How does one begin a disinterested intellectual life?

While reading a book about the civil war between North and South Vietnam and the American involvement in that war on my back porch in Dallas in 1981, I was struck by the horrors committed by family members to one another. I could not understand how politics could cause this cruel fragmentation of families and communities.

I decided that if I were to better comprehended America’s Civil War I might better understand what the Vietnamese had done to one another. Thus, unrecognized at the time, I began my intellectual journey of self-actualization.

My initial question to myself was “how can politics overcome our natural instinct and our life long propensity to support our kin?”

I started my journey of discovery in 1981 by seeking an answer to a vital question that aroused my curiosity and caring interest. I think that this is perhaps a basic maneuver that one can make to initiate an effort to develop the hobby of self-actualization through self-learning.

If we can find an event in history or perhaps an individual in history that arouses our curiosity and caring interest we can construct a string of vital questions that will guide our journey that will fill our quest for understanding; this adventure might provide a life time of intrigue, self-satisfaction, and self-esteem; it also might prove to be useful in developing the degree of intellectual sophistication demanded of all citizens for the betterment of their community.

My experience leads me to conclude that there is a world of difference in picking up a fragment of knowledge here and there versus seeking knowledge for an answer to a question of significance. There is a world of difference between taking a stroll in the woods on occasion versus climbing a mountain because you wish to understand what climbing a mountain is about or perhaps you want to understand what it means to accomplish a feat of significance only because you want it and not because there is ‘money in it’.

I think that every adult needs to experience the act of intellectual understanding; an act that Carl Sagan describes as “Understanding is a kind of ecstasy.”

This quotation of Carl Rogers might illuminate my meaning:

I want to talk about learning. But not the lifeless, sterile, futile, quickly forgotten stuff that is crammed in to the mind of the poor helpless individual tied into his seat by ironclad bonds of conformity! I am talking about LEARNING - the insatiable curiosity that drives the adolescent boy to absorb everything he can see or hear or read about gasoline engines in order to improve the efficiency and speed of his 'cruiser'. I am talking about the student who says, "I am discovering, drawing in from the outside, and making that which is drawn in a real part of me." I am talking about any learning in which the experience of the learner progresses along this line: "No, no, that's not what I want"; "Wait! This is closer to what I am interested in, what I need"; "Ah, here it is! Now I'm grasping and comprehending what I need and what I want to know!"

When we undertake such a journey of discovery we need reliable sources of information. We need information that we can build a strong foundation for understanding. Where do we find such reliable information? We find it in the library or through Google on the Internet or combinations thereof.

I have a ‘Friends of the Library’ card from a college near me. This card allows me, for a yearly fee of $25, to borrow any book in that gigantic library. Experts in every domain of knowledge have written books just especially for laypersons like you and I.

Lincoln was an autodidact. Perhaps self-actualizing self-learning is for you. When your school daze is complete it is a good time to begin the learning process.