Science: A Playground for the Perpetual Child

Yesterday I read a hardcore Genetics textbook. As I thumbed the pages, simultaneously struggling to appreciate the concepts behind the words and reveling in the wonder of our being, I was struck by the fact that I love to learn. Both friends and self would have flagellated me had I stated that fact (or even felt it) as a young man or child.  Studying and learning were fancies of the nerds. Now I reflect on childhood, mine as well as that of our children. I recall mostly the experiences of our three infants and toddlers. They perpetually tested their environment. The distance of a jump, height of a tree climb, method of a toss, or speed of a swing: Everything was under scrutiny because everything was to be improved. They’d try different methods to accomplish their latest feat and after failure upon failure they’d find a way to succeed. Sometimes they’d later revise their techniques, using the wisdom of age and experience as their guide. In essence they were continuously studying and experimenting on themselves and their environs. They not only loved to study; they lived to study.

Today I find myself in a similar place. No longer able to accomplish past physical achievements, I am relegated to handsprings of the mind. I think and learn voraciously. What I learn, I teach. Though I miss the physical challenges and conquests of youth, this phase of life has plenty to offer. Often I communicate with similarly minded colleagues to discuss the latest and greatest ideas and discoveries. What fascinates us most though, and lures us in more than anything else, is our perpetual amazement by the bottomless well of knowledge from which we draw. It is not intimidating; it is invigorating. Our understanding takes us back in time, to the adventures of childhood. Science is an endless quest for very old children; a fearsome ride one never wants to leave. The adage, “the more you know, the more you realize how much you don’t know” is not only true, it’s tantalizing. It embodies the glory that keeps us steadfast in the game while we are fortunate enough to remain above ground.

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