When you’re a young child, everything in the world seems a secret. Why does it rain? Where do puppies come from? Why do the stars twinkle? How come I’m not feeling well?
Some secrets are revealed early. Your mother will point out a cloud and say that that’s where the rain comes from, or your dad will say puppies come from mommy dogs.
Then there are the “secrets”, like dinosaurs, fire truck, dump trucks, princesses and princes, sharks and so on. Grown-ups call that knowledge. They aren’t really “secret” in that they aren’t meant to be shared, except for the things grown-ups don’t want a kid to know, yet. Grown-ups might decide that this knowledge should be kept secret from children until they are ready for it.
But there are myriad “secrets” that are really things a young child simply hasn’t discovered yet.
The first time I remember going to the library was when I was eight years old. Our family had just moved down from Seattle and we lived in a tiny rental house. The city library was just five long blocks away. I remember the first time I walked in there, on a sweltering Oregon summer afternoon, to see all the books waiting for me in the children’s section. My mother or father must have accompanied me to get my own library card, but I don’t remember. What I remember were all the books.
Back then children were giving cards that let them check out age appropriate books, what later I learned were called “juvenile” titles in library speak. Books about horses, dinosaurs, the stars, the Moon, World War Two, and on and on. Suddenly I knew that all the things that seemed secret were really just things I didn’t know yet.
That fall, after I started third grade, I walked into the school library and saw so many more books waiting for me. Of course, I didn’t read about everything. I read what interested me. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Matthew Mooney, books about the planets, books about World War Two naval battles, things I was fascinated with.
Knowledge is “a state of knowing, of understanding. Actual secrets are things kept from you for various reasons. But knowledge secrets are only secrets because you don’t know about them. Books banish those secrets and help you comprehend.
Some books, like mystery fiction or a compelling memoir, take you on a journey of discovery to learn a truth, or share an experience, and the in the process, banish another “secret,” because the writer wanted to reveal what was secret and share it.
I’ll never know everything. None of us will. Nor do we have time to read everything.
But we can discover what was hidden from us, whatever we choose, when it comes to knowledge, and make it our own.
Better still, we can share that with others.