Saturday, August 20, 2016

This I Believe - The Love of a Mother

I believe in the love of a mother. 

Specifically, I believe in the love my mother has for me. 

Just today I came out onto our porch to read, and Mom came out to go outside. I asked her about a plant she brought home today that hasn’t been planted yet and she told me “Don’t put it in the green pot because I put some lemon seeds in there a couple days ago to see if I can grow a lemon tree.” I told her that about a week ago, I had stuck a peach seed down in the very same pot to see if I could grow a peach tree. She laughed, saying, “Now we won’t know what it is when it comes up!”  

Mom and I are tangents of the same personality: we share social awkwardness, hypersensitivity to criticism, hermit-like behavior, stage-fright, and many other introvert-type things. But there are nicer things we share, like dry humor, incredible intuition and insightfulness, idealistic world views, and determination in the face of hardships. This makes it easy for me to say Mom and I are pals. We’re pals because she’s loved me since the day I arrived on the planet. Yes, I know she’s instinctively forced to love me because I am her child, but my mom loves above and beyond that pre-required love. 

When I was a little kid, boys at church would always make me cry. They’d follow me around and tease me over anything they could imagine. Once, my mom found me crying at the top of the slide out on the shabby church playground. I explained to her, through intervals of sobbing, how one of the boys wouldn’t stop making fun of the way I talked. At the time I had a speech impediment and I was over-the-top self conscious about it. But my mom brushed my hair away from my face and told me that the reason people were mean to me was because they saw something in me that they didn’t see in themselves, and they were just angry with me for having something they didn’t. She told me that they didn’t know any better than to be mean to me when they felt like that, and that I couldn’t let it upset me. 

Time and time again, I have thought back to that moment when I’m on the brink of letting something someone said ruin my day. And it helps. It helps to think that maybe someone isn’t mean to you because of you, but rather because of something they are struggling with internally. 

My mom is incredible. I could go on and on with cliches about how self-sacrificing, kind and caring she is. But suffice it to say that she is the reason I believe in the immeasurable love of a mother. The cradling of the baby, the hip-toting of the toddler, the chasing after of the little monsters, and the stern rebuking of the pre-teens, all the way through the rocky moments of teenagers and into adulthood: the love of a mother proudly marches through it all, never wavering. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

What does it mean to say we know something?

To say we know something is similar to how scientists rely on scientific theories: they know the earth is round and things evolve because that's what they've observed and verified and nothing has come along to dismantle their theories. I think all knowledge, to some extent, is just a theory: it's something we've found to hold true in all the circumstances we've faced and so we hold it close because it's comforting to have such knowledge.

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking states in A Brief History of Time that a scientific theory is respected only if it can "accurately describe a large class of observations" and can make "definite predictions about the results of future observations." I think we know things in much the same way: I know my eyes are blue because every time I and anyone around me looks at them, they appear blue. One check for describing a large class of observations. And I am sure that in the future when I look in a mirror my eyes will still appear blue. One check for future predictions! I have a solid theory, I have knowledge.

I'm not saying that all knowledge is scientific or that science is by any means as simple as observing facial features in a mirror, but I do think that to be able to say we know something we have to go through a certain process of observing, verifying, and testing different ideas and beliefs before we can claim knowledge.

The only flaw with this idea is that not all knowledge is gained first-hand. Not all knowledge can be achieved through observing and experimenting. I can still say that I know that murder is wrong without having to actually murder someone. However, if I said it was okay to murder another human I would feel sick in my stomach and I would know that I was wrong. How? My conscience would tell me so, and so would the culture I've been surrounded by. So maybe to say we know something is essentially to say that we have this thought or idea that our conscience says is okay and is in agreement with the culture we surround ourselves with.

There's something more to knowledge that I can't put my finger on. Maybe it's something about our amazing consciences. Maybe there's something in our brains we haven't found yet that is home to the mysterious way we have truth and knowledge. Whatever it is, I know I don't know it.