What I was least warned about in life was not knowing. They told me all about pain, sorrow, and human weakness. But they hadn't fully explained to me how little I would know all of the time. I can deal with the other imperfections of the universe if I understand them. If you understand a problem, then you can solve it or know it is unsolvable. That is why my entire life I have sought to know, I have questioned, researched, and extrapolated. If I could only understand everything, then it would all be bearable.
The first time I truly experienced the lack of understanding was at the age of four. Finding my mother crying one morning for no apparent reason. It was confusing to have this sturdy, unbreakable person, broken. I asked her what was wrong. She had tried to explain through her sobs, but I didn't understand. I couldn't understand. I was only four. I cried with her then, and not because she was crying, but because I didn't know why.
Not knowing followed me throughout the rest of my life. Not knowing how to do math in elementary school. Not knowing why I needed to in middle school.
"Why won't anyone tell me how we actually use line graphs? There must be a use, or we wouldn't have them!" I might cry to my friends. My greatest frustration was when people didn't explain things adequately or, when they acted like something didn't need explaining, 'because that's just how it is.' "Everything needs explaining. Not one thing is this darn beautifully confusing universe is, 'just how it is.' No question should ever be answered with, 'just because.'" I would say again and again to my two very endearing friends.
If you want to understand our journey of learning, you must know the people involved in it. Our small but tight group was made up of three friends, Kurt, Nora, and me, Clark. Our opinions on incomprehension varied widely.
Nora, unlike me, reveled in it. Mystery was her best friend and dreaming her second. Nora wanted to understand how little we understood. She studied history, particle-science, black holes, paleontology, and the human mind. But what she liked most was myth and fantasy. Nora loved the mistiness of it. The idea that living under every tree stump could be a gnome. That over the next ocean could be a land inhabited by the spirits of things forgotten.
Though she preferred possibilities over reality, we shared a love of questions. Nora was wise enough to know that every truthful explanation actually brought more questions and more possibilities.
Then there was Kurt. Out of us three, he probably had the healthiest relationship with not knowing. Kurt, too, liked to know things. He enjoyed the process of becoming proficient at a subject or skill, but not knowing something didn't bother him much. Kurt knew what he knew, and he knew what he didn't, and he didn't mind that. Kurt could build a car out of only pieces, and that's all that really mattered to him. He treated knowledge like any other resource. He only gained more of it if needed, and if he didn't, there was no reason to be greedy.
We had all met at the library when we were around eleven. Nora and I spent lots of time at the library. I was there research some subject or another, and she spent half of her life reading a mountain of fiction. So, it wasn't hard for Kurt to be noticed by both of us when he came. We saw him trying to find and check out a book on how to make a boomerang. That captured all of our eleven-year-old interests, so a friendship was born.