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Gila River Review

Jake Leonard

The Pursuit of the Unknown Variable

In elementary algebra, we were taught to find the standalone variable. In fact, we hardly had to find x—it was given to us, logically. We assume that life's equations are as easy as finding x within a linear function. It is unfortunate that algebra never taught us how to pause, stop, and say—“hey, with the given data, I just can't finish this problem, period; therefore, I will not attempt to answer it.” People lack the realization that there are further variables out there. And just as in algebra, one can know that there is another variable out there without knowing what the variable actually represents. X is there; but what is x? People believe that the truths to any given topic are as easy as looking up the odd-numbered answers in the back of the textbook called, "life".

The pursuit to finding x can oftentimes be more useful than finding out what x actually is. This applies to the pursuit of perfection. Nobody will ever reach perfection; but to continually pursue perfection with an open mind to everything is the closest one can get. The most dangerous mindset a person can have is to believe they are fully informed, and right. That is not to say one cannot have confidence in their ability to obtain information and comprehend it. But at that moment, people lose grip on asking questions, and pursuing answers; one essentially says, "With the knowledge I possess, every object I henceforth encounter can be deduced, analyzed, and interpreted based on the reasoning of past experience of some nature." People often unknowingly shut doors to other outlooks and possibilities.

"There are no absolute truths," and, "everything is relative"—while they may be contradictory and may or not be true, inherently, they are the building blocks to finding further truths, viewpoints, and beliefs. And just like these mantras, it may be beneficial for people to look at everything, believing there is an unknown variable—whether it is grounded in the lack of factual knowledge, or just not being able to quite step into the other viewpoint's shoes. People are capable of basing their beliefs, opinions, and knowledge on the relative comprehension and knowledge they currently possess, but to not seek out the next plateau seems ludicrous, and dangerous.

I write this because I have found that ideas tend to be contagious—ideas not bound by facts or evidence—but by the shackles of persuasion and manipulation which has a stranglehold on societies. People accept these ideas then cement them in. People try to see life through a tinted lens rather than a prism—with multiple colors emitting from one beam of ideology. My dad once said that there are two types of people in this world—“the intellectuals, and the believers”. Intellectuals continuously pursue the truth, regardless of the personal hindrances and consequences—whether it benefits them, or not.

Believers latch onto one perspective and then mold and mute their world to fit their tinted lens. Believers have given up pursuing X, altogether. They are satisfied with simplifying the equation rather than finding or pursuing the actual answer. But in order to progress as a civilization, it seems necessary that we continue not only simplifying, but also solving the equation. Who knows, we may just find out what X actually is.

My dad, unknowingly, was paraphrasing Aristotle:

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

Jake Leonard is a pending Eagle Scout originally from Latrobe, Pennsylvania. His career interests lie in photojournalism and writing in addition to his small computer business. His hobbies include building computers, writing short stories, music composition, mountain biking, and paintball.


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