When I was a child, I did a lot of research. From the time I could read until I moved away from home and got my first laptop, I spent a lot of time buried in my family’s encyclopedia set.
Our encyclopedia set was outdated. It was more than 20 years since it had been printed but this 24-book set, measuring about three and a half to four feet wide when all the books were set upright beside each other, seemed to hold an almost infinite amount of knowledge for me.
I would spend hours on the floor with open encyclopedias scattered around me – taking notes in one of my many notebooks. I enjoyed how, at the end of each entry, there was always a list of related entries. Some question, such as, ‘how do radios work’ would pop into my head and I would go to our bookshelves and pull out ‘R’ from the stack of encyclopedias. After studying the lengthy entry, I would go through the list of related articles and realize excitedly that there was still more to learn about the topic. Back to the bookshelves I went to select still more encyclopedias. Due to the way these entries cross-referenced each other, I would often spend hours and hours researching a single topic. My exasperated sisters would tell Mom, “**** is up there with his encyclopedias all over the floor again!”
In this manner I learned about everything from cuttlefish to deoxyribonucleic acid. My favorite subject by far was cosmology and I spent a large chunk of my childhood research time studying this subject. The distance between the stars and the galaxies fascinated me to no end. I learned why the stars shined and I learned about the moons of Jupiter (I got mocked in school for suggesting that there is more than one moon).
I did more than studying when I was a child. Oh, yes. My first love was The Hardy Boys. Because Dad’s work would often take him through town, he would often stop at the town library, just for me, and pick up another stack of Hardy Boys. I also read classics such as Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. When my Dad deemed me mature enough, I launched into Louis L’amour’s and Zane Grey’s western thrillers. To this day, a good fiction thriller (preferably science fiction) can still be the highlight of my day.
Most Amish parents don’t read more than the Budget (Amish newspaper), Family Life (inspirational magazine for plain people), and several other such materials. They think that learning beyond that which is necessary to please God is not only a complete waste of time – but that knowledge can actually be treacherous (Well, Duh!).
Luckily for me, my parents are not your typical Amish parents. They are voracious readers and have never discouraged the gathering of knowledge through reading. On top of reading The Budget, my parents would read USA Today from cover to cover every day and weekly they would read U.S. News & World Report. After that, Mom would curl up on the couch with the latest Reader’s Digest or something similar and Dad would lay on the floor with the latest western thriller, political thriller, or even technological thriller.