WHY?

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Ariel Fana’afi Ioane

For as long as I can remember I’ve always had a love for learning and sharing what I had learnt. Sometimes when I return from school I take the time to sit in the silence of my hostel room and think about the material I had learnt.

Most days the topics and formulae are familiar, but there are some occasions where I ponder about a completely new formula in physics or statistical math.

When I’m not worrying about future exams with problems on this alien material, I think back to my high school years in beautiful Samoa. I’d remember my conversations with my grandfather as an attempt to impress him with something from school I had learnt. Call it showing off how much I knew about something I had only learnt a couple of hours before.

Now I laugh at the memory of it due to my grandpa’s response whenever I would decide to play Miss Smarty-pants. Our conversations would start with me telling him about something new I had learnt. A discussion I remember clearly was when I was in Year 12.

“Pa... guess what I learnt today!”

“What? Share your day with me.”

Ooh. Goosebumps crawling up my back. Time to shine Ariel.

“I learnt how respiration works. Glucose is made into energy by using oxygen. That’s why we need to breathe to live.”

“Really? So…how is the glucose made into energy?”

Easy. I knew the answer to this one.

“It goes through certain reactions to change glucose into ATP that—“

Suddenly I’d get cut off with him saying, “What kind of reactions?”

This is when I start squirming.

“Uhm. Well, I don’t know that but I do know that there are two types of cycles in the process-“

“Yes but why?”

And this is the part where I start to get slightly annoyed……

“Why…? I don’t know Pa I just-“

“Well, there you go. You don’t fully understand what you are talking about. You need to understand things to its detail.”

From there I’d begin to regret wanting to explain anything and reassuring myself that I was only in year 12 and that my level of understanding was enough at that time.

Now I understand that glucose becomes 2 pyruvate molecules after 10 reactions before being oxidized to provide electrons which are used to make ATP, a chemical form of energy from ADP and an additional phosphate group. Mind you, I still get the feeling that even if I conveyed this information to my grandfather he would still ask me…why? 

This method of dialogue with another person is called the Socratic method, named after its maker. Socrates, a Greek philosopher made it his goal in life to understand all simply by asking why. This method set the foundation for Western systems of logic and philosophy. He believed that by asking why, one could fully understand everything.

In a world of advancing technology and new ideas being birthed every speaking minute, it can be said we are flooded with new information. What we knew in the past was used to build up to what we know today. From a simple abacus in Socrates’ time to calculators to computers-machines that now calculate for us. In the field of biology we now know bacteria and pathogenic organisms cause disease and not blood. We can safely say we are at the pinnacle of our race, that we may be close to knowing all.

As a Christian, I believe only one being is omniscient (check your dictionaries kids). There is nothing new under the sun. We are only uncovering and discovering things that we there since the dawn of creation. However, being able to catch a glimpse of this knowledge; to understand a fraction of His ultimate intelligence brings joy to learning; it ignites a passion understand more about His designs. Not only does it occupy you (teehee) but it leaves you in awe of the things that surround us . 

So the next time my grandpa asks me why, I’ll understand his intentions. 

Wisdom begins with wonder

Socrates

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