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Knowledge Enlightenment

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By James Bridges

When I was a kid I often helped my dad work on the family car. We had hardly anything but love and family in those days. That seemed to be plenty. At least enough to distract from the fact that our cars were out of commission regularly.

I recall being around 15-years-old and working in our garage area. I call it a garage only as a
point of reference. My “kind” didn’t have fancy things like “garages” or covered parking. We
improvised and let our cars sleep inside with the stray cats and lost chickens. We called it a
shed.

I would push the old rusted hood up on one of our trucks. The hinges would catch on one side
as the weight of the old hood barred down on the worn springs. I would shift from side-to-side to
wiggle the hood to the top.

At that time I knew I was going to break free from whatever it was that was holding onto me. I
worked and worked on those beaters without ever knowing a damn thing as to what I was
actually doing. Eventually I figured it out. I even learned to rebuild some things on engines all
on my own. We always had some sort of instruction manual for the work, but it was difficult to
see past all of the greasy smudge marks left behind from the many frustrating moments of
despair.

I would pass the time under the hood listening to 90’s grunge music. I believe I knew every lyric
and could pretend to play every riff on the Alice In Chains Dirt album. I felt at that time that the
music was talking to me. As if I were actually having a discussion with my “other-self” via the
sounds.

It was strange to think of myself as a person of great value during that time. I always wanted to,
but I could never seem to become entirely happy with what I was looking at. I always had a lot
of friends when I was very young, but once the teen years hit…

I quickly became the sidekick rather than the kick itself. I was headed somewhere. Somewhere I
didn’t need to travel. I was headed there and I knew it.

I know that I knew because I can remember the exact moment that people stopped asking what
I was up to. They started asking me about someone else’s plans. Hero to zero in a few short
months. I took it a little too personally.

I became very co-dependant over the years. I very nearly required the approval of others in
order to operate. I started dating people that I thought would make others happy instead of
myself. I started disregarding my own sense of self worth. I wanted nothing more than to have
the life of our pet dog. No worries except how to let someone know I have to urinate and watch
TV all day. That sounded like a proper life to me. I completely lost all ambition.

Looking back I can see now that it all derives from something. Not an action. Not a person. No
one was at fault. I simply did not know the next step to take to make the leap from one lifestyle
to another.

There are times when people say that they didn’t even know what college was when they were
children and they really mean it. This is one of those times. I had no clue about education or a
life after high school. So many of us didn’t or still don’t understand what it means to be
comfortable. After having my first real job at age 13 and watching my parents struggle to make
sure we had food, “after school future plans” really didn’t compute.

It’s a typical and common story. You can brush it off as that. However I would like to propose an
observation.

I mentioned before that I simply did not know the next step. I actually did not know that there
was a step that existed. It’s most likely impossible for you to imagine, but try. You have lost all
memory and you are now placed into this society. You would have to learn every single thing
from the beginning of your existence, the history of others, and the complexity of the unmapped
future. You get tossed into something as chaotic as the trading floor on Wall Street. Could you
navigate without the help of others that have been in that same situation? Who can you trust?
What do you do to not only survive, but to thrive and prosper?

If you grow up with something so deeply ingrained into your existence and you know of nothing
else, then what are you to do to better yourself?

It’s priceless to know that there are steps. It’s not an instantaneous thing that happens. Well,
unless you are extremely fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time. I’m afraid
that there has been a leap of sorts within our train of thought. There seems to be a major shift
happening. One from not knowing that there is an actual step to take to improve your quality of
life to thinking there is no step and you should simply be able to take the leap.

Personally I believe that it is fortunate that true fulfillment of the human spirit does not work by
taking huge leaps. There is no foundation in it. It’s a terrifying house of cards in which our
society cannot be supported.

How do we make the leap from knowledge exclusivity to knowledge enlightenment?

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