It is often said that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. But then again, too much knowledge can be even more dangerous. One of my first short stories serves as a cautionary tale about the single minded pursuit of anything–including the attainment of knowledge. There is no shortage of highly educated dunces in this world, nor, more tragically, of uneducated wise women and men who never completed grade school. Alas, the alphabet soup at the end of a name does not connote wisdom any more than does a genius I.Q.
When I first wrote the original draft of this short story as an undergraduate student at Queens College, and especially the sonnet it incorporates which was not written at the same time as the story or for the story (though both were written within months of one another), my poetry workshop professor accused me of anti-intellectualism. As I said, alphabet soup after one’s name . . . .
I did (and do) believe that the loss of innocence is the price we pay for the acquisition of knowledge–and wisdom (which are by no means the same but do exact the same price). Childhood cannot survive a class in gross anatomy no matter how precocious the child-student. Nor can it survive the in-depth study of political science or law, for that matter. The adult rises like a phoenix from the ashes of childhood’s end. I was not just tipping the hat to the British Romantics who are my kindred spirits, or to Platonic idealism which is also at my core in my poem or in my story. The former is primarily a young man’s sadness at the realization that the simplicity of his childhood was forever lost. The latter is a cautionary tale about looking for truth (meaning, purpose, fulfillment) in all the wrong places and casting aside what really matters in the process. It is also about the great life-altering sacrifice that true friends will endure for one another, including bearing the pangs of unrequited or forbidden love. And yes, it’s about the literal and metaphorical interplay of id, ego and superego within us all. But above all, it is about what I thought at the ripe old age of 18 or 19 was the meaning of life–something that the intervening forty years have done little to change.
For a preview of the short story, you can use the “look inside” feature on Amazon by clicking on the book cover for my Mindscapes short story collection which features “Eternal Quest” as its first story. You can find the page by clicking here. You can also access the stand-alone version of the short story Kindle page with additional information by clicking here.