Understanding… If someone asks “What is the use of education and schooling?”, would it be sufficient to say “It is for understanding those things that are within one’s field of interest”? I can almost hear you say “Yes”.

The moment you understand something it emerges from behind the clouds and shines like the sun. I remember my highschool years; unfortunately the aim was not to understand but to memorise. Once my late father was worried that I would fail the class because of the history lesson. It was the last year at highschool and the subject of was Ottoman history. We had to memorise the details of a war, the name of which I don’t remember now, between the Ottomans and Russians… It really wasn’t a job for me. I was trying to work out the reasons for this war. Instead of memorising I was wasting time! When I got the impression that I had understood I remember saying to my father ” I understand, now I can memorise”, and I remember how he approved of this approach and said “understanding is a very important stage”. During my medical education this attitude continued. Whilst studying the diseases I used to read everything about them, from histology, physiology to pharmacology. Of course I could only understand it as far as the sources at hand permitted. Its internal consistency and whether the information had been confirmed by various sources was an indicator for me to test what I understood. Understanding was a source of pleasure. And not just a little pleasure. It was the main motivation for my studying and thinking… Like some state of orgasm… If they had asked me why I lived I could easily say “in order to understand”. A pleasure of such extent. Judging by my love for understanding, or in other words for light, the darkness when I do not understand must in fact be pitch-black… The worst situation is when you think you understand. This turns your life into a dungeon. Like starting on a journey thinking you understand and not finding the address no matter what you do… Or at a university exam for instance, when on the surface you believe you understand and then fail at the simplest question… When I say the worst situation I mean the breakdown you feel at that particular moment. To memorise and to think you understand is the greatest disrespect towards science, the main path that leads you away from the meaning of life… Whereas understanding, to allow consciousness to be dominant and to freely roam around there… Just consider, when the moment comes and the pieces fit together and you understand the subject that has for so long occupied your mind, the happiness of that moment…

Prof. Dr. Kemal Arıkan