#BlogElul 4: Understand

#BlogElul Understanding is the Holy Grail for us personal development junkies. We might call it wisdom or enlightenment or whatever, but in the end, what we really want is to create a human pattern that makes sense to us.

Understanding doesn’t come out of nowhere – first we have to acquire some knowledge, or at least some data, about the thing we are trying to understand. So there’s some grunt work involved, knowledge acquisition can be hard work, even for those of us who love to learn. What we really love is not so much getting new facts into our brains (chances are we won’t remember them in detail anyway, especially if we have ever been blessed with placenta brain), as the creation of that pattern we call understanding.

My father is an astrophysicist, who studies the magnetosphere of the outer planets. Kind of esoteric, but lots of fun for him – at 85, he still keeps his brain nimble by crunching spacecraft data and thinking about these things. I remember his describing to me a moment that he had, when he suddenly understood something that was happening out at one of the moons of Jupiter. Nobody else in the whole world had that understanding, until he got up to share it with his colleague down the hall.

Later came the work of supporting his insight with data, writing the paper and so on. But that special moment of understanding was a beautiful experience that he savoured.

Most of us are not privileged with too many moments like that. But the reason we enjoy puzzles is that understanding something we did not understand before is a source of joy and satisfaction that appears to be uniquely human. I wonder whether lab rats enjoy solving their mazes, or are merely after the reward?

My point, and I do have one, is that creating understanding is one of the great joys of the human spirit, and I think it’s really important that we all take the time to think about how we understand things – what kind of learning we love most, and then take steps to feed our souls with that learning.

What kind of learning do you like best?

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