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Knowledge as liberator

Evident in the existence of schools, the years invested by humans in joining these institutions, and the resources pooled to conduct research, knowledge is an immense driving force in society. It is love, it is power, it is a weapon, it is food for the soul, it is the life of the mind. It is so vast that the great philosopher Socrates himself said, “All I know is that I know nothing.”

Our desire to explain our surroundings and make sense of our existence result in this state of being aware. But most of all, knowledge liberates us.

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The appearance of our primal ancestors and the time of the Greek philosophers laid out the foundations and enabled humans to acquire higher forms of knowledge. Religion and myths that were created in an attempt to enlighten humans were replaced by scientific knowledge. These more complex forms of knowledge made humans discern their surroundings and led to various applications.

Who knew that humans were made up of the smallest units called cells, or that a solar eclipse is a result of the alignment of the sun and the moon, and not a dragon eating the sun as a consequence of the indignation of the gods? Primitive therapeutic methods and rituals like China’s unusual diet of fetuses or Filipinos’ avoidance of the balete tree were abandoned due to the emergence of modern medical discoveries. New forms of knowledge made us overcome our fear of nothing. Truly, ignorance creates evil, and knowledge is the true good.

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We live in an era where the exchange of information is at a rate heretofore inconceivable. With just one click, we can be doctors diagnosing the cause of an intolerable stomach ache or brilliant alchemists simmering the elixir of life. But this Golden Age doesn’t come without hitches. Ours is a time when self-centeredness seems the norm due to the existence of social media, which encourages people’s need for external validation through “likes” and “favorites.” Knowledge—our only refuge—helps us prevail over these selfish human traits, in the wisdom that there is a bigger world out there that exists beyond our little bubble, that we are just one among the seven billion inhabitants of this planet, that we are but a speck in the universe.

It humbles us, making us cognizant of superficiality.

History is witness to the liberating powers of knowledge. One’s awareness and critical thinking bring about desirable change in society. The revolutions that arose from those oppressed are concrete testimonies of the immense influence of knowledge. For more than 300 years, our country was put under Spanish rule because the colonizers methodologically pushed and kept us in the dark, and robbed us of the light for a very long time. During their time, books were burned for fear of uprisings, and indios were not to be educated. But the inkling and yearning that continued to glow within us burst and took root, for us to gain our independence. We started a revolution that rippled all throughout Asia. We were not to be fooled.

Andres Bonifacio, one notable Filipino hero, was never formally educated. He gained credibility and rose to a high position through the great books that shaped his mind. Knowledge widens our horizons and levels the playing field between rich and poor. From his being a mere commoner to being the commander-in-chief of the Katipunan and taking part in crafting decisions together with the likes of Emilio Aguinaldo and Jose Rizal, who came from elite families, we can see how Bonifacio ascended to becoming a respectable leader, how he made possible what seemed unreachable to many. Through knowledge, we break free of the chains that society has imposed upon us.

Knowledge entails experience. Though we do not live in such trying times of war like Bonifacio did, we can acquire knowledge through travel, reading the works of great minds, and, above all, never letting the flame of our hunger for knowledge to die.

One of my favorite sayings goes: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” Travel breaks the great barrier among people, for when we immerse ourselves in the realities of others, we realize that there is no single and universal truth. From then on, we are able to see past the illusion of boundaries and learn to genuinely respect other individuals.

Our race has created a system of writing that permitted us to put our thoughts into tangible mediums to be passed down to younger generations and gave way to more magnified and complex information. Einstein wouldn’t have been able to formulate his theories of relativity in merely one lifetime without the use of research by preceding lifetimes. The very books that we have now are fashioned from the same intelligence. So, whether these be the fanaticized “Twilight” series or the works of Machiavelli, these writings are imperative for the expansion of our thoughts, the progress of our thinking skills—our liberation from our humdrum lives.

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The obstacles that knowledge carries with itself are undeniable. The breakthrough in the subatomic world and the discovery of nuclear fission led to the creation of destructive weapons of war that wiped out entire populations. The nuclear leak that struck Japan in 2012 was indeed a great tragedy that wrecked families and devastated the world. But this information was also used to create an alternative source of energy. The leak that happened in Japan heightened the experts’ knowledge of the drastic effects of nuclear power plants, which in turn led them to innovate and identify niches in this technology and construct a better one, proving that it is from our mistakes that we learn.

It is within our hands if we are to use it for the greater good. Just as knowledge helped us rise up against the strong tides, may it continue to help us fight against the evil that is ignorance. Just as it has opened the gateways to greater paths, may we use it to create a better world and create ripples for the generations of the future.

Let’s heed some words of a great man: “Stay hungry, stay foolish.”

Apple D. Deypalubos, 17, is a freshman at the University of the Philippines Manila.

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