As a child, I dreamed of knowing everything. Oh, not the future or other people’s thoughts, but the kinds of things you glean from books or school or rooting around outdoors. Curiosity drove me, and what is curiosity but a craving to know more and more? The ultimate, unachievable goal must be eventually to know it all.
I was still a child when the flaw in my fantasy began to dawn. Given all the facts, what scope would remain for exploration? What fun is a jigsaw puzzle when every piece is in place? End knowledge is only one reward of learning. Perhaps equally rewarding is the process of discovery, of synthesizing new material with what I already know.
The adult version of my childhood fantasy is to remember all I once knew. To keep it stored in the basement of my mind, retrievable on demand. That’s no more achievable than omniscience but leaves endless room to expand. It’s like working a jigsaw puzzle from the center outward, with no edge pieces to limit its growth. There will always be towns I haven’t visited, stories I haven’t heard, wildflowers I don’t yet recognize, and trails I’ve not yet hiked. I can explore to my heart’s content with no risk of running out.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.