On the hunger for knowledge, the breeding of parrots, and the tree of joy

One of the greatest possible human qualities is a voracious hunger for knowledge. I say hunger because to the sating of a thirst for knowledge more often than not is passive, uncritical ingestion, in the way that a sponge soaks up water, whereas eating allows further consideration and deliberation – ‘chewing the fat’ with the author or source, so to speak; a silent dialogue between a reader and an author, a union of thought and matter – perhaps one as simple as writing reflections and considerations on a blank page, an exchange between he who persuades and he who critically learns, the senses’ familiarity with the reality to which they connect us and for which they exist to perceive, all come of that hunger for knowledge which the actions of a sponge, a funnel, a gulp, or the opening of a dam can never sate. Short of being connoisseurs of all disconnected (or rather, unimportantly connected) bits of knowledge, we may sample the many sources and founts of supposed knowledge, all the while seeking to grasp their fidelity (or lack thereof) to reality, and accordingly integrating those aspects which allow one to love and prolong life – the love of life taking precedence, and its prolongment necessarily proceeding from its joyful manifestation, for true love of life is not a transient state or fleeting rush, but a constantly growing, uncontradictorily joyful state devoid of pain, fear, guilt, pity, or pretense. As we ‘digest’, or un-metaphorically, apply knowledge, we gain more knowledge and life.

The thirst for knowledge, being characterized by the accumulation of thoughts never applied, is always inferior and never sated, not because there is not enough knowledge to ‘drink’ or ‘soak up’, but because knowledge unapplied is useless; per Aristotle, knowledge without transmission (or the ability to transmit it) is superficial; per Salvador Dali, a man I rarely look to for any advice with respect to reality, “intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings”. No matter how elegantly you swish around your wine or waft it towards your nose or delicately hold the glass, soaking up everything you hear – or worse yet, selectively hear – and memorizing or repeating it makes you no more useful than a cumbersome, obsolete encyclopedia or an obnoxious parrot.

A hunger for knowledge, though, is less easily sated, in that its bearer is never satisfied and always is in pursuit of further knowledge, as a refined connoisseur is always in pursuit of unique, complementary tastes and more diverse nutrition. This hunger being characterized by more thorough integration and digestion – or indigestion, if one and his food are incompatible – it is the precondition of the enjoyment proper to human life (thank you, Aristotle), and that enjoyment properly precedes the volitional pursuit and further application of (non-contradictory) knowledge.

To briefly address the kings of parrot breeding and quiet, faith-based absorption, I have not chosen to eat of the tree of life or of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. I have eaten of a tree which sets its roots in a higher hill and is humanity’s radiant lifeblood. It is the tree of joy. It is that joy which you have sought to dilute and the human person who you have sought to drown for 2011 years.

This tree surpasses the tree of life and the tree of knowledge in size, because neither can thrive without the other, and in their separation they persist on borrowed time and properly and listlessly cede their resources to the tree of joy. Be it an acorn or a full grown tree, a plant cannot thrive without its requisite resources or its identity of a plant. The tree of joy, possessing both, has thrived. Its labors are that of any living thing which properly lives: securing the resources necessary for its continued survival, and sacrificing that pursuit to nothing. Its fruits are non-contradiction, exultant certainty, boundless potentiality, and yes, immortality, but one which does not come in steps. You who claim that faith is knowledge, that waiting your turn for the host and the chalice is more virtuous than the action of the minds who baked your host and shaped your chalice, that the indoctrination of sponges and the breeding of parrots is education, that life is guilt and guesses, you will never win, because I am the one who has refused to choose between life and knowledge. My life and my knowledge, my soul and my body, my desires and my physiological requirements, have never been in conflict, and neither shall the hunger of my mind and that of my body ever conflict. I have eaten of the tree of joy. The serpent could not access it. He who ate of your tree of life could not know it. He who ate of your tree of knowledge could not enjoy it- he died before he could climb to its height.

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One thought on “On the hunger for knowledge, the breeding of parrots, and the tree of joy

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