It has also reinforced my faith in God because I believe He created a world that is meant to be explored and understood, if we’re willing to ask the tough questions and accept the answers, no matter how difficult they might be to understand. Revelation is hard for humans because it always includes a fair amount of self-reflection brought on by undeniable truth. Every new truth forces me to give up an old truth and adapt my awareness to new information that is strange to me. Without faith, the search for truth would be unnecessary. Why would we ever bother to learn anything new, if we didn’t believe in all the possibilities of the unknown? Why would we ever choose to make new friends if we didn’t believe in their potential goodness? Anything is possible if we have enough faith.
It’s the mystery of life and the chance of discovery that keeps me going. I never get tired of asking questions and working out problems. My life has meaning because I faithfully exercise my God-given talents every day in ways that benefit the world around me. I know, unequivocally, that there is a purpose to my life and my job is to never stop trying. As long as I keep trying, God will keep revealing the answers to my questions. I just have to have faith that every new revelation will make my life even better. The possibilities are endless for those whose faith is strongest and who make every effort to live their lives seeking the greater good of compassion and understanding. A faith-filled life is the most significant achievement most of us will ever know and it will bring more peace and joy to us than any other endeavor we could ever undertake. I’ve said it before so I will say it again ……….
I will never have all the answers, I just hope I never run out of questions.
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