This I Believe

I believe that the key to happiness lies in a continual search for knowledge and improvement without an end goal in mind or a fear of failure.  The former condition is difficult because of its subjectivity and reliance on a personal drive that seeks to find incentive in the journey when it is absent from the destination.  Similarly, the latter condition is difficult because it, in part, forces a bigger-picture view even of this sort of small, accompanying system.  The result is a mind that is primed for action and creation, while its formation is attributed to open-mindedness to the extent of explicit effort towards manifesting this philosophy.

Though my experiences thus far in life have been relatively lacking in the most essential forms of this sort of creativity, my attempts at achieving this expansion of knowledge have sometimes brought me to questionable circumstances where this evaluation and prioritization of learning has served to strengthen my belief.  A recent example was an experience I had in the beautiful country of Cuba this past May.  During a traditional cannon firing that occurs nightly in remembrance of the nation’s independence, Adarsh and I were approached by a Cuban man as we were discussing the future of the Cuban economy (in English).  Having just arrived in the country only two days before with no conception of what life within Cuba was like, my first thought when he asked whether he could have a word with us afterwards was that I had said something completely wrong and the government would be coming after me.  After all, is it not true that such seems to be the definite case in the other countries that we associate with Cuba’s political state: China, North Korea, etc.?  Even so, a brief consideration of the issue from the perspective of this philosophy on learning convinced me that the ideal procedure would be to play along and attempt to improve my understanding of the culture through my communication with him.

Following the ceremony, he asked if we would like to join him for drinks.  As part of a school group, this wasn’t a reasonable option for us, so I, on the spur of the moment, gave him the name of our hotel and agreed to meet him the next morning for breakfast.  While both my and Adarsh’s initial reactions were excitement at the possibility of having a great cultural experience, this quickly faded into worry and then paranoia.  Adarsh seemed to have become attached to the possibility that John, this guy, was going to make us smuggle drugs or attempt to kidnap us.  Over the course of the next two hours of the evening, we argued this point in Hindi: whether this sort of “risk” was worth it for the sake of the knowledge that he could help us gain that we couldn’t access via other avenues.  It is highly likely that the real effort I put into this was crafting this argument and standing by it.

Fortunately, the end result was exactly what I would have hoped it would have been with this philosophy: John discussed with us the truly controversial political issues that we were interested in, and did nothing worse than defeat us in games of chess.  He stood for the message that it is often necessary to sidestep fears, risks, and the general concern that is instilled in us for the sake of effective learning.


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