It was the late 90s, San Diego, at a little cafe called Espresso Roma.
Planted in my usual reading spot, Philosophy books and notes were stacked in front of me and a hot mocha cooled off to my right. I interrupted the study session to ask my friend and fellow philosophy major: “Don’t you sometimes wish you didn’t know what you know? It was so much easier when I didn’t think about these things or even know these things were questions.”
Literature in philosophy involves taking one’s mind on a trek outside of the ordinary. We read arguments for Free Will only to be followed by equally compelling arguments that there is no Free Will. What constitutes truth? How do we know when we know something especially when everything we think we know could be debunked in 50 years as we have debunked “truths” previously believed? What makes knowledge knowledge? Reviewing logic supporting the existence of God, and then arguments systematically dismantling that logic also threw my Catholic school upbringing into a menacing tailspin. And what in the world is a “Right”? Do we always protect the individual, or do we always protect the greatest number sometimes at the sacrifice of an individual?
Facepalm. Facepalm. More facepalm.
Philosophy compels one to ask questions where one didn’t even realize a question existed. An intellectually secure footing in the world seemed impossible. Yet, despite this, I couldn’t help but entrench myself further into the study and devour the arguments. This everything-but-clarity feeling hit me when I took a moment at the cafe to stop memorizing information for an upcoming exam and paused to churn over the ideas I had been studying. Everything made sense and nothing made sense.
“I’m confused,” I said.
My friend, understanding the look of mental turmoil splashed across my face, smiled and said, “Ah, yes. But now you are confused at a higher level.”
*Tell us about a time you’d been trying to solve a knotty problem — maybe it was an interpersonal problem, a life problem, a big ol’ problem — and you had a moment of clarity when the solution appeared to you, as though you were struck by lightening.