March 2011

Searching: Part of Our Human-ness


A few days ago I lost an item of great sentimental value. It was a gift from a friend, something I have enjoyed for many years. When I noticed it missing, I searched everywhere I could remember being that day. Alas my search brought no tangible results, though it was a good reminder that even material objects are not permanent.

I suppose in a way we are all “searching for” something. Whether it be spiritual truth, our purpose in life, improved health, satisfying work, friends to share adventures, and so on — we are all seekers.

Seeking doesn’t have to mean that something is missing or that we are discontent. To the contrary, it may mean that we’re curious, engaged, energized or challenged.

I read a study a few years ago that showed a strong link between curiosity and the onset of symptoms of Alzheimer’s, basically that being a curious person tends to delay the onset. That suggests to me that we are literally “hard-wired” to wonder and to never stop growing, though some people exhibit this trait more than others.

Children seem to do this naturally. They ask “why” over and over again, not just to annoy adults (true as that may be) but also because they are looking for the answer behind the answer, drilling down for a fuller explanation. Of course, there is a limit to what they can understand or learn at any given age, but to the extent they can understand, they will indeed ask.

We grown-ups are the same; in fact, humanity as a whole is the same. We can ask and ask again, and we want to know more, though at some point, we will reach our limit. The reason isn’t because there isn’t more “truth” out there; rather the reason is our own human limitations and ability to comprehend.

The Baha’i Writings are full of encouragement to seek. For example, Abdul-Baha wrote about his Father, the Founder of the Faith, “He lays stress on the search for Truth . . .” and goes on to relate this search for truth as a step toward the goal of unity. This is partly because our individual paths toward truth will eventually lead us to each other.

In order for something to be true for someone, it is not enough to have been “taught” it. The beliefs of parents or teachers, blindly passed down to children, may not withstand the test of time. However, what the child has learned from others and then has examined thoroughly, that will be the basis for an authentic life. This idea also helps to explain the differences between prejudice, vain imaginings, and unhindered truth.

In today’s complex world, where our inter-dependence has perhaps never been more evident, it is important also to translate our learning into action. If I have learned something important, and if I use that as a guiding principle in my own life, then surely something good will come from that action. What better reward for a seeker than to discover a purpose for what they have learned.


© Jaellayna Palmer 2011